Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I Forget

My day-to-day responsibilities sometimes cause me to forget just how wonderful our coast can be. But then I look out of my new office window located on the fourth floor of the newly constructed 24,000 square foot office building that joins our existing corporate headquarters which is undergoing major reconstruction. From this vantage point, the tallest in downtown Gulf Shores, I can see the buildings lining the shore. The buildings themselves represent progress, upscale amenities and more substantial construction.

One day this week the weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and 70's, and the temptation to drive down to the beach was too strong to resist. After a great lunch at DeSoto's Restaurant, that included my favorite blackened catfish dish, I gave in to that temptation. My only regret was the lack of a camera because it was a picture perfect day. The trip from Highway 59(Gulf Shore Parkway)west to the end of West Beach Boulevard in Gulf Shores gave me a better perspective about the progress of new construction. It was exhilarating to see Crystal Shores West and Crystal Towers coming along so well. There were other new condominiums that are in the pre-construction phrase and at least one on the lagoon that I had missed completely before this week. I've really got to get out of the office more just to keep up the pace of our island progress.

Although I did not take the time or have the proper attire, a walk on the beach would have completed my experience of renewal and relaxation. I'll have to pencil in a time for that experience soon - I find it absolutely inspiring.

A lot of my blogs contain a reference to my eating habits but I think I write about these experiences because of our unique choices. We have a new choice of a new "take out" restaurant called the Wheel House, located in one of the oldest buildings in Gulf Shores. The newly renovated building is located across Highway 59 from Waterville. According to the press release about the new eating establishment their specialty is "fish and chips", now that's a new twist for our coast, although very popular in Great Britain.

Even though I momentarily forget the coastal wonders, they are not far from my mind and I have easy access to refresh my memory.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


As a tough year ends and we look hopefully toward the new year on our island the anticipation of better times ahead is invigorating. As a life-long resident of Baldwin County I believe the changes to our coast will enhance our lifestyle. The quality of life is already such a blessing and now we are beginning to enjoy the development of dining, shopping and entertainment venues previously only found in the nearby cities of Pensacola, Florida and Mobile, Alabama.

For example, just a year ago something as common as a movie theatre was not convenient. Our closest theater suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Ivan and the owner took the opportunity to undergo a major remodel project to add stadium seating. When the Starcoast Riviera Cinema 12 reopened residents and visitors to the area once again could view the latest movie releases in a neighborhood setting. In late summer the newest theater opened in what is the beginning of an upscale shopping center at Craft Farms - The Pinnacle. The Cobb Pinnacle 14 Theater is a stadium seating facility with all the latest comforts located within three miles of the beach.

The holiday season brings families from far and near to our coast to celebrate quality time together. Closely following those vacationers we are anticipating an active winter season with our friends from northern states. To enhance the experience of our visitors this winter we have expanded our Winter Guest Activities to include some new events. Tuesday (Dec. 13, 2005) as we opened the registration for these activities hosted exclusively for Meyer Real Estate guests, we learned quickly that our roster of events are meeting the needs of our customers. In fact, one event was completely reserved the first day and another event filled to capacity the second day. We are anticipating a great two months hosting the fun and getting to know our winter customers better.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Animal Planet films in Gulf Shores

A year ago it all started with the escape of Chuckie the alligator from his compound at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo during Hurricane Ivan. Once the media learned about the missing Chuckie the word spread literally worldwide. Soon the attention focused on the Zoo attracted a special national report regarding the evacuation efforts and dedication of the Zoo director and her staff. Once Chuckie was located and returned to a makeshift habitat the news coverage continued. By summer there were rumors of an Animal Planet production and in August the project actually began. The end result after several months of filming will be a 13-week program featuring the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. The program is tentatively scheduled to begin airing in February. Today the Zoo was visited by Jack Hanna who presented a gift of a young spotted leopard named Katrina because of the date of her birth the day Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast. At the press conference this afternoon Mr. Hanna was very complimentary of the positive attitudes, hard work, dedication and devotion of the Zoo director and staff. He encouraged the community to embrace the project of funding the relocation of the Zoo to a facility not vulnerable to the ravages of the gulfwaters during hurricanes.

I have no doubt that our communities of Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Foley, and Orange Beach will indeed take the action needed to provide a safe, secure home to these wonderful zoo animals who have been through so much. Not only was their home devastated by Hurricane Ivan but they were evacuated again in July for Hurricane Dennis and again for the third time in August for Hurricane Katrina. The Zoo has finally reopened after 14 long months of recovery. Amazingly the staff report that the animals have missed the human interaction of the visitors. It's great to see the restoration after 14 feet of water covered the entire zoo. And now the world will see the story of our community and the heroic efforts of a team of people who truly love animals and make the necessary sacrifices to do what is right.

