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Businessmen of Catalina Envision Diversified Tourism

By Pete Allman

Santa Catalina IslandOne of the great weekend getaways from Las Vegas and Los Angeles is Santa Catalina Island. Often referred to as Catalina Island, it is a rocky island off the coast of Southern California in the Gulf of Santa Catalina. The island is a short one hour fifteen minute boat ride from Newport Beach. There, locals and tourist, especially Asians and Europeans ride the Catalina Flyer, the largest catamaran available in Southern, California.

Catalina was originally settled by Native Americans who called the island Pimugna or Pima and referred to themselves as Pimugnans or Pimuvit. The first Europeans to arrive on Catalina claimed it for the Spanish Empire. Over the years territorial claims to the island transferred to Mexico and then to the United States.

It was then developed as a tourist destination by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. in the 1920's. Since the 1970's most of the island has been administered by Catalina Island Conservancy and the rest of the island by Santa Catalina Island Company.

Santa Catalina IslandThroughout the years, this reporter has enjoyed the tranquillity Catalina has to offer and has enjoyed the business of real estate values there. Clarence Hunt of Hunt Reality has been a mainstay for over 30 years, providing homes, condominiums for sale and lease. According to Mr. Hunt, whose been selling real estate for over one half century, the time to buy on Catalina has never been more affordable. Rich with knowledge about the island and its locations, Hunt Reality can be reached at 1-310-510-2721.

There are always businessmen who understand the value of vacationing. One such gentlemen is Jack Tusey, who owns 5 restaurants on the island. Mr. Tusey, was very successful with the majority of his business ventures, which included Girardes salad dressing, the glass bottle shaped in a pyramid style. In speaking with Jack, my associate and I learned some of his business accruements. He owned restaurants in Las Vegas in the early part of his career. Understanding the popularity of the Rat Pack and the music of the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's, Jack and his lovely wife Nora believe in romanticism. His Antonio's Pizzeria and Cabaret and Original Country Kitchen bring out that feeling, not to mention his El Galleon Restaurant and Mama Cita's Mexican Restaurant. All together with his Catalina Hotel, a historical landmark, which has accommodations for everyone's taste, Jack employees approximately 200 people. He's the third largest employer in Avalon. With all that said, you won't be disappointed in his pizzas and his wonderful breakfast for vegetarians. For more information on this historic and beautiful hotel call 1-800-540-0184.

Another gentlemen whose been in Catalina for many years is Russ Armstrong. Russ is not only an incredible chef, but he's an excellent restaurateur. He owned Armstrong's Seafood for 29 years, before buying Restaurante Villa Portofino. According to Mr. Armstrong, Vincent Scaraouchi built the restaurant in 1940, where he also built the Vicente Hotel, and enjoyed playing host to celebrities who would stay there, for a quick get away from Hollywood. Incidentally, Jennifer Armstrong and her daughter, along with chef Eric add the family touch to this landmark. Everything is authentic, including the imported Buffalo Mozzarella.

Avalon Grille - Executive Chef Nadir Sherwani, Markus Markovcich GMIn understanding the tourism industry, The Santa Catalina Company has upgraded their facilities with restaurants such as The Avalon Grille, which has somewhat of a Hampton's feel in an open setting. I was greeted by Markus Mrakovcich, the General Manager. Mr. Mrakovcich is part of the team created by Lubos Pech, the Senior Vice President of Hospitality. Mr. Pech who was very instrumental in building hospitality in Dubai has plans to restructured the Catalina experience with new upgraded state of the art convention areas in the Descanso Beach area, as well as other areas of Catalina. According to Ben Villalobos, the Food and Beverage Director, the romance and attractions of Catalina will stay in its original state. The company only wants to enhance the vacation and convention experience with updated facilities The Avalon Grille, for one, not only is a good example of the updated dining experience, there is also one of the top chefs in today's culinary experience. Executive Chef Nadir Sherwani is in charge of all the food areas for The Santa Catalina Company. For more information on vacationing in Catalina or corporate conventions, call (310) 510-2000.

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Pete Allman
2595 Fremont Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89104
578 Washington Boulevard #679, Marina Del Ray, CA 90292