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Harbor Stay: Melbourne's New Retreat

Harbor Stay Melbournes New Retreat

Joel and Jennifer Johnson are a lot of things. Parents. Soul mates. Business partners. Innovators. And now, good neighbors.

The Colorado natives have been lucky in real estate. The couple made money off the sale of every dwelling they’ve owned since college, leading them to their latest purchase: Harbor Oaks.

The 6,200-square-foot home sits on 1.48 acres where the Eau Gallie River meets the Indian River in the Eau Gallie Arts District (EGAD) of Melbourne. The Johnsons purchased it from the original family owners and converted it into a vacation rental. But this isn’t a couple’s hideaway.

Who it’s for

Jennifer is CEO and Joel is COO of CinchShare, a social media scheduling and content management software company that was generating multi-millions of dollars within two years. A large base of CinchShare’s clients are direct sales teams and small business owners. It’s become a vital tool for those using social media networks to grow their reach and sales. Which these days is… everyone.

Direct sales companies have annual conferences and other training events where independent consultants pay for plane tickets, a few hotel nights, a convention ticket and meals.

At CinchShare’s two annual training conventions, the most valuable aspect (they learned from feedback) was the happy hours, where the expert presenters would mingle with attendees. Laptops were open, ideas were flowing and people were connecting.

“It was supposed to be two hours, but five hours later, we were still sitting there with our laptops,” Jennifer said. “This would be great if we could get up and get some food or a drink and wear our comfy clothes. But we keep going back to that seclusion of a hotel room.”

Having traveled as a speaker to enough conferences, Jennifer envisioned a solution. Just like she and Joel worked together to create software to facilitate connections, the couple combined their love of real estate with their love of Melbourne and decided they could bring people here.

“Even though our initial focus was retreats, it’s also dual purpose for groups and families,” Joel said.

Harbor Stay is hosting its first wedding in May, and Joel said families could use it for other gatherings like reunions.

“One of my favorite trips when I was kid was a big family reunion in Montana,” Joel said. “We had adjoining townhomes and it was one of the most fun experiences ever.”

Harbor Stay’s fire pit, hot tub, movie room and cozy sitting areas all foster closeness. The couple had an entire dividing wall removed from the kitchen and added a beverage bar area. And they’ve stocked enough kayaks for 20 people to go gliding next to dolphins and manatees.

Transformation

The Johnsons love to kayak. They’ve been putting in at Ballard Park since 2015. One day, the big beautiful wood house across the way would have a for sale sign on the dock.

Now, that dock leads to a 10,000-square-foot deck, a home that was renovated to sleep 45 people and a separate turnkey 1,600-square-foot training center, converted from the former garage.

The Johnsons contracted designer Cheryl Sottile of H.I.P. Design Studio and Chad and Gidget Lekander of Home Wreckers to make the 1970s home into their dream retreat location.

“That type of thing has always been in our mind,” Jennifer said. “The last two and a half years, we’ve been going out and traveling as speakers. We thought, we can easily do that here and bring that here…  Florida where we live is where everyone vacations. It’s paradise.”

The couple closed on the home in February 2018. It was listed as “possible teardown.” Renovations included:

  • Re-side the entire house
  • Remove walls
  • Add central AC ( four units)
  • Replace 25% of the windows
  • Add sliders
  • Add new tile
  • Build new deck (which took months)
  • Redo master bath
  • Add two bathrooms and a laundry room
  • Add gutters
  • Convert garage to training center

And there were bumps. With the May rains came water intrusion — in the form of a flooded kitchen and other room. Some of the walls had rotted.

“It was a major transformation… Everything we tore out, we saved and put back in,” said Chad Lekander, referring to pieces of wall and ceiling that were reused in other places.

“It was such a fun project. When we got done, I thanked Jen and Joel. It’s rare that we get to do something that big.”

Good neighbor

Joel describes Melbourne as “a small sleepy little harbor city” but also touts the lure of being an hour drive from the theme parks, 30 minutes to Kennedy Space Center, and a few miles to Cocoa Beach and Sebastian Inlet.

“EGAD is getting so rejuvenated with new businesses, that right there is amazing for us,” he said. “What a great opportunity to have this location where guests can walk down the street to amazing breweries and shops.”

Jennifer loves the synergy of being the newest business in EGAD.

“With the revitalization of the EGAD, it’s an amazing time to be a part of what’s going on here,” she said. “I’m excited to connect with business owners and send business their way.”

She also loves their proximity to the arts district. She had a pottery studio in her Colorado basement. Both the Johnsons have arts degrees — Jennifer’s in music business and Joel’s in music engineering.

Harbor Stay hosted its first retreat in October when CinchShare invited its elite ambassadors to break it in. They flew from as far as Canada and Wisconsin, and they were not disappointed.

Having morning coffee on the deck with the dolphins and manatees are memories I’ll treasure forever,” said Sara Meier, of Alberta, Canada. “I made lifelong friends that weekend and I’ll be forever grateful for that… Harbour Oaks is truly paradise.”

That’s the effect the Johnsons were hoping for.

“It really does allow for true connections on a deeper level,” Jennifer said. “When you are in a space together for longer than a meal, you connect differently. In a space like this, you create quality time for a team or a family.”

Read more articles in our DIGITAL MAGAZINE.

Check out an article we did last year on CinchShare.

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