Make sure you make plans to spend some quality time at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo on your next visit to the coast. Meyer Real Estate has a great family entertainment package featuring the zoo, mini-golf, and a trip to Fort Morgan. Call our Vacation Package Specialists at 800.213.9544 for details.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Chill is Okay

There is a term "half-back" that refers to those people from the Northeast who moved to South Florida but later move "half back" to North of South Carolina. The reason is usually that they miss the seasons. I can understand that reasoning because we've had unusually cold weather for November with highs in the 80's or at least high 70's most days. All that changed as a cold front with rain on Tuesday night moved through and left us with 60's in the daytime and 30's at night.

The amazing point is that the chill in the air is really okay, even at the beach. When you are sitting on your balcony overlooking that gentle curl of a wave lapping sleepily at the shore it is a wonderful sight for the eyes. The smell of salt air is also refreshing and then there's the wonderful sound to delight the ears. Besides the gulf front there are fabulous sights and sounds on the back bays, which are abundant in our area of the world.

Even my rare opportunity to play golf this week was not at all hindered by the cooler weather, it was indeed very pleasant. We are so blessed to play golf year round on some of the most beautiful courses in the whole world.

Fishing is abundant now too with lots of tournaments occurring both inshore and in the gulf waters. In fact one group just left our area and the tournament winner is going back home $75,000 richer. And it never seems to ever get to chilly to fish.

Basically our gulf coast region consisting of Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach (Alabama) and Perdido Key (Florida) have the variety of seasons without the severity. So right now the chill is okay and soon it will be warmer.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Music Fills the Air

Ever heard the creator of a song actually perform their music with the passion only the songwriter could evoke? For two weeks each year on the gulf coast a variety of venues come alive with music. All the famous spots such as Florabama, Lu Lu's, Live Bait and Beach Club will play host to the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival. There are also some local favorites like Pirate's Cove, Bama Keys and Tin Top Restaurant where the music will fill the air during the 10 days of the Festival. It is definitely worth checking out when you visit the coast. The event has grown every year and continues to attract talented songwriters to perform their special tunes to an appreciative audience. As always the scene is relaxed and comfortable. To find a complete list of venues and the schedule for this year's event, that ends November 13th, visit

Recently my husband and I experienced a unique musical treat when we met friends from New Orleans for dinner. We began the evening at Louisiana Lagniappe with one of the most delicious meals possible. The seafood dishes at this wonderful restaurant in Orange Beach, overlooking the SanRoc Cay Marina, are as close to the New Orleans cuisine as possible on the gulf coast. Because we had not seen these friends since their traumatic Hurricane Katrina experiences we were in no hurry to order our meal. The waiters were very aware of our demeanor and allowed us the time together without pushing us to finish our meal. In fact they were very attentive without being pushy and we spent 3 hours catching up and enjoying our four course meal.

Other good friends had recently recommended a new music venue, Bama Keys, so we all decided to try it out since we weren't ready to go our separate ways yet. Well, it was just the kind of music mixed with comedy that we all needed. The dueling piano players involve the audience in a variety of ways - all fun and funny. They have preset routines but the most fun is watching their improvisation to the song requests from the crowd. Located at 24252 Canal Road, Orange Beach, this rockin' interactive dueling piano bar is worth trying.

Looking back on the evening it had a decided New Orleans flair with both the food, music, restaurant and piano bar atmosphere. We had not intentionally planned to recreate a New Orleans experience but our friends told us later that it was just what they needed since they are missing their favorite spots in their hometown.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Good Golf

In August the Gulf Shores, Alabama community was shocked to learn that a deal was pending to sell one of the most popular golf courses in our area. The Woodlands course, developed 11 years ago, was a spectacular course that fronts the main artery (Hwy. 59)into our resort area. The owner of the course also owns two other popular courses and has worked with other courses to form the Gulf Shores Golf Association. This partnership with 9 golf courses and 14 accommodations companies, including Meyer Real Estate, has proved to be a powerful marketing tool to promote Gulf Coast golf. The marketing campaign has been more comprehensive as a joint venture than any one company could have accomplished on our own.

As a generous gesture to pay back the community for years of support, The Woodlands owner offered four days of free golf to area business owners and employees. Even though I did not think I could find the time to play I worked out my schedule and took off one afternoon in mid-October to celebrate the last few days of the course.

What a glorious day it was. My playing is no better than it usually is but that was not the point. Just being outside, enjoying nature, the perfect fall weather and the extraordinary beauty of this golf course was the point.

So what happens next? Well the developers who purchased The Woodlands plan to build retail developments along the Highway 59 frontage and create a wonderful area for homesites with lots of common area greenspace on the balance of the acreage.

The customers who frequent The Woodlands will be given the opportunity to play the other two Craft Farms courses, Cotton Creek and Cypress Bend. Both are fabulous golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and are in excellent condition.

Another nearby course in Perdido Key, Florida has been undergoing redesign and upgrading since major damage last September from Hurricane Ivan. This wonderful golf course, Lost Key, also designed by Arnold Palmer will open by Spring 2006. The course was formerly judged by the average golfer as just too hard to play and commonly was called "lost ball" because of the narrow fairways and abundant wetland hazards. The redesign has taken all these negatives into account and will be much more user friendly.

