Resort Report

A Comfortable Place to Perch

Grand Turk’s Osprey Beach Hotel has a fascinating history and exciting future ahead.
By Kathy Borsuk ~ Photos By Tropical Imaging

Osprey Beach Hotel Grand Turk

Osprey Beach Hotel Grand Turk

I have fond memories of Grand Turk’s Osprey Beach Hotel, or rather, the Kittina, as it was called in 1993. I visited there during the Thanksgiving holiday to write my first “Resort Report” as new editor of Times of the Islands. Truthfully, I was shy, homesick and intimidated by my new job. I still remember the warm welcome by Kit Fenimore, the property’s original builder and owner. He not only made me feel comfortable, but treated me to a five-course turkey dinner that brought fond memories of home. Best of all, I didn’t have to brave the cold winds of Chicago after the meal. I just crossed the street and followed a colorful pathway lined with tropical vegetation to a room overlooking the ocean. Balmy tradewinds and the rhythmic susurration of waves lulled me to sleep.

Kit no longer runs the Kittina, but still lives in Grand Turk. We met up again this spring, nearly 20 years later, along with Jenny Smith, the current owner/manager of the property, to swap memories. Kit didn’t look much different, although the buildings that comprise the resort had long undergone a complete facelift.
The saga of the Kittina started in 1972, conceived when Kit was working at the RCA-operated U.S. Air Force tracking station on Grand Turk. The U.S. Navy’s research facility was also occupied, and the island was a bustling Caribbean outpost. Kit knew a restaurant would do well, along with rooms to house the ever-growing populace. He and his wife Tina built a one-story building on Duke Street with four rooms, a restaurant and a tiny bar, later adding 14 rooms and a second story. This original building is now called The Atrium, housing 10 guest rooms and a commercial complex, with restaurants, a dive operation and a spa. (But, sadly, there is no longer a bowling alley. Back in the early days, Kit maintained a finished-cement, outdoor, nine-pin bowling alley. Ten pins would have broken local regulations.)

Birdcage Restaurant & Bar, Grand Turk

Birdcage Restaurant & Bar, Grand Turk

In 1984, Kit expanded again, with a two-story, townhouse-style building across the street, directly on the beach. Today, it stands as the center of the resort, with 27 beachfront rooms and an open-air lounge and restaurant that embraces the pool/patio and offers a front-row view of the stunning turquoise ocean panorama.
Back in the budding years of TCI tourism, the Kittina was one of the largest hotels in the Islands, rivaled only by Cal Piper’s legendary Island Princess (on the site of today’s sprawling Beaches Resort & Spa in Providenciales). Besides several well-known authors, a U.S. senator and actress Muriel Hemingway, Kit is especially proud that the hotel hosted Princess Alexandra during her visit in 1988. He recalls, “The security detail came ahead of time to make sure her car could fit through our alley. They ended up disassembling the stone walls to make the road wider.”
After the tracking station and research base closed down in the 1980s, life slowed on Grand Turk. Air service could be erratic and unpredictable, Kit explained. Pan-Am, Air Florida, short-lived Red Carpet Airlines and Music City Airways, Carnival Airlines, BahamasAir, and, more recently, Spirit Airlines all came and went, making direct access by tourists especially difficult. Fortunately, today, regular, non-stop service to Grand Turk from Providenciales via Air Turks & Caicos makes it easy to visit the nation’s capital.
Jenny Smith has lived on Grand Turk for 24 years. In 1986, she and her then-husband answered an ad for an “English couple” to run the Kittina, and they — an English/Irish combination — were chosen from the hundreds of applicants. At that time, Jenny had already amassed a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry, working for prime establishments in Jersey, Gibraltar, England and Wales. The couple managed the Kittina for 1 1/2 years, then signed a 3 year lease at the Salt Raker, a small inn just down Duke Street. Jenny later signed a further 10 year lease before returning to her original position, although the property was then called the “Sitting Pretty,” under new owner Reg Bodhanya. She officially bought the hotel in December 1999, re-naming it the Osprey Beach, and initiated a total renovation. In the meantime, Jenny met and married real estate developer Loren Carnahan, who came to Grand Turk to consult on a marina project, fell in love with Jenny and the hotel, and is now a strong support for the busy enterpreneuress.
Osprey Beach Hotel beachfront suite

