The Rest of the Story...

By now, all of my friends have noticed how frequently I've been going to Panama City Beach. But I haven't openly shared why (other than my web writing for John is much more private than I am and he at first requested that we keep it to ourselves (for reasons I will explain further down). But the request has been lifted and he told me last night that he doesn't care who knows. Which is such a relief to me because I have a VERY hard time being mysterious and vague with friends! It just isn't me!

John has always wanted to own a condo at the beach and we've been looking at property in the Destin area for years. I was always a bit ho-hum about the idea. I didn't really understand why it appealed to him so much to own something. (The thought of owning a beach condo someday never once crossed my mind in my whole entire life!) I definitely did not have the bug. But I'd always ride around with him and look because he did. (Sometimes I would think to myself that maybe if we just went ahead and bought something, we would be able to stop looking. Ha!)

This last New Year's Eve, we were invited to spend a few days in PCB with our close friends Ricky and Karen Jones. They own and operate Resort Condo Services ( And I fell in love with Panama City Beach, FL. For many reasons, PCB appealed to me more than Destin. And I started to warm up to the idea of actually buying something. Of course, having good friends in the rental/property management business enhanced the appeal. I liked the idea of being able to have a more personal relationship with the people who would be overseeing the rental and caring for our potential investment. The thought of dealing with some huge impersonal management company was far less appealing. And I liked the personal touch service RCS was able to provide to their guests as well as their private owners.

Although it would be nice to have a condo that no one ever stayed in but ourselves and our family, that is a luxury we cannot afford at this time. We need to cover our expenses, which are substantial! But it is at first a bit hard to think of "strangers" staying in your precious "home away from home" and perhaps not caring for it the way you would. You have to get past that, of course, because it's a business investment. But there is still that apprehension. And our relationship with Ricky and Karen has been a big help. They have owned and managed condos in PCB for a while. They know the area and the business well. They have developed a lot of contacts and have hands on experience to share with us. And most importantly they genuinely care about our investment and how the condo is treated by guests.

Because of the economy, we recognized that this was the ideal time to act and that this window of opportunity would not last forever. So we took the leap and bought our first condo in March! It has stayed rented almost continuously (except for the weeks I have blocked out for personal use). And it's been such a positive experience that we bought a second condo on the same floor when a foreclosure became available over the summer. The first condo was completely furnished and we stayed in it immediately upon closing. But the second condo was a clean slate. Even the appliances had all been removed. It needed paint, carpet, drapes and furnishings ... lots of work. We wanted to have it rental ready as soon as possible, but we also wanted do as much of the work ourselves as we could. And we are a few hundred miles away.

So that's why John and I were in PCB for eight days a few weeks ago. We weren't just having fun. We were working very hard at redoing the new condo. I only got to spend three hours in my beach chair that trip ("Poor Little You!" as John says). I spent far more time in Home Depot, Lowe's, furniture stores and in the condo (waiting for deliveries and being John's helper with such tasks as mounting the microwave over the stove).

And that was also the main reason for my trip this past week. I wanted to be there when the drapes were hung. And I took my friend Robin with me to help me place wall hangings and other finishing touches. (Robin used to live on South Padre Island and had recently given me some tropical items she wasn't using anymore. I was excited about using them in the new condo and thought it would be entirely appropriate that she be with me to see her belongings placed in their new home.)

As it turned out, I don't know what I would have done without my dear friend this week! (I actually thought I could do it by myself if I had to. And that would not have been possible.) She was much more than a help. I couldn't have accomplished my tasks without her (especially with my shoulder impingement). Not to mention, her presence kept me from being completely overwhelmed more than once. We ran into a few snags (like not being able to drill into concrete walls even with masonry drill bits). Fortunately, with the help of Ricky and Karen, we were blessed with the services of a special angel who had the right equipment and showed up to save the day. (Karen, please tell your dad that I called him an angel!) By Thursday afternoon at 1:00, we had every wall hanging in place and were able to enjoy total relaxation in our beach chairs for the rest of the day.

I am so pleased with the finished product and so happy that I can talk about what I've been doing. I told John last night that I'm just sure all my friends think I have turned into a beach bum this year, and that I wish I could just be out in the open about our new ventures. And that was when he said, "Oh, I don't care. You can tell anybody you want, as long as you make it clear we are committed to a rental program and it's not available to loan out." (He thinks it's hilarious that I always feel the need to explain myself, including why I've been to the beach so much lately.)

One of our mutual concerns was that we would possibly hurt feelings of friends and/or family by not offering it freely. And that was a part of our initial "confidentiality" pact. I love to share my blessings. Not that John doesn't. He is one of the most generous people I've ever known. But he is able to be unemotional about business decisions. I have such a hard time separating my personal feelings from the business aspect of this (or any) endeavor. And John knows this.

However, if you are interested, please feel free to contact Resort Condo Services! They handle all of our bookings at Emerald Beach Resort. Both condos are one bedroom + hall bunks w/two full baths, facing the Gulf and just six doors apart on the same floor (in case you are traveling with another couple or small family and want to be separate but close). Pictures of the first unit are already available on the website and the second one should be uploaded soon. In the meantime, here are some pictures I took with my own camera. I am so proud of our hard work!
By the way, John's new favorite impersonation of me is:
"Why do you want to buy a condo at the beach?"

For me, that cross and sign above (in the master bath) is what marks the condo as "ours." John and I waited a long time to find each other and be this happy. We met in our forties after our own individual long and broken roads. I didn't know I would ever have a happily ever after. But I have felt like Cinderella almost from the day I met him.


Kathy said…
Gorgeous-- love the gold!
justme said…
Just beautiful, Shari. And what a fantastic view out the sliding glass door!
Robin said…
The pictures came out wonderful, Shari. The only regret is that they cannot convey the restful sounds and smell of salt air that accompany the view!

It is nice to read your appreciative comments and a little funny at the same time because it was such a treat for me to spend the week with you at your 2nd home! Feeling the least bit helpful is an added bonus. Thank you for your friendship and sharing your little adventure with me.
John Wagner said…
Wow, very, very nice! I am so happy for you that you and John have found that very special life together. May God continue to bless both of you.
Shari said…
Thanks so much for all the nice comments. Every time I leave the beach I am looking forward to the next trip.

Kathy, the colors are Cork (Living Room and Hall), Coconut Husk (Kitchen) and Garbonzo Bean (Bedroom and bathrooms). We picked out the colors and the carpet before we shopped for any furniture. I have a similar gold color in my kitchen at home (Sesame) and Coconut Husk in my laundry room. I love both so much that I wanted to use them in the condo. And we both agreed a buttery yellow for the bedrooms and bathrooms would be good.
Shari said…
BedROOM, not bedrooms. There's only one. LOL.