We are so blessed to have mild weather so that we can enjoy the game of golf year round. And we are blessed with so many great golf courses at reasonable prices. To learn more about Meyer Real Estate's golf packages click

My next opportunity to play golf will come soon when the annual Zoolabration Golf Tournament will be played at Peninsula on November 16th. This fun event will benefit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo which opened last Friday after a year of repairs from Hurricane Ivan, Dennis & Katrina.

So golf is good in the coast and I'm finally able to take advantage of this fabulous area amenity.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Come on down!

Well if I had not seen it with my own eyes, during my lunch break today, I would not have believed that the City of Gulf Shores could perform the miracle they did to finalize beach preparation for the 34th Annual National Shrimp Festival. Not only were all the fine arts and arts and crafts booths set up but all the food vendors were up and running today as well. Just beyond the food booths where the usual food fare was back along with new seafood and non-seafood delicacies are the customary boardwalk with benches. It's so much fun to sit beachside with the breeze blowing to soften the sunny temperatures. In fact it was so breezy that my paper umbrella flew out of my "Maui Wowie" drink (a non-alcoholic concoction of orange & mango juice). Beyond the boardwalk, thanks to a multi-million dollar Beach Nourishment project, lies a much wider beach that has been sifted and combed to perfection. The powder-white, soft sand literally squeaks as you walk thru the dry area before reaching the water's edge. Not to miss an opportunity the sea gulls were flocking overhead waiting for the eventual handout and in case you are wondering I was a sucker once again to their begging. This time with no ill consequences to any festival attendees or myself.

The weather today was nearly perfect with low eighties in the day and sixties at night. The good news is that weather will last all weekend with no showers in sight. So, I'm telling you just throw some casual, comfortable clothes in a small bag and COME ON DOWN! Meyer Real Estate has rental properties nearby the Festival site in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Or you may chose to settle in a little farther from the action by renting a beach house or condominium in Fort Morgan or Orange Beach, Alabama or just across the Florida line in Perdido Key. Make your reservation online on this site or call us for reservation advice (800-213-9544).

Even though I only had a short time to visit the Festival today I was able to park nearby and accomplish my mission which was twofold. I found our favorite watercolor artist, Chris Hartsfield, and discovered he has some wonderful new additions to his art offerings. And I had my "pistol fix" which is not a drug but rather a delicious pastry filled with seafood and a wonderful cream sauce. At two for $5.00 this is a bargain for a taste sensation that cannot be purchased anywhere other than the Shrimp Festival. I'm sure as I visit again this weekend there will be more consumption of seafood pistols.

The music on both stages will no doubt prove to be fabulous and I'll dance in the streets with other business people in our area. As I've explained before this Festival is a big beach party for locals as well as visitors. To learn more about the Shrimp Festival, including the entertainment schedule,visit

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Falling for Festivals

Don't you find that as the weather becomes milder a type of fall fever strikes again - you know that urge to get outside after months of warm or even hot weather. No one really calls it fall fever like we do spring fever but it is the same feeling. Fortunately there are lots of fall festivals that give us solid reasons to spend leisure time outside.

In our area we have a great music festival, BayFest in Mobile, Alabama, coming up this weekend (Oct 7-9) featuring among the many artists the band Widespread Panic, American Idol runner-up Bo Bice and legendary B.B. King.

The following weekend (Oct. 13-16) Gulf Shores will celebrate that great crustacean -the shrimp. The 34th Annual National Shrimp Festival started as a way for locals to get together for a big beach party after the summer season. It soon evolved into a way to attract beach-goers back to the beach after the busy season. Then it grew and grew and more beach area was used to display fine arts, arts and crafts and of course local restaurants sold shrimp delicacies. The food list grew until the consumer can now find a wide variety of both seafood and non-seafood items plus lots of sweets. One of my favorite food vendors sells the most delicious fudge in a huge range of flavors. Not just chocolate and vanilla but truly an amazing variety. Check out the pistascio nut, it's very tasty. There's even a vendor selling homemade ice cream that is cranked by a John Deere motor. The festival extends well into the evening as the music gets into high gear at two stages.

This year we are promoting the Shrimp Festival by offering our vacation rental customers a FREE NIGHT during the festival. Click for details. We will probably experience lots of last-minute reservations as we approach the festival. It looks like we will have great weather and that usually makes the Reservation Hotline phone ring at 11th hour so to speak.

Now's the time to pack your bags and head our way because here on the Alabama Gulf Coast we are ready for fantastic fall festival fun.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Good Times

Despite unusual tropical weather activity our gulf coast is still a great location for good times. Any level of activity desired can be experienced. In fact a solitary walk on the beach is guaranteed to remove all your cares. This time of year you might not see another human for miles but you will be accompanied by sandpipers darting in and out of the surf for a meal. Out of the corner of your eye you'll see movement that seems deceptive because it's hard to spot the creature that's scurrying around. It's just an almost transparent sandpiper emerging from his sandy nest for a meal. Seagulls will always be nearby or overhead looking for a handout. Don't be tempted. I made that mistake just once, in public no less. I was enjoying a funnel cake at the big beach party called the Shrimp Festival. Then in an unclear moment I fed the seagulls which was fun for a brief period of time. Soon other festival attendees began to experience aerial bombs and needless to say I was the most unpopular person at the Festival.

