In 1987, Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States; a gallon of gasoline cost 89 cents; “Lethal Weapon” and “RoboCop” were playing on movie theatres across the country and the Sawgrass Marriott had just become a new destination in the Ponte Vedra Beach community.
Now in 2017, much of the aforementioned has drastically changed, but the Sawgrass Marriott has remained a Ponte Vedra mainstay. In fact, the resort is celebrating its 30th anniversary in the community this month.
The hotel’s employees celebrated the occasion last week by enjoying cake and taking a team photo in the lobby. Even hotel guests joined in for the fun, enjoying cupcakes to commemorate the anniversary.
“Whether you’ve worked here three months, three years or 30 years, it’s been a heck of a ride,” said Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa General Manager Todd Hickey. “The community has been behind us every step of the way.”
For longtime employee Janice Elkins, the anniversary was especially momentous. She started working at Sawgrass Marriott when it opened in Ponte Vedra Beach in 1987, and she has never left.
“It’s mindboggling, really,” said Elkins. “I had no idea I’d be here this long when I started. I’ve enjoyed every day, every minute and everyone from the managers we’ve had to the ones we have today.”
Elkins’ role at the resort has mostly stayed the same over the past 30 years: She answers telephones on the switchboard. However, the way in which she has conducted that job has most definitely changed.
“At the beginning, I did a lot of phone connections for groups,” she said. “Eventually that was taken over by audio visual with all the modern technology. At the very beginning, we didn’t have the modern technology, so I was it.”
Tom Ayres, the resort’s director of engineering, has worked at the Sawgrass Marriott for 24 years, so the anniversary was significant for him too.
“I’ve seen the resort evolve over these years,” he said. “And it’s an emotional, happy moment for me to see the 30th anniversary.”
As for that evolution, Ayres said many of the most noticeable changes have taken place in the hotel’s lobby, which he said previously featured a waterfall, island bar and palm trees that rose up to the fifth floor. Now, with the renovations that have taken place over the past 10 to 15 years, he said the lobby has been extended, stairs have been relocated, a new bar has been added downstairs and the resort’s restaurant name has changed several times, among other renovations.
Overall, Ayres said it’s been an extremely positive experience to work for the resort.
“It’s a great place to work and a great company to work for,” he said. “I’m very proud to be a member of this team.”