At the corner of Main and Water streets in the seemingly European-inspired town of Rosemary Beach, The Pearl boutique hotel stands grandly on the corner, overlooking the town's Western Green and the Gulf beyond.
She is majestic and striking in her dress of white with black accents. Her style has a noticeably European flair, or is that West Indies, or Havana, and seemingly could have stood on that corner assuming her watch for decades.
But, The Pearl just celebrated her first birthday.
Bill Shoaf was one of the creators and original owners of the hotel.
Shoaf has been creating hotels for 35 years, including Sundance in Park City, Utah, and felt there was a need on 30A for a 5-star boutique hotel and restaurant experience that would also reflect the Emerald Coast's warm and welcoming spirit.
Shoaf envisioned the hotel's restaurant offering high-quality food, but it would not be pretentious, yet project the hospitable spirit of the coast and Northwest Florida.
"We learned a lot at Sundance and how to make it a very welcoming place, which we applied here," he said.
The hotel was half built when Shoaf found it, and had sat vacant for five or six years, abandoned during the downturn in the market.
Shoaf and his partners took over but did not change the hotel's design, only adding the black and white awnings you see today.
However, they were able to have more of a hand in the design of the hotel's first-floor restaurant and bar.
Shoaf said The Pearl's Havana Beach Bar & Grill was fashioned after the popular El Floridita, a frequent haunt of Hemingway in old-town Havana, Cuba.
"We felt this coast wanted a real bar such as El Floridita," he said. "I grew up in Latin America and had a lot of experience with hotels in South America and Latin America. They are always grand but not intrusive, welcoming, and always have high ceilings."
Pictures of the El Floridita were obtained and it became the inspiration for the Havana Beach Bar & Grill.
"All the rest grew around the bar," he said. "Notice when you go in, on the left side of the bar is a picture of the Floridita and a bust of Hemingway. We are proud we were the visionaries of this and proud of the way it turned out."
Shoaf sold his interest in The Pearl last month and it is now managed by St. Joe.
For more information on The Pearl visit www.thepearlrb.com.
For reservations at Havana Beach Bar & Grill phone 588-2882 and revel in the flavors of Gulf Coast Americana with hints of Spanish, Portuguese and French influences. Seating is available indoors or out on the veranda for brunch or dinner.
Or, just drop in for a signature cocktail at the mahogany hand-carved bar that is truly worthy of Hemingway. Attire is casual.