■ BY SUE ERWIN
After managing PJ’s Seagrille and The Grapevine for more than 30 years, Kathleen Turner has a new office. She’s a Realtor with Michael Saunders Real Estate on the island.
She’s actually had her license for 31 years, although she hasn’t sold real estate in the past. Her father owned several properties on the island, and she thought it might be helpful to take the course.
Kathleen grew up in Akron, Ohio. Her father, the late Paul J. Kruder, was in the tire industry for many years before he decided to purchase the Old Theater Building in Boca Grande in 1978 and lovingly renovate the historic building.
“It was in really bad shape when he bought it; he put a lot of hard work and time into restoring it back to a beautiful building,” Kathleen said.
Her mother, Susan Kruder, still owns the theater building, which is presently for sale. Susan is a snowbird and spends half the year in Boca Grande and the other half in Akron.
“She just turned 87 and she’s very active,” Kathleen said. “She’s a great person and a wonderful lady – just a true class act.”
After graduating from high school, Kathleen moved to Virginia to attend the University of Richmond. She graduated in 1985 magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, receiving a bachelor of science degree in business and psychology. Her professional career began soon after graduation, when she worked in Richmond as an independent contractor for the accounting department of Petroleum Marketers. When the company headquarters relocated to Roanoke, Kathleen decided to pursue an intriguing opportunity in Boca Grande. She was offered a position to serve as vice president of Boca Grande Theater Inc. and general partner of Grouper Hole LLC. The responsibilities of managing this property and building, which included office, retail, and restaurant/catering businesses, were a welcome challenge for the energetic 25-year-old. Although she had invaluable experience in the hospitality industry, focusing on customer service and satisfaction, Kathleen said taking over the business at 25 was surreal.
“I felt I really had to prove myself to people,” she said. “Being a young college graduate from up north, I’m sure they didn’t know what to expect. I told my dad I would give it one year … and 31 years later, I was still running the business.”
She jumped in with both feet. Restaurant patrons could find Kathleen at peak times running plates of food, washing dishes or changing a lightbulb before winding down in the evening to do the bookkeeping.
“We had a wonderful team; it was like having another family,” she said.
PJ’s Seagrille and The Grapevine Gourmet and Gift officially closed their doors for the final time on June 30, 2018 at 5 p.m. An offer was made to purchase the building, but it fell through over the summer. Some offices in the building are still operating “business as usual” while the property remains for sale.
“It’s a great piece of property. It has withstood 17 hurricanes,” she said. “That building is not going anywhere – it’s structurally built very well.”
After taking some time off, Kathleen decided to start a new career venture and utilize her real estate license. She joined Carol Stewart’s team at Michael Sanders on the island.
“Carol is so wonderful to work with, and everyone here is so helpful … it’s a really great team,” Kathleen said.
It was a natural segue for Kathleen, who has many friends on the island. After living here for most of her life, she’s extremely knowledgeable and familiar with any questions a new visitor may have.
“I met a man the other day who was asking about health services on the island because he had heart issues,” she said. “Fortunately, I was able to tell him all about our Health Clinic and their services.”
To keep current, she’s been taking several classes in continuing education and some other courses in marketing.
“Michael Saunders has a great online educational program, and the training is very interactive,” she said. “The courses are filled with very good practical knowledge, and they have wonderful instructors.”
She started with the company in August 2018.
Like at the restaurant, Kathleen said she feels that teamwork is a big priority, and the Michael Sanders team members are willing to help each other out as needed to make sure the business, as an entity, is successful.
“Everybody looks out for each other, because it all comes around in full circle in everything you do.”
With all of Kathleen’s years of experience on the island and catering to the people who live here year-round and seasonally, managers knew it would be a great idea to bring her on the team.
“It’s a new career, but I feel very comfortable explaining the island to potential clients and letting them know what kinds of services are available,” she said. “I want to share with people the supreme quality of what is offered as far as medical services and events happening at the Community Center.”
Kathleen served on the board for The Island School and was instrumental in getting the school blessed by the community.,
“It was a difficult message to get through to some people that we wanted a pubic charter school. It was very rewarding to see it evolve from one classroom in the Community Center to a County-run school with a waiting list … it was quite a feat.”
Kathleen met her husband James (J.T.) at the Pink Elephant restaurant. J.T was completing his culinary school externship at The Gasparilla Inn. One evening they shared a dance together, and 23 years later, they have two children: John Paul and Abigail Susan.
Both children were raised on the island and nurtured by the community of Boca Grande. The kids are excelling in their educational journey, having benefited from the quality of education they experienced locally, from preschool on.
Abigail Susan is an active junior at Lemon Bay High School. At 6’1”, it’s not surprising that she plays basketball, volleyball and tennis. She’s also in the National Honor Society.
John Paul is a senior at UCF, so the family has become big fans, often attending games in Orlando. The Turner family has one dog, Peyton, a rescued Pomeranian/Shih Tzu/beagle mix.
Growing up, Kathleen would visit Naples every winter because her grandparents had a home there. It wasn’t until she was a teenager when her dad brought property that she began spending time on the island.
An avid cyclist, Kathleen appreciates her daily rides on the island’s picturesque bicycle path. She bikes about 25 to 30 miles a day. She also enjoys traveling with her family, snorkeling, shelling and fishing the pristine waters surrounding Gasparilla Island. In the spirit of adventure, Kathleen has gone diving off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, ziplined through the Great Smoky Mountains and swum with sea lions in the Galapagos.
Kathleen was the tournament director and a committee member of the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, and the winning angler in 2004.
There were no fish biting during the two-day tournament, and the event went into overtime. “It was the year of Hurricane Charley, and the weather was so hot and humid,” Kathleen said. “Everyone was praying for someone to catch a fish.”
And then luck struck. Kathleen hooked a tiny fish weighing all of 23.4 pounds and won the 14th annual World’s Richest Tournament. Not only was it the smallest tarpon ever to win the event, it was the only fish caught, a pretty pricey one at $91,000 for her first-place finish. That works out to $3,888.89 a pound. It was a rich tournament, all right. The fish was caught aboard the Sundown.
Community involvement is paramount to Kathleen, and her commitment is evident. She’s served on the board of directors of the Gasparilla Island Conservancy and Improvement Association, Gasparilla Island Water Association, The Island School (also serving as co-president), The Island School Foundation and The Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce (for which she was also a former president). Additionally, Kathleen is a member of the United Methodist Church, Boca Grande Club, the Boca Grande Woman’s Club and most recently the Women’s Association of Realtors.
The island’s lifestyle suits her adventurous spirit and healthy philosophy well. Kathleen said she feels extremely blessed to call Boca Grande her home.