Jon Allen who is the owner of Island House, arguably the world’s premier gay men’s guesthouse and finest resort of its kind in Key West, Fla, has decided to sell his business and his home.
He will be moving to an LGBT retirement community in California’s wine country. Allen describes his decision with some emotion, given the death, in December, of his husband, Martin Kay, who shared his life for 23 years.
“I have made some tough decisions with my heart and with my head, about the changes in my life — at home and at work — in my adopted hometown of Key West. For one thing, I’m getting older. [Allen is 70.] I see that many of the ordinary tasks in day-to-day life that are easy now won’t be easy in the future,” he said. “Since there is no assisted living facility in Key West, my only viable option is to leave. This is my home. It’s a heartbreaking, but realistic decision. I also believe it makes sense to leave sooner rather than later so I can make a real home in a new community.”
Allen has selected Fountaingrove Lodge (http://fountaingrovelodge.com) which offers a continuum of care for its residents who may be active at the time of their purchase but look down the road to a day when they may require assistance. It is located in the wine country of California’s Sonoma County.
Allen, a meticulous and customer-driven manager, describes the impressive level of service he received as a buyer. “Before you move, they fly someone out to meet with you, inventory your possessions and place things on a schematic of your new home. My residence is already constructed. All I have to do is pick out the flooring and change the paint color, because, well, I am gay.”
Allen toured Fountaingrove while out west to attend the Sundance Film Festival. Of the 77 units, 55 were already sold. Fountaingrove, the only upscale LGBT development of its kind, is a success and demonstrates the strength of its market. The average age of the residents is 71. Allen is excited about embarking on a new life chapter.
“Yes, it’s scary, and I feel like the kid on a roller coaster: I know I’ll be fine, but I feel like I should just sit and not put my arms up,” he said. “I think there’s adventure to be had. In some ways, the region, including Calistoga, St. Helena and Healdsburg, reminds me of Key West with their quirky shops, art galleries and restaurants.”
What will become of Island House? The asking price of $13.5 million has proven to be reasonable given the excellent condition of the property, the constantly low vacancy rate, the well-trained and harmonious staff, and a clientele so fiercely loyal that upon announcement of the offering, bookings for March went up 67 percent over last year.
Often, such an announcement will cause customers to hesitate. Allen wonders if the increase is because his customers could not bear the thought of never again visiting Island House. Serious offers have been received in the first week of the listing. Almost all interested buyers are former Island House guests who know the property well.
Allen says that his strongest wish for Island House is that it should remain a guesthouse for gay men. For him, Island House contains wonderful memories, and he often describes his work by saying, “In my workday, I am surrounded by happy naked men and a wonderful staff that know how to solve problems.”
His surroundings also make him think of his departed husband at every turn. For that reason above all else, he feels the need to leave Key West, a community he will miss greatly.
“I am the type of person who is predisposed to being happy. During the last few difficult months I have focused on reconnecting with supportive friends rather than obsessing about my loss,” he said. “Here in Key West I have been an activist for a community I love. I still think this town has a great run ahead of it. I look forward to returning often and I’d love to be a guest at Island House.”
If the social media commentary about Allen’s decision to sell Island House is any indicator, many thousands of former guests echo those sentiments, and wish him well.