Long a passion project of the South Carolina-native David Burden, Timbers Resorts founder and executive chairman, Timbers Kiawah – Ocean Club & Residences officially opened its doors just over a year ago to welcome its much-anticipated Owners and families.
General Manager Jesse Geremia reflects on the year’s successes and the future’s promise.
Tell us a little bit about the history and genesis of Timbers Kiawah.
With David Burden and his family being from the Lowcountry of South Carolina, they have long wanted to develop on Kiawah Island. Oceanfront real estate is hard to come by on Kiawah, so when David discovered the opportunity to purchase this parcel, he did not hesitate. Being located on the beach was important, so Owners can enjoy expansive ocean views from any one of the 21 luxury residences.
The concept of barefoot luxury most certainly applies here. From soaking up the sun at the Beach Club to the warm reception you are sure to find in the Clubhouse, owners can expect the highest level of personalized service in a world-class setting with phenomenal design, free of any pretense. We have assembled a team of mostly local individuals who appreciate the history and beauty of the island, and who are committed to its conservation and environmental stewardship. Owners and staff alike strive to enjoy this space in harmony with the natural area. It has been a wonderful first year of getting to know our Owners and welcoming more to the community.
What are some of the accomplishments over the last year you’re most proud of?
In general, I am proud of the whole idea of Timbers Kiawah and that it has become a better reality than any of us imagined. It is hard to overlook the special experiences that have unfolded over the past year, like the staff-led Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, to the personalized family stockings hung on the fireplace mantle last Christmas, and fathers and daughters playing egg toss and other yard games before fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Additionally, we are proud that our team has operated efficiently against the first and second year’s annual budget, and that we have found savings at the bottom line. To not only set a financial plan, but to execute well against that plan is as important as anything else we do. We also launched an owner satisfaction survey in December of 2018 and the scores we have received are excellent. Participation among the Owners is high, and we appreciate the valuable feedback we receive.
Lastly, I am proud to work with a team that cares about giving back. This holiday season we are partnering with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach on Johns Island to organize a food drive for the local community. We have also made donations to charitable causes that are important to our company and Owners.
What have been some of the biggest challenges?
As expected with any new opening, there are the usual challenges of hiring and developing a team, establishing processes, and correcting facilities issues as things settle. Not to downplay any of those, but I believe the greatest challenge is honoring the Owners’ commitment of time and investment in the property.
Thankfully, we have a fantastic team that is up for the task. The residence club is clearly a special place set atop a world-class beach, but it is up to our team to curate the experience and color it with personality to help make the space come to life. We speak often among our leadership team of a greater “ecosystem” that we exist within. It takes all of the components of that system to function properly and do their parts, and we are fortunate to have a group of people committed to that effort.
What makes Timbers Kiawah different from other developments on the island?
Timbers Kiawah is the first of its kind on the island. For those looking for the perfect blend of five-star, resort-style amenities and the comforts of home, look no further. We promote hassle-free vacationing which allows Owners to enjoy more precious time with their families immediately upon arrival and throughout their stay. Travel is stressful enough as it is, so we work to alleviate that in several ways.
We purchased a fleet of more than 100 bikes as well as golf clubs, surfboards, fishing rods, and more to have available free of charge so that no one has to worry about rentals when they are here. Our concierge team handles pre-arrival grocery purchasing, in addition to booking dinner reservations, tee times and other activity planning. Upon departure, we can send you home with a packaged to-go lunch, or even dinner prepared in advance, to help make the trip home that much easier.
We just launched a new wine club for our Owners which offers rare, fine wines at better-than-retail pricing. Our facilities team makes sure that your home is always in excellent shape year-round. The services are second to none, and coupled with the location we can see why Timbers Kiawah has become the talk of the town.
Describe a moment from the past year that really stands out.
New Years Day was a special day here. We were just a couple months removed from opening, and we hosted our first event for the Owners. Chef Teddy and his team put on a Lowcountry shrimp boil and oyster roast which was a lot of fun. The weather was perfectly sunny and warm, and we had nearly 60 people join us that afternoon. I recall standing at the Beach Club deck seeing Owners mingling, eating, and laughing with one another when it occurred to me that Timbers Kiawah had become a true community – and something greater than the sum of its parts.
What was it like for you when Owners started to arrive?
It was both a thrill and a relief to welcome the firstOwners to experience the property. All of the pre-opening work culminated on that day in mid-October when we gladly retired the hard hats. Seeing kids jump in the pool for the first time and take in the sunset with mom and dad over milkshakes was a moving experience.
Do you have a moment with Owners that stands out from the last year?
On our first year anniversary, the entire Sessor family (Jan, Julie, Clara, and Jackson) delivered a homemade lasagna lunch for our staff as their way of saying thanks. This was unexpected and deeply appreciated by the whole team. I think this moment exemplifies the special relationship that exists between our Owners and staff. And the lasagna was exceptional!
What are you most excited about in the coming year?
What makes Timbers Kiawah so special are the people and moments we share together. I get excited about seeing folks connect on a meaningful level here, whether it is Owners getting to know one another, or staff and Owners coming together. As time goes by, I see more and more of this happening. To celebrate this further we will be adding a new community gathering place. A custom-built fire pit will be installed at the main lawn between building 100 and the Beach Club. I cannot wait to see families enjoying this new space. Beyond that, I am equally excited about seeing our team continue to develop in the coming year. We have so many talented individuals on staff who are poised to excel here and do more. Our best ideas come from them, and they will help to propel the community to new and exciting heights.