Want to hear a love story? Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl who lived around the corner from each other in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a good life, but they worked all the time and, sadly, never met. But they shared this crazy dream of someday living on a tropical island. Somehow, some way, the girl moved to St. John in 2010. The boy found her there when he moved in 2011. They fell in love, got married, bought some real estate and fixed it up real nice, and started Island Abodes!
Brittany and Robert at the Trunk Bay overlook
Brittany, Robert and RJ at Maho Bay July 2017
Brittany MacNealy was born and raised in the Mississippi delta. After college at Mississippi State (Hail State!) where she was an active member of Delta Gamma, she moved to Nashville to run fundraising and events for a great nonprofit, Eating Disorders Coalition of Tennessee. Her parents will tell you that she dreamed of living at the beach since she was a little girl. So in 2010, after 5 “cold” Nashville winters, she moved to St. John to be the Director of Fun at the Westin St. John Resort. For 4 years she oversaw Resort activities and managed the pool and Kid’s Club. It was a great experience and awesome training for Island Abodes’ future GM!
Robert Gonzales was born and raised in New Orleans, went to college at Louisiana Tech, then moved to Nashville in 1991 for law school at Vanderbilt. As a business lawyer, he specialized in restructuring companies. He worked hard and built a great practice. But ask his long time law partner or mentor and they’ll tell you something like “Robert always said he wouldn’t sit at a desk forever.” Twenty years in Nashville seemed like long enough. So, in 2011 he relocated to the islands he’d been visiting for over 10 years, met Brittany, and the rest is history!
When we’re not helping guests, we love to explore the North Shore on paddle boards and hike the National Park trails and just have fun with our son RJ. Brittany can tell you all about social happenings on island. Robert is big into tropical fruit farming, so be sure to ask him what’s ripe!
We love our island life and we love welcoming guests to this little slice of paradise. We hope to see you real soon!
-Brittany, Robert and RJ
P.S. Our Irma Story
Brittany and 8 week old RJ flew back to the states on September 4th when her mommy intuition said “leave now.” Robert stayed behind with Morgan (our beloved ACC rescue dog) to secure our properties and be there for the initial recovery efforts.
When Irma hit St. John on September 6, 2017 with 185 mph sustained winds, it was the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, and it ravaged our little island. Two weeks later, another Category 5 storm, Hurricane Maria, skirted by St. John, bringing more wind and torrential rains. The immediate aftermath was challenging to be sure, but this is a special island, resilient by nature.
Electric power was restored to most of St. John in less than 3 months – along with a completely new power grid – and clean up gave way to reconstruction. Now, with a tremendous amount of love, support, hard work and perseverance, we can declare that St. John and Island Abodes are back and better than ever!
We reopened the Chocolate Hole rentals first (after replacing the roof and all the furnishings), hosting guests in the Garden Suite starting on February 2, 2018 and at Down Yonder Pool Villa a month later. Our goal was to not just restore, but to make everything even better than before (and reviews from repeat guests indicate success).
In March we started work on Sunset Serenade Suites, first rebuilding the huge deck on the ocean side of the property, and then focusing on the Honeymoon Suite, which got a new screened living/dining room with one of the most spectacular views on St. John. New amenities like a washer/dryer make this very special home even more inviting than before.
The compact Studio Suite was next, and the first post-Irma guests checked in mid-June. The improvements here were so big – including a new screened living/dining room with bar and large shower with unreal ocean views – that we had to change the name. It’s now the Papaya Suite, named for the papaya trees growing right outside. Guests love this home!
The Penthouse will reopen in December 2018 followed by the One Bedroom unit. The Penthouse will be just as spectacular as before, but with many upgrades, including an all new chef’s kitchen and bathroom. The One Bedroom is getting so many enhancements, including a new kitchen, bathroom and screened living/dining room, that it will get a new name as well: the Hibiscus Suite (named for the beautiful hibiscus bushes out front).
As we reflect on our life since Irma visited St. John, we are profoundly thankful for the outpouring of support from our Island Abodes extended family, and looking forward to a busy 2018/2019 high season. Please come visit and let us help make your next St. John vacation the best one yet!