This year's Shrimp Festival (Oct. 13-16) is just want the coast needs. Food, fun, music and arts & crafts. One of the artists returning this year to display his fabulous watercolors was completely wiped out in Pass Christian, MS from Hurricane Katrina. His home and art studio were destroyed but he has a thankful attitude because he and his family are okay. I'm sure there are many more stories of this nature which is why I'm anxious to attend the festival. Also, there is just nothing to compare to the fresh seafood delicacies eaten with the sounds of the surf and smell of salt air surrounding you.

Good times for many means the month long fishing tournament in Orange Beach. For me the delight is watching the charter boats arrive back with their daily catch. San Roc Cay Marina in Orange Beach is excellent for viewing this sight. Plus the center contains great boutique shopping and wonderful restaurants.

Fall is without a doubt one of the best seasons for good times, good food, good bargains and no crowds.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Intense Summer

Where do I begin? My last post chronicled the bizarre tropical weather in June with the arrival of Tropical Storm Arlene to our shores. Although coastal dwellers realize the Hurricane season officially spans the time period of June 1 to November 30, no one EVER expected three tropical systems to disrupt our summer.

The disruption, thankfully, did not result in physical damage to properties, at least none that was significant. It did, however, take a toll on our energy level and nerves. The fact that Hurricane Dennis was predicted to make landfall on our section of the coast as a possible category 4, unheard of for July, was indeed more than distressing. All of our preparation systems worked smoothly at Meyer Real Estate as we said goodbye to customers during our busiest week of the year and readied our properties for the storm winds and water. Most employees were compelled to flee the area since a mandatory evacuation order was issued by Alabama's governor.

The Hurricane was predicted to make landfall on our portion of the coast at 3:00 p.m. on that bizarre Sunday and mid-morning it began to move more northward rather than northwest. The final landfall 40 miles to our east spared our coast. Relief is not a strong enough word to describe our elation at having been spared more property damage.

After our management team formed a game plan during a large conference call on Sunday night, we were prepared to resume intense activity the next day. No one that night however could have predicted just how intense. Phone calls the next two days peaked to levels not experienced before, namely 3,500 on Monday and 4,000+ on Tuesday of that week. We began to receive panicked calls from customers displaced from their planned vacations on the coast to our east from Pensacola to Destin. Most of our customers wanted to return or reschedule their visits and property owners wanted and needed property status reports.

So, very soon we began operations as usual but not really usual. We are still challenged by a coastal area in recovery. For example, not all buildings have reopened and in many open buildings the pools and other amenities have not opened. Beach nourishment, so necessary to restore and enhance our coast, brings it's own special issues. Although we published the proposed project schedule, so that our customers would be aware of the possible effects on their vacation, the three storms of summer delayed the project. Now some of our arriving guests are unhappy with the project's effect on their time at the beach.

Bottom line, we are making great progress in the Hurricane Ivan recovery process but the intensity and challenges are still abundant. Along the way though we've had wonderful expressions from our guests and property owners who have empathy for our experiences. We are rewarded by the manner in which our business contributes to the quality of life of our customers. Even though intense, we are committed to the vacation rental, real estate sales and property management industry.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fire Drill

When I was a young girl, growing up in the small town of Loxley Alabama, my elementary education occurred in a quaint building that housed grades 1-9. In the third grade I remember a fire drill that was very frightening. Of course the plan was to calmly exit the classroom but my focus was saving my desk, so I was frantically trying to get help throwing it out of the ground floor window. My teacher quickly corrected my ambitious attempts and refocused my attention on the critical issue of practicing how to save my life. To this day I don't know why I wanted to save my desk but I do have an antique school desk in my home, so there must be some odd connection that I feel to this piece of furniture.

Recently our gulf coast experienced a sort of fire drill in the form of the first Tropical Storm of the 2005 Hurricane Season. There we were the first week of June faced with a weather system targeted to make landfall on our coast and faced with the media storm of interest in the first named storm - Arlene.

I have never been more proud of our Property Management and Service teams who are understandably weary from 9 months of Hurricane Ivan storm recovery. As they assembled to review the newly revised Storm preparedness and Recovery Plan somehow they found the energy to devote to this approaching weather system.

All customers scheduled to arrive for vacations on the day "Arlene" was predicted to make landfall were notified of the weather conditions. These vacationers were given the opportunity to arrive a day later and receive a one-night refund. A small percentage decided to delay their arrival, although no one felt there would be danger or property damage.

So the day dawned for Tropical Storm Arlene to arrive and other than a small amount of wind, moderate rain and some flooding in low lying areas, the weather system was little more than a summer thunderstorm. Our arriving customers were treated to a beautiful Sunday as the weather system quickly moved north of the coast followed by sunny skies for the balance of the week.

