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At the Sandpearl Resort, workers say every day feels like vacation


“We live where you vacation.”

It’s become a common refrain among Floridians old and new who want to boast to friends living in colder climates. But perhaps no one embodies that expression more than the employees of the Sandpearl Resort.

On his commute from Dunedin to Clearwater Beach, Pira Pong “Manning” Chanpuang, takes in views of crystal blue Gulf of Mexico waters. On his way to clock in, he passes through the grand lobby with its gleaming marble floors and massive windows overlooking the pool area.

“It’s a million dollar picture, and I look at that every day,” he said. “I can’t ask for more than that.”

Chanpuang, 61, started almost nine years ago as an overnight valet. In just five months moved his way up to the bellman position. Before that, he had never worked at a hotel.

That’s not unusual at the Sandpearl, said general manager Eric Waltz.

“What I’m looking for is not necessarily the experience but do they make good eye contact? Are they a smiley, friendly, happy person? Are they a hospitality person?”

Every new recruit goes through a month-long training regimen to get acclimated.

Lucia Knapp, 35, started working as a front desk agent 10 months ago. Though she had a lot to learn, she’s been able to pick everything up quickly with the support of her superiors and co-workers, she said. She hopes to one day move into a managerial role herself.

“Everyone around me definitely motivates me to do better,” she said. “Knowing that I have that kind of team and management makes me want to come to work everyday.”

The emphasis on teamwork comes from the top down, said Ally Currier, director of human resources. Everyone helps everyone.

“You’ll see Eric in the dish pit if they need help,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that he’s the general manager.”

Hard work doesn’t go unrecognized at the Sandpearl. Those who go above and beyond have the opportunity to be named associate of the month or employee of the year. Good work also is rewarded with sand dollars, a sort of in-resort currency that can be traded in for prizes like spa treatments or dinner for two at Caretta, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant.

The best prize of all though is seeing the smiles on guests’ faces, said Chanpuang. He looks forward to seeing the regulars who come back year after year.

He’ll never forget the time that one of the younger guests drew a picture of him and handed it to him in the lobby. The child’s mother told him her kids always ask her when they can go back to the Sandpearl to see Manning.

“They feel like family to me now,” he said. “That’s a pretty rewarding thing to find in a job. It just makes you feel good.”

Sandpearl Resort LLC

Location: Clearwater Beach

Employees: 250

Website: www.opalcollection.com/sandpearl/

Employee comments: “I’m appreciated for what I do and I have bosses who show they care by checking in on us. I also love that the resort takes good care of us with full-time benefits, events and just by being nice. Walking through work I’m greeted by smiling faces. Having thoughtful employers and great coworkers contributes most to the Sandpearl being a great environment.”

“I enjoy working with leadership and employees also I have been given the chance to do what I have always wanted to do as far as a career path here at the Sandpearl.”

“Even when I make mistakes, I’m taught properly how to do things right and encouraged to ask questions and keep learning.”

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