Nov. 4, 2007 — Nancy Hedlund saw a niche that needed filling so she started Caribe Havens, a vacation villa management company that focuses on modestly priced properties on St. John.
"Everybody else was fighting to get the big houses," she said, referring to the numerous other villa management companies on St. John.
Caribe Havens' 14 villas are spread around St. John. They range in size from studios to six bedrooms, with most having two or three bedrooms. Prices start at $1,050 a week for a one-bedroom house near Cruz Bay. At the high end, the six bedroom costs $7,000 a week, but most of the two- and three-bedroom villas are far less expensive.
Hedlund, 63, got her introduction to the vacation villa management business when she used to run into St. John resident Sis Frank at the ferry dock while Frank was picking up villa guests.
"She looked like she was having fun," Hedlund said.
Laughing, she said that when she told Frank she'd like to get into the business, she asked if she was crazy.
That was 17 years ago, and Hedlund has steadily built up her business.
She said she still likes it as much as she did when she started.
"I made a lot of friends, and they became repeaters who became homeowners, and now I take care of their houses," Hedlund said.
She said there aren't too many challenges involved with running a villa management business other than things like arriving guests whose planes are late.
Hedlund said she does it all with the help of her "other half," George Smalls, who keeps up with maintenance issues at the houses. And she said when needed, she hires contract workers to do jobs that Smalls can't handle.
Hedlund and her former husband and their two children, Marcia, and Scott, arrived on St. John in 1977 from Jamestown, N.Y., after vacationing at Cinnamon Bay Campground for five years in a row.
"I didn't like New York state taxes, and I didn't care for snow too much," she said, explaining why she moved south.
Like many transplants, Hedlund held a variety of jobs before settling into villa management.
She said she worked at the Moveable Feast, a long-closed Mongoose Junction shopping center restaurant, drove a safari bus, did tours, worked at Caneel Bay, had a job as supervisor of the concessions at Trunk Bay, and for a time drove the Maho Bay Campground bus.
Although Caribe Havens keeps her busy, Hedlund said she still has time for family. Her daughter, Marcia, lives on St. John, and her three grandchildren and one great grandchild are on St. John and St. Thomas. Her son, Scott, lives in Jamestown.
"And I spend time with friends," she said.
Reach Caribe Havens at 776-6518 or visit their website.
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