So we survived our first weather system of the season and utilized this as a fire drill to examine once again our processes and procedures. We found a few areas that need more attention during times of high property occupancy. This is a rare situation since most tropical systems do not make landfall until after Labor Day. As always we are striving for continuous improvement, so this situation was a learning experience. It was also a bonding experience as our teams worked cooperatively to accomplish our mission of providing STAR Treatment.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

More Normal than Not

Now that Memorial Day weekend has arrived our vacation rental business is more normal than it has been for the past 8 months since Hurricane Ivan hit our shore. The area progress has been absolutely astounding although some visitors unfamiliar with the extent of the damage may be surprised to see certain reconstruction sights.

We are so fortunate to have the beautiful beaches, great attractions, outstanding restaurants and shopping on our coast. We are even more fortunate to have the unbelievable community spirit that will not accept anything less than progress. The challenges have just made the businesses and residents stronger in the determination to build back an improved community that benefits but locals and visitors. The beach is not the only aspect of the area that is undergoing renorishment. In many ways the community itself is being renewed.

The beach is a great reason to visit our resort area but by far not the only reason. The atmosphere itself with a determination to return to normal operations or really to better than normal is another reason for a gulf coast vacation. The family-oriented community is a large reason families visit and decide to stay for the rest of their life.

Other reasons include the vast array of waterfront options beyond the gulf beaches. The bays, bayous, rivers, intracoastal waterway, streams, etc. are vibrant with flora and fauna. These are the areas that the typical visitor does not take time to explore on their first or even second visit. Once they begin to venture to other water activities they are usually prompted to explore the possibilities of owning a piece of paradise.

So now that we are getting back to a sense of what is more normal than what we've lived through for 8 months, we are also prepared for our summer influx of visitors. We are also ready, willing and able to assist many of these visitors in their plans to become our neighbors.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Spring's Last Fling

Spring flies by so quickly and this year is no exception. This weekend will be the last one for vacation rentals at the spring rate, therefore our business is greater for the weekend than it has been since the week after Easter. Since we are a family-oriented beach destination our vacation rental seasons are primarily determined by school schedules. This year the local school schedule has been extended an extra week. So even though all county schools held graduations on Monday the balance of students will attend until May 26.

It's really a grand weekend to visit the coast because the weather is warm and sunny which makes the beach even more appealing. The spring rental rates are low and there are two special events planned. The 2nd Annual Orange Beach Red Snapper World Championship ends a month-long tournament on May 22nd. Plus beginning tomorrow (May 20) thru Sunday (May 22) the 2nd Annual Southern Breeze Coastal Wine Tour will be held at various venues. Both of these events have the potential for even greater growth at this wonderful "Spring Fling" time of year.

Once Memorial Day arrives all systems are go for summer peak season rental activity that will last until Labor Day. The coordination between all Meyer Real Estate Departments kicks into full gear. The Property Management operations are joined by Real Estate Sales in heightened activity since more visitors to the area means more buying prospects to accommodate.

Our major building project at the Corporate Headquarters, which will result in a 36,000 square foot office, is still under construction. Everyday now we arrive at the Corporate Office location to dozens of workers both inside and outside the new structure. Living thru the construction (adjacent to the existing building) has been challenging but the rewards will be well worth the inconveniences. We anticipated moving into our new lobby prior to the summer customer arrivals, however it appears the opening will be later in summer than we hoped. The new facilities are so beautiful and functional with a sensitivity to the preservation of the natural surroundings including mature oaks existing on the property. Our new office is already quite the "buzz" of the community and we anticipate setting the pace for a revitalization of the Gulf Shores business district where we're located.

Even though it's hard to imagine spring is nearly over with summer fast approaching, we are all excited about the prime season activities. It is comforting for operations to return to a normal pace following the unusual activities we've experienced following Hurricane Ivan.

Monday, April 18, 2005

It's a Zoo

After Hurricane Ivan hit our coast in September our local zoo received worldwide attention because of the escape of "Chuckie" the 12-foot alligator that has been a favorite attraction at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo for years. While the news media was camped out after Hurricane Ivan waiting for the water to recede, reporters began to cover the story that Chuckie had escaped during the flooding caused by the storm. The AP picked up the story and soon it was worldwide news.

The Zoo was devastated by the hurricane but the majority of the animals were evacuated to safer areas in Baldwin County. However, Chuckie was given extra food and left in his pond due to the difficulty of moving an alligator weighing 1000 pounds. A week after the hurricane, Chuckie was located in a ditch not far from the Zoo property. Experts from Florida’s Gatorland were summoned to assist with Chuckie’s relocation to a safe holding area at the Zoo until the repairs are complete in his habitat.

Besides national press coverage surrounding the events, both The Weather Channel and National Geographic have sent film crews to gather footage for future specials. The Weather Channel coverage will be a “Storm Stories” airing the first week of June, to coincide with the beginning of the 2005 Hurricane season.

There are other stars at the Zoo such as a male white tiger born last summer and his sister who carries the white tiger gene. These two are favorites of visitors both young and old. When we sponsored an event at the Zoo for our Winter Guests they received a real treat by a close encounter with both tigers.

