BACA – At Your Service For Over 20 Years!!
One day in 1992, Busch Garden’s Hospitality Industry Representatives Theresa Crane and Todd Altadonna hosted a ‘Funday’ at the theme park, inviting hotel guest services employees to experience the thrills and acquire first-hand knowledge of the park to pass on to their hotel visitors. The event was a resounding success, attracting over 125 industry employees! It was there at Busch Gardens that Gretchen Lyckberg, then Lead Concierge at the Don CeSar Resort Hotel, put forth the idea of forming a concierge association to promote cooperation, growth, knowledge and professionalism of associates throughout the Tampa Bay area and invited those present to attend a future meeting to-be-announced at which to further the idea.
Using Theresa’s Busch Gardens’ mailing list, sometime later an invitation went out for a meeting to be held at the Radisson Sand Key Hotel (today’s Marriott Suites) where the framework for the formation of the concierge association was initiated. Thirty industry folks attended with 6 volunteering their services to form a core committee that would eventually become the first BACA Board of Directors: Gretchen Lyckberg – President; Gary Dyer, Alden Suites – Treasurer; Amy from Radisson Sand Key – Secretary; and our sincerest apologies to the following unnamed co-founders – 2 concierges from the Tradewinds Island Resort, one serving as Vice President; and a guest services associate from LaQuinta Inn Tampa. During those early formative years, the core group of 6 met regularly, usually at ‘The Don’ and it was there the Bay Area Concierge Association (BACA) moniker was coined. The committee contacted concierge associations throughout Florida, Washington DC and other major cities to request guidance in writing BACA’s bylaws, and asked local St. Pete Beach attorney Deborah Nicklaus to advise on forming a non-profit organization.
The formulations culminated in BACA’s first official meeting held at Le Pompano Restaurant (today’s Salt Rock Grill) in 1994, an exciting & proud evening for the core committee after nearly 2 years of hard work put in to create BACA. Membership applications were distributed to those present and also by mail to everyone on the Busch Gardens mailing list. A bank account, post office box and newsletter were established and membership began to rise. Initial monthly meeting attendance was moderate at best, so the board often went out on ‘blitzes’ to the area’s hotels and resorts to recruit new members, some of whom remain active in BACA to this day. The association was gaining legitimacy, restaurants and attractions were eager to host events and BACA began receiving local media attention. Members were now given the opportunity to participate in statewide conventions hosted by other Florida associations thereby further expanding their horizons.
By 1997 BACA membership numbered in mid 30’s and 1998 saw members from as far away as Sarasota! The membership began taking on more responsibilities and assisting the core committee in running the association. Board positions were expanded and elections held. During the summer of 1999, the concierge from Longboat Key’s Colony Beach & Tennis Resort that was serving as the association’s president, had to vacate the position due to family illness and Charlie Creel was then installed to serve out the remainder of the term as BACA President. Charlie, along with Michelle from Saddlebrook Resort who served as vice-president, took charge of the day-to-day operations of the association. Charlie continued as BACA President through 2002 and during his tenure membership steadily increased up to 75 associates.
2003 saw Vicki Mitzel take over as president and Sonja George followed in 2004. In 2004, BACA played host for the first time to the Florida Concierge Associations’ State Conference, centered at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort and the Marriott Suites Sand Key, where Charlie Creel was instrumental in organizing what was at the time, one of the most successful state conferences held with over 150 concierges from all 7 Florida Associations attending! Succeeding association presidents were Marriott Suites Sand Key’s Victoria Wrede 2005-2007; Renaissance International Plaza Mall’s John Dechmerowski 2008-2010 and Don CeSar’s Adrian Robbins 2011-2014 who was responsible for securing BACA’s status as a 501C3 Non-profit and for hosting the Florida State Conference in 2014. Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort’s Gary Hidu is the current BACA President, beginning 2015. Besides the BACA Presidents noted above, countless other association members past & present have unselfishly contributed their time and expertise in service on the BACA Board of Directors in varying capacities.
We are very fortunate and grateful our founders, Gretchen Lyckberg, Theresa Crane and Todd Altadonna, had the foresight to form BACA to inspire and maintain the highest standards of service and integrity in the concierge profession in the Tampa Bay area. We are all proud of how far we’ve come, how much we’ve grown and where we’re headed tomorrow.