Osprey Beach Hotel beachfront suite

These days, each of the 27 oceanview and 10 atrium rooms has been made over into a icon of elegance befitting the long-ago princess’s visit. Light tan walls and beige tiled floors serve to contrast the spectacular turquoise seascape seen via the beachfront suites’ private patios and serve as a backdrop to the dark mahogany four poster beds and furniture. Suites include king, queen or double beds, air conditioning and ceiling fan, and either a full or mini-kitchen. The Atrium offers guest house accommodations overlooking a tropical courtyard just steps to the beach; some include balcony views of the ocean. Free wi-fi is available throughout the hotel and poolside.
Jenny says the Osprey is steadily busy year-round, frequented by in-the-know divers drawn to Grand Turk’s award-winning combination of near-shore wall diving and pristine conditions. With daily rates ranging from $120 to $225, it is a surprisingly affordable “nest” for leisure and business travellers, drawing visitors who can appreciate the laid-back atmosphere of Grand Turk, interlaced with historical intrigue. Within easy walking distance is Cockburn Town, a treasure trove of Bermudian-influenced 18th and 19th century buildings, restored salinas from the salt industry (now home to waterbirds, including flamingos) and the National Museum. Simply strolling down quiet Duke Street towards town feels like stepping back into another century.
Guests and GT residents congregate at the Birdcage Restaurant and Bar, where local and international fare and drinks flow freely, at reasonable prices. Menus change daily and often feature the fresh catch of the day and local lobster in season. The Key lime pie is world-famous (and don’t even ask Anna for the recipe!) Another island legend is the Wednesday and Sunday night barbecues, where local musician Mitch Rolling and his famous party band High Tide, entertain guests with an eclectic blend of island music and classic rock ‘n’ roll.
It’s clear from meeting Jenny and watching her graceful competency in running a busy establishment, that her heart is firmly planted on Grand Turk soil. Husband Loren confirms, “You won’t find anyone more dedicated to her position than Jenny. To her, it’s not just a dream, it’s been a lifetime devotion. She gives each guest and staff member the same personal attention. It’s clear that she cares about doing things well.” Jenny can also trust the dedication of several long-time employees, including Janet and Anna-May Williams, who have each worked at the hotel for over 20 years.
When Hurricane Ike battered Grand Turk in September 2008, the Osprey Beach served as a safe haven for many employees and their families who had nowhere else to go. Jenny and Loren recall their first glimpse of the hotel after the storm, “The entryways were packed with brush, tree limbs, pieces of roof, mattresses, anything you could imagine. We had to literally cut a path to get close to the rooms.” Fortunately, they had installed a generator several years back so the hotel was one of the few places on Grand Turk to have electricity, and repair and renovations began immediately. Food was served from the hotel’s kitchen and the property quickly became “cell phone central,” among the few spots where folks could recharge those important links to civilization. Although it would have been easy to pick up and leave for more pleasant pastures, Jenny carried on throughout the rebuilding efforts and the first guests were welcomed back to the hotel by December 1.
All good things must come to an end, and just as Kit and Tina Fenimore passed the torch so many years ago, so, too, will 60+ year old Jenny Smith. This year, Jenny and Loren officially placed the Osprey Beach property on the market. Jenny says, “Grand Turk will always be our home. Why? Just look at the ocean out there, the friendly community, the lack of traffic . . . I could never leave. But we want to do more traveling and enjoying family and friends. For me, running a hotel has been my life’s passion. Now, it’s time to relax.”
Exclusively offered by Agua Atlantic Realty, the property not only includes the oceanfront hotel building, which contains 27 elegantly appointed suites, the restaurant, bar and lobby, but also the Duke Street commercial complex (across the road), with an additional 8 rooms, a manager’s apartment, 9 commercial units and a combination ship and warehouse for hotel maintenance. The sale also encompasses an adjacent undeveloped cottage (the original home of Blue Water Divers) and a plot of land on Grand Turk’s popular “Ridge,” boasting stunning views and on which may be built a new home. Loren notes that expansion possibilities for the hotel are vast; available is a preliminary design for a second story penthouse for the existing lobby building and you could readily add 1/3 again the number of rooms, a potentially valuable opportunity, as the business has averaged 72% occupancy for the past four years.
Perhaps making the leave-taking easier for Jenny and Loren will be putting the hotel in good hands.

For more information on the hotel, visit www.ospreybeachhotel.com. To learn more details of the sale, see www.aarealtytci.com.



1 Comment

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James (Jake) Leffmann
Jan 24, 2013 22:37

I want to buy the Hotel, and run it at a profit. Please supply me with details on purchase price*(s), approved financing, and sundry details associated to a sale of the property,.

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