The latest edition to the big cats at our Zoo is a three-week old female Barbary Black Mane lion cub and a slightly older male lion cub that will eventually be breed. The lions are too young to go on exhibit yet but they should be ready when the Zoo reopens around Memorial Day. Both lion cubs were sponsored by the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Lions Clubs as a gift to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

The devastation of the Zoo was much more pronounced than expected with both wind and flood damage. A variety of fundraising efforts are underway to supplement the FEMA recovery funds and insurance which do not cover all the damage.

One of the fundraisers occurred over the weekend when the Gulf Shores Elementary, Middle and High School held a Festival. A booth selling Zoo merchandise was manned by members of the Board of Directors. As a member of the Board I was privileged to spend the day treating kids to a look at a few animals. There were ferrets and twin 8-week old goats to pet along with leopard geckos and bearded dragons (lizards) to observe. The kids loved the chance to see these animals up close and I enjoyed watching their faces. I also got a kick from giving the noon bottle to the female goat named "Radar."

Meyer Real Estate sponsors the web cam at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, which has recently been reactivated. To watch the renewal progress visit and click on “Web Cam”.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Act Like a Tourist

It's a fact of life that most people living near attractions, entertainment venues and resort areas postpone their own experience because of the close proximity. I suppose there's a mindset that because these pleasures are easily accessible putting them off temporally is not a big deal.

This is certainly true for a beach resort. I can testify to the fact that those of us in the Hospitality Industry and Real Estate Sales business are "slammed" during summer when typically a person would go to the beach. However, it's spring and fall that locals really take advantage of our wonderful weather and beautiful surroundings on the gulf coast in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach, Alabama and Perdido Key, Florida.

I've tried to make a point of spending family time acting like a tourist, which basically means actually taking the time to enjoy what other people travel here to find. One spring during the time azaleas are at their peak my family spent the day at Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile, Alabama. We did everything offered to visitors - the Delta Cruise, the tour of the historic Home and of course the tour of the Gardens. It was a real treat and an obvious reason for tourists to visit our area.

Last week I was feeling a need to connect to the beach. My cure was taking time to have lunch at a local's and visitor's favorite spot - Sea-N-Suds Restaurant. This well-known restaurant was damaged during Hurricane Ivan but amazing not to the extent imagined. The ramp to the restaurant was completely gone however. Now a brand new ramp accesses Sea-N-Suds along with an newly built and expanded pier. The restaurant sits over the water so the views up and down the coastline are fabulous. New construction exists close to this special spot but the character of a beach resort is highly evident at Sea-N-Suds, as if time stood still at the beach. So I spent my lunch hour with two colleagues surrounded by tourists. And for that brief time I felt the island vibe again.

I realize this Blog often contains references to those places I choose to eat. But if you've visited our coast you know it more of an experience than merely a meal. Our laidback lifestyle and great food make for a winning combination.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Fish Adventures

There's a fish quote that says "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll sit in a boat and drink beer all day." You probably heard the quote a little differently but this version provides a visual of the stereotypical fisherman.

Growing up in Baldwin County with hundreds of miles of coastline along rivers, bays, streams, lakes, intracoastal waterway and of course the gulf waters has spoiled me. I'm spoiled to the ease and abundance of water adventures, some of which are fishing.

As a young child some of my happiest memories involve early morning fishing trips with my father. Family members swear I ate the raw shrimp we were using for bait, so I guess that was my own form of sushi. I remember the thrill of catching the first fish of the day almost every time. But most of all I remember the time with my family on the water. I also loved the end result of eating fresh fish the same day I caught it.

Later in life I was given an opportunity to experience deep-sea fishing in Orange Beach on board, Summer Breeze, one of the 100+ charter fishing boats famous in our area. That was an exhilarating experience and quite different from my youthful fishing trips. One of my favorite parts of the deep-sea fishing experience was the boat ride through the Perdido Pass under the bridge and out to deeper waters. The view of the waterfront properties from the water view side of the beach is unique. I'm so accustomed to seeing these structures from the road side that it's fun to try to identify the buildings from the gulf side.

Last year a fishing tournament was organized in Orange Beach with fabulous grand prizes. The month-long event, Orange Beach Red Snapper World Championship, will begin April 21 and end May 22 this year. The event is easy to enter with only a $5 per day entry fee plus the cost of the charter boat. A boat can be entered in the tournament for the month for $500. Although I don't plan to fish in the tournament, I look forward to attending the weigh-in sessions as the boats return to shore with their treasures. There is something fascinating about seeing the catch hauled onto shore in anticipation of a new world record Red Snapper. Eating Red Snapper is also a favorite activity of mine at one of the many local seafood restaurants that feature this treat.

I also admit to loving pan-grilled mullet at Mikee's Seafood which is one of my favorite local restaurants. They also prepare mullet the traditional way, fried plus broiled and even blackened if you like spice. It was only in recent years that I learned from some of our northern vacationers that mullet is considered bait in their area. Many a brave northerner has tried and learned to appreciate mullet as a great meal if served very fresh.

