For real estate mogul Michael Meldman, creating private clubs with impeccable service and amenities is a recipe for success.
By Cristina Greeven Cuomo
Baker's Bay Golf & Ocean Club is located on Great Guana Cay in the Abacos Islands, Bahamas.
Even in this tough economy, the Discovery Land Company’s 14 exclusive resorts in the US, Mexico and the Bahamas are thriving. With 20 percent of members having bought residences on more than one property, Discovery stands apart from other family-oriented resorts.
The level of service is on a par with that of a private country club. “We stick to the basics by providing great amenities and a more intimate level of service,” says 50-year-old founder and CEO Michael Meldman, who began building his company in the late ’90s. The fact that families return year-in, year-out, plus the personable staff (who see the kids grow up and greet members by name), makes the clubs particularly welcoming.
“People who go to Hawaii or Cabo come back and say the same thing— your staff’s amazing!” says Meldman. “We hire local people so they know the culture and the area.”
The newest project, Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club, on the northern end of Great Guana Cay in the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, is only 150 miles from the Florida coast. The six-mile-long pristine white beachfront overlooks a boater’s paradise—the Sea of Abaco—and includes a beautiful modern marina. “People go to the Bahamas because they like the Bahamas,” says Meldman. “So we hire Bahamians and train them ourselves, and we spend a lot of time with them. The staff becomes an extended part of your family, and they start treating you and your guests that way. You want to spend time with them. I’ll take some of our Bahamian staff with me and my family to Hawaii and to Idaho and they feel proud of what they’re doing. We take care of them. We pay our people more than most do, and we don’t like turnover. We try to keep them happy.”
FROM LEFT: Michael Meldman with sons Hunter and Will; the 18th hole at the Madison Club in La Quinta, California.
There are a lot of other ingredients that go into making a project successful. Meldman breaks it down: “I look at properties that are more opportunistic than strategic and consider airlift, zoning and other factors. When I saw the site at Baker’s Bay I knew. It’s the best piece of property I’ve ever seen. It is not easy to get to, but it’s as pristine and remote as Thailand or Tahiti, somewhere very exotic.”
The resorts offer site-appropriate recreational activities, like paddle-boarding, kayaking and fishing in the Bahamas, or hiking, fly-fishing and skiing in Montana. And golf, of course, can be played at all the properties (forgot your togs? Make a beeline for the pro shop’s chic Birdie & Bee golf apparel from designer Shara Koplowitz). Other high-end amenities include local-product-driven restaurants and spas.
The celebrity quotient is high at Meldman’s resorts. Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox Arquette love Cabo. George Clooney, Matt Damon and Lance Armstrong own properties right next to their buddy Meldman in the Bahamas. The attraction is complete privacy, and between the marina village and cottage colony of Baker’s Bay, the island offers total security and the chance to create a custom-built home.
All the properties are eco-friendly to boot. “What people don’t realize is that it’s also the most affordable way to develop if you’re not detouring waterways and things like that,” says Meldman. “I learned how not to do mass grading and keep all the environmental flows the same. I try to fit everything in the natural topography and wetlands. My projects have reduced the predetermined zoned density quite a bit so the impacts are much less severe and it’s so much more in line with the natural beauty of the land. It’s always been in our DNA as a company.” Visit discoverylandco.com.
photographs by Joss (MELDMANS); Discovery Land Company (GREAT GUANA CAY, GOLF COURSE)