Herb Field and Murf Klauber built The Colony up while their children worked behind the scenes.
To Murf Klauber, The Colony was a miracle. But it took a while to get it just right.
In 1954, Herb Field opened the resort, clearing a spot in the Longboat Key vegetation.
Back then, the Colony Beach Club featured small cabins, said Tim Field, Herb's son. It wasn't too long before Field said his father changed the name to Colony Beach Resort as some thought club meant the property was private. Field changed the name again to the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort when the sport began taking off.
Prior to running the Colony, Herb Field had two other business: a resort in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, and a dude ranch in Hot Springs, Arizona. His wife, Annabel Field, began writing to every chamber of commerce in Florida to see if new members were welcome. Sarasota was the only one to answer, so the Fields headed here in the 1940s.
In 1972, Herb Field, who Tim describes as a first-class hotelman, sold the resort to Murf Klauber, Field said.
“The Colony was my fun every day of my existence in that era,” Murf Klauber said.
Klauber said people still stop him on the street at least once a week to tell him how much they miss the Colony.
When the Klaubers are asked about their time at the Colony, they say they grew up there. Son Michael Klauber, now the proprietor of Michael’s On East, was 13 when he started washing the windows with his siblings. Son Tommy Klauber, who began working there at the age of 10, also recalls washing windows, which he said was hard because the restaurant was on the water and the windows were often covered in salt and sand.
On Sundays, the young crew made sand dollar pancakes. On Sunday nights, Murf Klauber hosted cocktail parties for the adults, but his kids would be there all dressed up to serve the guests. Other times, they worked the switchboards for rooms, something Tim Field recalls doing as well.
Tommy Klauber said that through the Colony, he and his siblings learned how to be comfortable around new people.
“Everybody’s got a story, that’s what I always say if you listen,” Klauber said. “We met wonderful people from all over the world there. I mean, Sarasota has always been pretty cosmopolitan for a sleepy little area with the artists and then musicians.”
Eventually, the Klauber kids found their areas of expertise. Tommy Klauber explained that he got into the culinary side of things, while his brother, Michael moved toward wine and daughter Katie Moulton got into the hotel-business side.
While Moulton said she had not intended to stay at the resort, after a hiatus from the Colony for college, she returned soon thereafter to help her father build the getaway that he’d always imagined.
“It started with an image my father had in his mind. He had previous general managers who didn’t understand. He was very creative and very innovative and he knew what other hotels were doing and he knew that’s not what he wanted,” Moulton said. “It wasn’t until we started working closely together that we would articulate what we wanted to do. We were selling something that was nontraditional.”
From jazz, wine and stone crab festivals to aerobics and tennis, Tommy Klauber said the Colony didn’t feel like a hotel. He said it was more like a club, where you saw the same guests year after year.
“The people you work with, the day-to-day laughs and tears and craziness that we had to deal with, that made is so unique,” he said. “It was quite wonderful.”
Both Murf Klauber and Herb Field dedicated their lives to the Colony.
“He was a first-class hotelman, and he felt service was important,” Field said of his father. “He felt pride in what he did.”
As did, Murf Klauber.
“He was the ringmaster,” Tommy Klauber said of his father.
Michael Klauber said that through his years at the Colony, he learned to run business from the guests’ points of view.
“That means thinking about every detail from the time they get there to the time they leave, which is something that I still use today in my business, and that’s kind of an old-fashioned thing, but if you think about it, if you really do that, it does take your service …up a level.”
But none of that came easy, Moulton said. It took years of refining to get the right personnel and routines to give the resort a “welcoming sense of family,” Moulton said.
“We did everything we could to ask the right questions to understand a little bit about what they were looking for in their vacation or visit of some kind,” Moulton said. “We did everything we could to personalize every guest experience.”
Tim Field was the first general manager under Murf Klauber, but his experience at the Colony started long before that.
“You learn a lot of people skills,” he said. “...the customer is always right, and I am a firm believer that the customer comes first in all cases..”
That didn’t mean the Colony was for everyone. It had a special character that attracted a distinct group of people who became regulars at the resort over the years, Moulton said.
“There was a magic there that was one of a kind. To be a part of making those special memories with all of those guest and employees over all of those years was really an honor to me,” Moulton said. “I’m not so sure the plan as I was growing up was for me to someday manage the hotel, but in the end I think we had a wonderful partnership and we were able to create a very special destination.”