Sept. 15, 2005 – "We have fun. That is the main thing," Peter Locke says about himself and his wife, Debi, owners of Chenay Beach Resort, which has 50 cottages on 30 tranquil acres on the east end of St. Croix.
It hasn't always been that way. Peter worked in the construction business in Toronto for many years, and he says, "It was driving me crazy."
Peter bought Chenay in 1988 as an investment with three partners. He kept coming down to visit and liked what he saw. In 1996, "I decided this would be a nice place to live," he says. "We liquidated everything in Toronto and moved down."
When he first became involved with Chenay, there were only 20 cottages and, according to Peter, "It was run like a camp."
In 1989 the new owners added 30 cottages, and the resort is now run differently. Peter says that Chenay is a high-end resort. "If you are just comparing room prices, Chenay is not comparable. It is something different, a unique experience."
In 1998 he took over complete ownership of Chenay. Debi, who moved to St. Croix in 1987, had not met him yet. She was working at the Buccaneer, where she put in 17 years doing concierge and other guest service work.
She left the Buccaneer three years ago to come to the Chenay Resort, where she is now general manger. As general manager, she has not left behind one of the tasks that she has always enjoyed in her work organizing weddings.
One of her most challenging weddings at Chenay had to be on August 6, when she and Peter were married at the resort. Peter says, "It was all kids." They each brought three children from previous marriages. Children filled the bridesmaid and best-man positions.
The couple seems to still be in the honeymoon stage. When asked recently the usual question for small business owners, "Do you work seven days a week?" Debi raised her eyebrows a bit and smiled at Peter. "I can only speak for myself," she said. "I work seven days a week."
Peter, not missing a beat, smiled back and said, "Do you have a job somewhere else, too?"
One way the couple plans to have fun at Chenay is to sponsor rock music. In August, the resort presented the rock group Badfinger and attracted 700 people to the beach to listen to the '60s style music.
On Sept. 24, the resort is presenting the Kat Festival. It will include luminaries such as the Classic IV, Bay City Rollers, Henry Gross and St. Croix resident Jonathan Edwards.
Peter had been trying to create a rock scene at the resort for more than a year. He was talking with the Hard Rock Café in St. Thomas to get the musicians it had there to come over to St. Croix for a concert. Hard Rock Café, however, went out of business.
That did not stop Peter. He has been on the phone trying to get performers like Arlo Guthrie to spend a week in paradise and give a concert.
Debi says, "There are reggae, blues and jazz concerts all over the Caribbean. We could not compete with that."
Peter says, "Rock music is feel-good music."
Peter and Debi expressed a cautious optimism about the economic future of St. Croix. They hope that one of the major resort developments William and Punch or Golden Gaming comes to fruition, and cruise ships return to the island in significant numbers. But, like all St. Croix residents, they don't know for sure that either of those things will happen.
Accommodations at the resort have undergone renovation in the last year. A bridge and garden leading down to the Island House restaurant on the beach has added a bit of exotic flavor to the resort.
In 1994 the resort dedicated 12 of its cottages to "vacation ownership," or time share. Peter said those cottages then accounted for about 25 percent of the resort's income, but now account for more than 50 percent.
A majority of the customers at the resort restaurant are resort guests. Debi and Peter hope to attract more local clientele. They recently hired a new chef, Robert Bordenave, whose early experience was in San Francisco. He worked recently at Sand Castles in Frederiksted. Along with the chef is a new menu.
For more information about Chenay, see its Web site at www.chenaybay.com.
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