In the ground barely six months, the coconut palms that gracefully line the poolside of the industrial-chic Perry Hotel Key West at Stock Island Marina Village were replaced last week; they are the final touch to restore the three-story, 100-room boutique property on a spit of land between mangroves and a marina to its pre-Irma condition.
The Perry is one of two new hotels along with the Oceans Edge Key West Resort, Hotel & Marina to open on Stock Island this year, the first on the island. If nothing else, Irma certainly put her boots to the tire-kicking test of hurricane-standard construction. Both hotels with their own marinas survived Irma and are fully operational.
I visited the Perry last April on the eve of its opening. In fact, it had just received its certificate of occupancy earlier that day. There was no overnight front desk staff or security. The general manager simply locked the front door, and our small group padded back to our rooms, each of us relishing in the knowledge that we were the first to sleep in our beds or to dispense from the shower pumps the Eco-Essentials bath products from Iceland. I was the first to sit at the teak table on the balcony and enjoy that view through the palm fronds of the courtyard pool and the marina beyond, watching fighter jets from neighboring Boca Chica Naval Base drill in formation.
A guestroom at the Perry Hotel Key West.
I'd arrived in Key West famished and asked the hotel for a simple snack. Executive Chef Ryan Fredstrom rooted through his first food delivery and somehow assembled an artful tray that was delivered to my room and included warm, spiced nuts; fresh, crusty bread; crumbled hunks of Parmigiano Reggiano; and perfectly ripe fruit. Not only was I sated, but I felt looked after.
Our small group later gorged on a seafood tower piled on ice in a flayed-open tackle box and drank wine under the stars, cozily curled up with cushions on sofas around an outdoor fire pit, the night sounds limited to gulls and the occasional clanging of rigging slapping a mast on one of the boats at rest in the marina. This was nothing like any other night I had ever experienced in Key West, and I preferred this version.
But I checked out before the hotel ever opened, before I could watch guests relax with a coffee table art book in the soaring, two-story lobby whose cement pillars and reclaimed teak floors merge in harmonic balance, a salve to anyone who is design-minded. I never observed guests chuckle over the whimsical fish-painted mannequin by local artist Koz, whose studio and gallery are now located in the former shrimp-packing plant next door. Twice-a-day yoga classes take place there, and the house distillery is located there, as well. I left without overhearing a gaggle of guests return from their charter excursions, exclaiming over new experiences that rocked their world.
For those reasons, I had decided to write about the Perry after I'd had a chance to return one day. In the meantime, I've monitored their social media feeds and have been pleased to see that my impressions are seemingly the norm. Now, my post-Irma concern for this fledgling property caused me to check in with one of its partners and lead developer Brad Weiser, who assured me that it remains comfortably in flight.
I am relieved to share that the hotel never went without power or water, thanks to both the high-capacity generator and the fact that utility services on this part of Stock Island came back quickly, according to Weiser. "Plus," he added, "key staff, including our chief engineer and executive chef, live nearby, so we were able to quickly regroup and serve three meals a day to whomever needed them and open our doors to residents and workers at a very low cost until our FEMA approval came through." The hotel has largely been hosting disaster-related guests since about a week after Irma but is now transitioning to regular operations.
The Salty Oyster, the resort's open-air, poolside bar, was still a work in progress when I was there and hadn't yet cooked a single morsel. Now, it just completed three weeks of dishing a daily lunch free to anyone who showed up. "We served between 1,500 and 2,000 meals there," said Weiser, "until life started returning to normal.
"It's what we could do to lend a hand. Everyone has helped in whatever way they could."
The pool at the Perry Hotel Key West
It is that sentiment that has prompted me to write about the Perry and Stock Island now and not later. Because it's not just the hotel that is ready for guests, but Stock Island Marina Village, too, and its many charter operators also need people to show up in Key West and go out on excursions. Namaste Eco-Excursions takes guests on paddling and snorkeling outings off of a charter boat; Lazy Dog Adventures guides stand-up paddling and kayaking outings closer to home; the When and If, a 1939 restored, wooden yacht, is available for sunset sails; and fishing charters are taking three-day trips to the Dry Tortugas.
Mike Hartman is the manager of the marina and has been closely associated with the Perry through its opening. He reports that of the 164 vessels in the marina during Irma, only two were damaged beyond repair.
"Our infrastructure is solid," he said. "We were selling fuel immediately after the storm." The marina currently has 220 slips and will add another 70 over the next six months, he added, able to host vessels up to 300-feet long. Hartmann's message, "Key West is serving drinks and going sailing," he said.