Behind the Scenes: Stars of Volusia County Tourism

Helping set the stage for a memorable visitor experience are the behind-the-scenes stars of the tourism industry.

Their influence on the area’s tourism experience spans the spectrum, ranging from creating well-maintained roads and finely tuned elevators to great dining with outstanding customer service, and even making sure our frontline ambassadors and visitors look and feel their best.

Bob Davis, CEO and president of the Hotel & Lodging Association of Volusia County, says the importance of all components of the tourism industry working together cannot be understated, as Volusia welcomes more visitors to the area each year.

“Tourism is the economic engine of Volusia County,” said Davis. “We’ve gone from 8.2 to 10 million visitors a year. That effects every business, the big and the small. We’re all one, working together, and hospitality brings it all to the foreground.”

First impressions are everything, starting with the drive into any community. That’s where Halifax Paving comes in. Whether it’s flying in on a private plane for the weekend, taking the shuttle from the airport to the hotel, or the ending of a road trip, visitors take note of the parking lots and roadways as they head to their destination.

As a third generation paver and asphalt company, the Durrance family has made it their business to help communities surrounding their Ormond Beach-based operation. Tad Durrance, president of Halifax Paving since 2010, grew up in Volusia County, learning the ropes of the family business from the bottom up. Those skills have enabled him to continue the family tradition of looking out for the community, which includes the tourism industry.

From clearing lots to prepare for hotel construction, repairing and repaving travel lanes and expanding runways, Durrance knows the importance of maintaining the high-quality standards set by his father, Tommy Durrance, and his grandfather, Leonard Durrance, who founded the company 50 years ago.

“My grandfather started the company, just him and a bulldozer, on beachside, clearing lots,” said Durrance. “He saved up enough to hire on a second person and a second piece of equipment, and just kept doing that until he decided he wanted to get into the asphalt business and bought an asphalt plant. The rest is history.”

Durrance says of his grandfather’s tenacity to build a business while training the next generations with hands-on experiences has been the secret to Halifax Paving’s multigenerational success. “I think you can’t do it any other way. If you just have it handed to you, it would be difficult to have the respect of your employees, number one and number two, if you don’t understand it, I don’t know how you can go out and tell someone how to do it if you’ve never done it,” he said.

The uptick in the economy since the Great Recession in 2008 has allowed Durrance, a finance major in college, to increase the number of positions available while retaining the company’s long-term dedicated employees. “Our growth has been very consistent,” he noted. “We’re at about 120 employees and we’d hire another 20 right now if they walked through the door.”

Major Milestones for Halifax Paving, Inc.

Orlando Sanford International Airport Runway Extension 2013

State Road A1A Repair Post Hurricane Matthew 2016

Flagler Executive Airport Runway 2017

Upon arrival at their hotel, visitors look for convenience, and a fully operational elevator is one amenity taken for granted until it’s out of service. Ensuring hoteliers have access to the best in the industry, John Gill, sales representative for Premier Elevator Co., goes above and beyond to keep his clients happy.

Offering personalized customer service, Gill works diligently to focus on preventative maintenance in an effort to stave off equipment failure and provide customized support during emergencies.

“When people walk into a resort they want to know that they’re not going to be inconvenienced on their vacation,” said Gill of elevator service. “It makes us look good, the general manger look good and the resort look good. It’s extremely important.”

Gill’s career in the elevator industry spans nearly three decades. His passion for people and building relationships has garnered him much success since he moved to the area in 2015.

Focusing on core principles that include service, commitment, preventative maintenance and competitive pricing, Premier Elevator was started in 1992 by Robert Barber, Phil Reid, and Hugh and Wallace Bertschin in Stockbridge, Ga. Today, the company has five major branches in the southeastern United States, and has seen its market grow 400 percent in just the last two years. Premier Elevator services up to 60 clients in Volusia County, including many in the tourism industry.

Chuck Pogue, chief engineer for the Plaza Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach, has been pleased with the service Premier Elevator has provided since engaging them in March 2018.

“Prior to bringing them on, we had a lot of issues with our elevators. They always seem to break on Fridays and Saturdays,” Pogue lamented. “The company we used to have, we were not getting good service out of them. They weren’t doing preventative maintenance and that’s why our elevators were breaking all of the time. Guests get really aggravated when they have to stand and wait and it ends up costing the hotel money. It’s a poor reflection on the hotel. But since bringing Premier Elevator on, our elevators have been operating more reliably.”

Convenience and professionalism go hand in hand as visitors arrive and tourism ambassadors have the opportunity to make a standout first impression as they greet arriving guests or welcome them to the area.

From the concierge at the hotel to the corporate event planner, every member of the tourism industry knows appearance and attitude are important when interacting with visitors, and having someone in the community to help keep them looking professional is critical. Todd Patrick & Co. Salon in Ormond Beach is one of Volusia County’s go-to mainstays for all things fresh and trendy.

Strategically located on Granada Boulevard in the historic Ormond Beach district, the salon and barber shop has a clientele list of tourism ambassadors and visitors alike who book their appointments with their favorite stylists, sometimes up to a year in advance.

Opening their doors in 2011, Todd Patrick and husband Budd McClery made their move with precision timing, as the historic corridor was on its way to revitalization. Over time, they have seen a positive return on their investment.

“It has been an amazing opportunity, and I was very excited to be a part of the downtown revitalization that was actually the catalyst that got me to open my own business,” said Patrick. “It has grown over the course of the six years we have been here. When we started, it was just me, my assistant and my clientele, but we have grown quite nicely since then. We’ve been very blessed.”

The salon now features a full contingent of hair stylists, barbers, skincare and nail service providers. Living his lifelong dream, Patrick loves helping people in the community feel beautiful and confident.

“I feel like always, if you feel good about the way you look, you feel better yourself, and I think that translates into everything that you do,” he said. “I watch people come to life and just that confidence that they feel makes everything better.”

Settling in to their hotel, visitors will begin to get a lay of the land, searching for popular places to dine and among those is Steve’s Famous Diner in Daytona Beach.

This family run business has been a staple for locals and visitors since 1987, when the late Steve Mavronas established the first location on the corner of Beville and Nova Road and started building a rapport with his customers and the community. The brand has expanded to include a second and third location, now overseen by his oldest son Christos and daughter Larissa.

Starting out in the dish room, Christos Mavronas learned the family business from every angle, and the psychology major knows operating a successful business takes more than just great food. A welcoming atmosphere – decorated by his wife Melissa Mavronas, an interior designer, friendly staff, exceptional service and a menu filled with tantalizing recipes, have made dining at his beachside location at 2011 N. Atlantic Ave. a memorable experience. Returning visitors from the north and Canada find the comfort food he offers a mainstay as they enjoy their time here throughout the year.

“If you have a good business plan and you’re good at taking care of people, a lot of people, then go for it, take a chance. I took a chance, my father took a chance. It’s hard work, it’s resilience, it’s determination, timing and relationships with people,” Mavronas said. “I know all my customers. You have to look them in the eye when you put that plate down and say hey, trust me. They have to trust you first and that took a long time.”

Three Locations: Steve’s Famous Diner Beville/Nova Road – 1584 S. Nova Road, Daytona Atlantic Ave – 2011 N. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach Oak Hill – 741 US-1, Oak Hill, FL