By Dawne Richards
A visit to the Ebb Tide is a visit to an old Florida mom-and-pop resort, but better. “My guests don’t like change,” explains Karen Karam, the Ebb Tide’s slim, vivacious owner. Now, if you’re picturing old, run-down “beach rooms,” think again. The Ebb Tide is modern and spotless, but retains its mom-and-pop feel.
Walking to the tiny (80-square-foot) office, you’ll pass the delightful koi pond. Once inside, you’re greeted with a charming collection of bone china teacups, mostly from A Summer Place consignment shop in Deerfield. You are instantly at home.
Why, PT asked, is the office so small? “Everything here is for the guests,” says Karen. “We don’t need a lot of space for the office.” Indeed, everything here is for the guests – and their pets. The hotel is pet friendly, and pets are welcome for a nominal fee.
The story of the Ebb Tide Resort, and its owner, Karen Karam, reads like a novel: The dream of a beachfront property. Illness. Family strife. And now, what looks like a very happy ending.
Karen’s father, a Michigan native, bought the property in 1999. Built in 1952 and expanded in 1965, the Ebb Tide was “crushed” by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And that wasn’t the only issue.
Karen’s father passed away several years ago. In hospice in Michigan, the family knew he was not long for this world. Karen, determined to make her father’s last days meaningful, brought him to Florida and the Ebb Tide, where he died in her arms, overlooking the ocean.
A protracted legal battle for the property posed additional challenges, but Karen persevered. Today, all of this behind her, she knows how lucky she is. “I’ve had offers to buy,” she tells PT, “[but]when you already have paradise, there’s no need to replace it with another paradise.” The Ebb Tide offers 20 rooms (Karen has turned four of the original 24 into her living quarters), mostly efficiencies. The one we visited was absolutely charming. An oceanfront view, a pull-out couch, a kitchen, a charming quilt on the bed – who could ask for more?
The Ebb Tide underwent major renovations in 2009, and its occupancy rates, even in this economic downturn, are up. Much of this is due to the many repeat customers at the Ebb Tide, and Karen’s strong belief in TripAdvisor, where she avidly reads every Ebb Tide review, and takes care to respond to guests who were less than happy with their stay. Overall, there are few of these folks. Here’s a sampling of guest comments:
“This is the second time my family has stayed at the Ebb Tide and this is the second time I’ve ever written a review. It just gets better every time we visit. Karen and her staff treat us like we’re old friends.”
“I stayed at the Ebb Tide on spring vacation for many years in the 80’s. Glad to see that it has not been “eaten up” by all of the growth in South Florida.”
“I’m just now hoping a room becomes available for the weekend I want this year! Otherwise I’ll have to change my weekend plans to another week that is available.”
Karen’s attention to detail and to the feedback of her guests was no doubt a large contributor to the Ebb Tide’s receipt of the coveted Superior Small Lodging White Glove award. Oh, and – adding to the coolness factor – the Ebb Tide is the host of the 2nd Street Surf Shop’s web cam. Check out the beach scene at http://blog.2ndstsurfshop.com/live-feed/.
Oh, and that happy ending? It gets even happier. In addition to Karen, there are additional permanent guests at the Ebb Tide: Karen’s son, daughter-in-law, and their two sons (ages four and five), live here too. “Oma,” says one of Karen’s grandsons, “I’m checking into the Ebb Tide and I’m never checking out.”
Check out the Ebb Tide, and you can become part of Karen’s family too, although we doubt she’s adopting additional grandsons anytime soon. We asked.
Ebb Tide rates range start at $89 in the summer and $129 in the winter (starting November 16). For more information, visit them online at www.ebbtideresort.com.