Everything’s changed at vintage Florida-style gem The Gondolier Inn, but everything’s still the same as well. One difference is the smiling face behind the front desk. That would be the co-owner and operator, Jamaican-born Keble Pryce, who entered the hotel business after working in his mother’s catering company. “I got a job here in the States working as a server,” he says. “A couple of years later, I met my wife, Katherine, in Nantucket. I was the manager of The Nantucket Hotel, and she was the manager at the White Elephant hotel.” The couple began visiting Naples in 2015 and noticed The Gondolier, a louvered-window, terrazzo-floored charmer in Old Naples. Where some developers might have seen the place as a teardown, Keble and Katherine fell hard for its old-school vibe. Turn the page for our Q&A about the renovation. —John Eder
NI: What’s the history of The Gondolier Inn?
Pryce: Henry and Leona Harer opened what was then called The Gondolier Apartments in 1958. They were from St. Louis. She promoted the business with shell art classes, and he took guests to the best fishing spots around town. The property was in the Harer family for six decades, and their son, Henry, who managed the hotel until he died in 2018, lived in what’s now our lobby.
How did you come to acquire it?
When we came to visit Katherine’s parents, we saw the place and were really excited about it. It wasn’t for sale at the time, but we would come in and talk to Henry and tell him if he ever wanted to sell, sell it to us. We used to bring him gift baskets, just so he’d remember us! When Henry passed away last year, there was a small sign out front, ‘For Sale by Owner.’ His sister sold it to us [including Katherine’s mother, designer/developer Kristen Williams, who’s restored other historic homes in downtown Naples] after we came and talked to her about our passion for hospitality and for the hotel itself. She had other offers, but when we told her our vision—to restore it, not tear it down—that was important to her. She grew up here, too, and wanted to see it carry on. That was last year. We had our grand opening in March of 2019.
How has the renovation been received?
So many locals have stopped by and told us how glad they were we kept it as it is. We replaced the driveway, fixed some drainage issues, updated the TVs, and put in Wi-Fi. My mother-in-law is the interior designer. She did every room differently, in an eclectic and fun Florida style, classic but modern.
How’s business so far?
Great! We’ve been booked solid ever since we opened. This coming season we have a lot of long-term bookings. Customers who’ve been coming here for years say Henry would’ve loved what we did. That’s important to us because you can’t ignore six decades of history.