The mullet fish is also celebrated at an annual charitable event at Flora Bama called the Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast's Greatest Beach Party. This event is a huge celebration as celebrities, locals and visitors toss mullets from Alabama across the Florida line for a chance to set a new record. Proceeds from the event, April 22-24, are donated to The Alabama Sheriffs Boys & Girls Ranch & The Boys & Girls Club of Escambia Florida. Tons of people have inquired about the state of Flora Bama because of the severe damage from Hurricane Ivan. The famous roadhouse will officially open in late spring or early summer but they have creatively found ways to host the Mullet Toss by using tents and the venue, Silver Moon Cafe, across the street.

I also love to cook fresh fish which can be purchased at many, many seafood retail stores. Some of these stores sell other gourmet foods and drink such as Blaylock Seafood in Orange Beach and others are located right on the water such as Billy's Seafood in Bon Secour (near my home).

So whether it's eating, catching, cooking, tossing or watching fish get weighed, I'm living in a special part of the world that allows me to experience a variety of fish adventures.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Weekend Perfection

Sometimes all the elements align for the right temperature, wind, sun and humidity. How wonderful when two days of these extremely favorable conditions occur during a weekend. And that's precisely what happened this past weekend. The temperature was hovering in the upper seventies with a gentle breeze, bright sunlight and low humidity. It was perfection.

I always imagine when the weather is this outstanding on our coast (Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan, Alabama & Perdido Key, Florida) that our vacation rental winter guests enjoy themselves tremendously but find it difficult to return to their cold climate in the north. It does, however, make our phones ring with anxious callers ready to make last minute reservations at the beach. Since we are open at our corporate office in Gulf Shores 24 hours per day we welcome these calls no matter the hour. In fact, it is amazing to review the volume of calls in the wee hours of the morning. Given the schedules most people maintain it's not surprising that it is late, late at night or early in the morning before they get around to taking care of planning a getaway.

Today I took advantage of the great weather by dining outdoors at a local's favorite restaurant, Bayside Grill, overlooking a picturesque marina. The food was great as usual and there is just something so inspiring and relaxing about dining alfresco. Just gazing at the water and boats sitting so still in the water awaiting their owners to take them for a cruise, reminded me of the pleasure to be enjoyed on our numerous back waters.

On days like today I reflect on how blessed I am to live so close to the water.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Spring Break Prep

Our vacation rental team members at Meyer Real Estate are focused on preparing for the Spring Break customers who begin arriving on Saturday, March 19th. This means we say goodbye to our winter guests, who we affectionately call Snowbirds. A large portion of the winter customers we accommodated this year returned to their northern homes the first day of March. The remaining group have been enjoying 18 more days of fun in the sun, great food, shopping, golf, fishing and visiting unique area sites.

Most of these customers will depart our area of the coast, namely Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores, & Orange Beach, Alabama and Perdido Key, Florida by driving thru the state of Alabama on Interstate 65. Ironically our spring guests who arrive on the same day these winter customers leave will access our area mostly via Interstate 65. These customers pass one another on this major highway artery and never know how connected to our beach each of them are on their journey.

This will be my 29th year to observe and participate in the spring break vacation rental business. Over the years I've seen thousands of families migrate to our coast for that first beach experience of the year. Since most families come from the frozen northern states they are usually prematurely dressed for the warm weather. Or perhaps they do feel the warmth of our southern climate more accutely than we do as residents because they are accustomed to such cold weather.

Alabama residents comprise another substantial portion of the spring break group since the entire school system in Alabama has spring break the week of March 19th-27 with the exception of Mobile County. These customers too arrive mostly via Interstate 65.

Even though our coastal area is buzzing with reconstruction and beach renourishment the customers who love our area are returning this spring to familiar territory.

For example, when it comes to shopping the Tanger Outlet Center is open and ready to serve the shopping needs of the most die hard shopper with 120 popular stores. A new upscale, lifestyle shopping venue, Eastern Shore Centre, has opened since last year. It's located in Daphne at the Malbis exit off Interstate 10, which is only about 45 minutes from the beach.

Great seafood served in a comfortable, relaxed setting is the style of our eating establishments. Since the Hurricane came along and challenged our area businesses six months ago, we have seen the return of 64% of our local restaurants. So we fully expect our customers this spring to either find that their favorite spot for food has opened or if not we expect they will find a new favorite.

The Track Family Recreation Center reopened shortly after the hurricane and they have all the fun and games of previous years. There are 2 kiddie go-cart tracks and three more challenging ones for the big kids and adults, plus a great arcade, bumper boats, other kiddie rides, mini-golf and for the ultimate thrill the "Skycoaster." My son, who is a junior in high school, has spent his last three summers working at The Track. He's a huge fan of the Skycoaster but it isn't an experience I ever wish to try.

The amusement portion of Waterville has also reopened this month, giving our visitors another choice for daytime and evening entertainment.

