These days, when Dave Curtis steps onto the grounds of the former Jekyll Island Club (JIC), he’s more likely to be dressed in white all the way down to his Crocs…and carrying a mallet.
“From when I was involved in the restoration of the Club in the 1980s (then known as the Jekyll Island Club Hotel) and we put the croquet lawn in, I always thought it would be fun to play,” he smiles, proudly proclaiming himself one of the newest members of the Jekyll Island Croquet Club.
It was the prospect of renovating the historic property into a hotel that drew Leon N. Weiner and Associates (LNWA), the company for which Dave has worked since 1981, to Jekyll Island for the first time.
“It was 1985 and I was helping to put together a group of investors (to fund the renovation),” he said. “It had to be one of the hottest summers ever. I remember being in shorts…meeting people in business suits…and I’m sure they were wondering if they could take ‘this guy’ seriously,” especially given the economic outlook for the Island at that time.
But Donna Curtis immediately knew her husband was on to something special when she first visited the Island to attend the Jekyll Island Club Hotel’s pre-grand re-opening event in 1987. “Jekyll is just such a unique place. People are friendly, you’re surrounded by nature, there’s a variety of activities. We’ve been bringing friends and family to the Island since then and everyone just loves it.”
And now, Donna says, “it’s wonderful to see Jekyll get its due acclaim—the awards, the ‘most popular place to visit’ listings—because with the beaches, the historic district, the Beach Village, the water park, the biking trails…each area and amenity is distinct and has its own personality, so there really is something for everyone.”
Dave admits that when the Jekyll Island Foundation started in 1999, the Hotel didn’t take much notice. “We were passively engaged” through donation dollars attached to room revenue. “But once the Foundation started doing things like the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which does such great work, we got more intentional about our investments.”
That corporate support was underpinned by the success of the Hotel, which was sold in 2021 and currently operates as the Jekyll Island Club Resort. Today the support continues because of subsequent LNWA re/development projects on Island…and off. “We were basically multi-family developers. But now—really because of our work on Jekyll and the best practices learned here—we have a separate company focused on hotels and resorts doing projects here and elsewhere like Delaware, Massachusetts and Georgia.”
Recently, Dave and Donna decided to double down on their family investment in the Golden Isles, moving to St. Simons Island from their long-time homebase of Delaware. “We’ve spent so much time here…had such great times here…it was a natural choice” when thinking about where to retire, said Donna.
And while they lovingly disagree on where the best spot is to watch the sunset—he says the porch of the Club, she says from in front of Crane Cottage—they completely agree that Jekyll is only getting better with age.
In fact, Donna and Dave are energized by the vision of—and are personally invested through the Foundation to support—Jekyll Island’s future. “The [Georgia Sea] Turtle Center was a big accomplishment, a groundbreaking addition to the Island, and now we have Mosaic [Jekyll Island Museum],” he said. “Who knows what’s next?”
That question though, Dave offers, is a bit easier to field today than it was 35 years ago. He appreciates the thoughtful oversight of the Jekyll Island Authority and respects the limit on Island development. “Jekyll will be able to retain the nice balance it has because the Authority is doing a good job of protecting the Island’s economic viability, a reality now that didn’t seem all that possible then.”