(Photo by Barb Shepherd, The West Volusia Beacon)
The 77-year-old club in DeLand, Fla. was “really and truly days away from a formal foreclosure” in May of 2020, according to its current Commodore. But a longtime member helped to bring in needed cash by finding a private lender while also executing a plan to sell off part of the club’s property. Now membership is on the rise again, with dining proving to be a big part of the appeal. “It’s a team effort to make this club survive another 75 years,” says chef Kim Savage. “We don’t want this to be a memory.”
Commodore Tony Visconti and his colleagues are trying to resurrect a part of DeLand, Fla. history that dates back to 1944, when a group of young men freshly home from World War II founded the Lake Beresford Yacht Club, The West Volusia Beacon of DeLand reported.
The Yacht Club’s building was destroyed by fire in 2007, and rebuilding has been ongoing since then, The Beacon reported. But the recovery was hampered at first by disagreements about how the old building should be replaced, which led to a dwindling of the membership. And then the COVID-19 pandemic brought the situation to the point of crisis in May of 2020.
“We were really and truly days away from a formal foreclosure,” Visconti told The Beacon.
That’s when DeLand attorney Rick Taylor, a longtime Yacht Club member and former Commodore, came to the rescue, The Beacon reported. Taylor found a private lender who was willing to keep the club afloat, and crafted a plan to sell off two buildable four-acre parcels of the club’s property—both with lake access—to add needed cash to the till.
Also in the summer of 2020, Visconti was elected Commodore, The Beacon reported. He has focused on rebuilding the club’s membership side, and things are beginning to look up. There are currently 130 members, and 225 are needed to create financial stability. About 15 memberships were added over the past month or so.
“We’re not too far off,” Visconti told The Beacon. “We’ve got a nice momentum going.”
One thing Visconti doesn’t have to worry about is the appeal of the food at the club, The Beacon reported. The club is open Wednesday through Saturday each week for dinner, and on the second Sunday of each month for brunch. A wine-tasting dinner held at the club in late October showed that the food and service —from the Charleston crab soup through the pumpkin caramel cheesecake—is shipshape.
“We all do this as a family thing,” chef Kim Savage, who helped with the dinner, told The Beacon. “It’s a team effort to make this club survive another 75 years. We don’t want this to be a memory.”
Other top benefits of membership, according to Visconti, whose family has been part of the club for 20 years, are the opportunity for relaxation, and the reciprocal membership at other Florida yacht clubs that are also part of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs, The Beacon reported.
Although boat ownership isn’t a requirement for membership, for some the top membership benefit is access to Lake Beresford, The Beacon reported. “I’ve had people join this past year just so they can use the boat ramp,” Visconti said, noting that the club’s ramp is less crowded than public ramps.
In addition to the dining room, the Lake Beresford YC facility also includes a pool, lounge, outdoor seating area, special events, and space for private parties available to members. “It’s a great, relaxed DeLand tradition,” Visconti said.
One tradition of some private clubs that will not be part of the rebuilding of Lake Beresford YC is exclusion based on religious beliefs or skin color, The Beacon reported. “We’re open to all races and creeds,” Visconti said. He also hopes to overcome the perception that yacht club membership is the purview of the gray-haired set.
“We’ve got some younger families coming in,” Visconti said. “I hope we can keep it going.”