So, next week at work will be one of prepping for spring break. Making sure all the properties are cleaned, inspected and ready to go. On the big arrival day of March 19th there will be a number of properties that will experience what we refer to in the hospitality industry as "turn-arounds", meaning the departing guest is scheduled to leave at 10:00 a.m. and the property must be rent-ready for the arriving guest at 3:00 p.m. Our teams are up to this challenge and actually the process is quite amazing.

The energy of preparing for our spring customers is stimulating. We have worked hard to prepare these guests for what they will experience during this interim time, as our coast undergoes a rebuilding phase that will result in a more impressive resort community. There will be inconveniences that we will all experience but we trust that our returning customers understand that 2005 is an unusual year. However, the many features our loyal visitors love about the coast are still evident and enjoyable.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Glorious day on the coast

It was so very difficult to concentrate on the tasks at hand today because it was such a glorious day on the coast. The actual temperature was mid-60's but that wasn't much of a factor because the sun was shining on the blue-green water with such a brilliance that warmed everything near the water's edge.

I've just returned from a cruise to Cozamel out of the Port of Mobile, so I have a very recent memory of the beauty of a foreign beach. But returning to our sugar-white sands and beautiful bright skies reflected in the sparkling waters of the Gulf brought me back to the reality of my home.

I live inland about 7 miles and truly do not take advantage of the sights and sounds of the beach in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan Alabama or Perdido Key, Florida as often as I should. Most days I allow the desk work to consume me but not today.

In fact, after leaving the beach scene I drove to meet a friend for lunch at one of our wonderful Arnold Palmer designed golf courses, Cotton Creek at Craft Farms, and was completely swept away by how wonderful and pristene the course looked today. Needless to say it was even more difficult to leave the golf course and return to the office. But I did since I had commitments and projects. But as I exited the golf course restaurant I saw two other managers who chose not to even eat lunch but instead hit range balls until time to go back to the office. It was just one of those days - maybe it's spring fever.

As residents of this beautiful area we are so blessed. Even though the last few months have been stressful as we recover from Hurricane Ivan's unwelcome visit to our shores. As more and more properties, both condominiums and beach homes, are restored to premiere condition the excitement in the air grows. Soon our winter guests will return to their northern habitats and spring break families will arrive to enjoy the beach, the fresh seafood, the shopping, amusements, historic sites, festivals, golf, charter fishing, dolphin cruises and more.

It is so rewarding to work in an industry where our primary function makes people happy. Our property owners are happy when their property rents and thus produces income. Our vacationers are very happy because they receive such a great value for their vacation dollars. And let's face it - don't we all need a vacation at times. Our buyers and sellers are happy too because we accomplish their real estate goals. Property owners, whether they rent or not, can have true peace of mind because we are managing their investment with good stewardship.

But now it's time to travel north those few miles to my home and attend to the family needs feeling today was a good day on the coast and looking forward to many more.


Friday, February 25, 2005

First Meyer Blog

Twinkle, Twinkle, Meyer STARS

Mary Kerstetter received the 2004 Bronze Award from RELO for sending the highest number of outgoing referrals. RELO is the country's largest network of leading independent residential real estate firms processing referrals for individuals and families relocating from one area to another.

Lolly Holk has been elected Treasurer of the Baldwin County Chapter of Human Resource Management (SHRM) Previously she served a 2-year term as Director of the Chapter.

Property Management Comment Cards:
Jerry L., Cadillac, MI (1/1/05-3/26/05 moved from Sunchase to Unit 902; Four Winds) sent note with candy to Metris Connors, Ashley Odom, Eric Torres & Sarah Kuzma stating “Your southern hospitality is very much appreciated. Sara & Meyer, you’ve made our winter wonderful.”

Even small donations are greatly appreciated. We recently donated items printed with our logo to the following organizations:

20 Canvas bags to Habitat For Humanity of Baldwin County to be given to the Collegiate Team from Lake Forest, Illinois traveling here for a build on March 6-12.

6 Golf balls to include in welcome bags that the Foley Elementary School will give to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools who will visit March 22-23 to assess the school for continuing accreditation.


Our newest technology launch, E-Treasures, the electronic version of the 2005 “Treasures of the Gulf” Vacation Guide is popular with the consumer. The first 21 days (2/3/05-2/24/05) E-Treasures received over 1,200 views from potential customers.

Window Talk at the Orange Beach office is now fully functional with all 80 property advertisement slots filled. Customers can not only listen to the advertising message for their chosen property but they can also leave contact info for our sales team.

One of our brave customers volunteered to be slimed by Rajah the 9-month-old white tiger cub on February 22nd during Winter Guest Zoo Day at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. As you see from the photos below our customer survived the lickin’ and keep on tickin’. The zoo plans to open sometime in March but our customers were treated to this exclusive sneak peek at the recovery efforts since the devastation of Hurricane Ivan. Over 90 customers were thrilled with the personalized guided tour and excellent animal show. The Marketing/Communication team wishes to thank Patricia Etheredge and Carmen Schonhoff for their assistance with this successful event.