Tara Clark, sales associate at The Palm on Park, a Lilly Pulitzer signature store, has lived quite an adventurous life during the past decade.
Tara, 30, was born in Jackson, New Jersey. Her parents met in St. Croix, and they relocated to New Jersey when her dad transferred to a new position for work.
Tara attended elementary and high school in Jackson. As a teenager, she did some modeling work for agencies in the New York area.
After graduating from high school, she decided to apply for colleges in Florida and South Carolina, since her mom was planning to relocate south to escape the cold winters.
She was accepted at several schools and chose to attend the University of West Florida in Pensacola, where she studied hospitality, recreation and resort management and received a bachelor of science degree. She chose that field of study hoping it would bring exciting opportunities in the future. And it did.
After graduating from college, she worked as an intern at Tahoe Mountain Club in Truckee, Calif.
“I’ve always loved snow sports since I was a kid. My friend’s dad was an avid skier, and he’d take us on road trips almost every weekend to different resorts so we could snowboard,” Tara said. “So I knew that majoring in travel and tourism would help bring me to areas that offered those kinds of activities.”
After she finished her internship at Tahoe Mountain Club, she landed a position at Vail Mountain Club in Colorado.
“A girl I went to college with was the manager there. She saw my application and said she’d hire me if I could start as soon as possible. So that was probably the most spontaneous decision I’ve ever made … but it also ended up being one of the best, because I really loved Colorado,” Tara said.
She worked in Colorado for about a year until another exciting opportunity presented itself.
She received a Facebook message from a colleague who’d just received a work holiday visa and accepted a job in hospitality in New Zealand, but she told Tara she didn’t want to go alone and asked if she’d be interested in going.
“So we met up in Los Angeles and flew to New Zealand. We were roommates for the first few months and then went our own ways,” Tara said.
After that, she lived in Montana for a while, but money was tight, so after a couple of years, she moved back to Florida. She found a job at The Gasparilla Inn and Club working at the golf course snack stand, and then later she worked at the front desk.
Soon after that, she met the first mate of a 135-foot motor yacht that was docked in Boca Grande and began working as a stewardess on the boat. In the summer months she travelled with the owners, who spent time in Cape Cod, Mass.
She lived on the boat with the owners and the rest of the crew, and although there wasn’t much space, she said it was a great experience to be able to live aboard such an impressive vessel.
After that, she decided to pursue a new adventure, working on a yacht in the Bahamas.
“It was a similar kind of boat, except it was chartered out, so there were different people using it every week or so. I stayed very busy. We’d go out for a week and then come back for a day to prepare it for new guests, and then it was right back out on the water again. It was a lot of work,” she said.
After a year of doing that, she was really burned out and moved back to Colorado to enjoy the snowboarding lifestyle she so much adores.
“I had to give Colorado one more try or I would have regretted it,” she said.
But she wasn’t exactly happy with how things were going at the time, so she decided to come back to Florida for a while and regroup.
Upon returning, she worked at Boca Grande Outfitters on Park Avenue for about nine months.
Last year, Tara reconnected with a few friends from New Jersey and decided to take a road trip up north. She had such a good time she believed fate was strongly pulling her in the direction of what she truly felt was home. So she moved up to New Jersey and worked at a golf resort for a while, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
So she returned back to Florida to figure out her next move.
Which leads to her most current work as the cover girl of Gasparilla Island Magazine and The Palm on Park sales associate.
“I was passing out popcorn at the Christmas Walk and Dusty (Boca Beacon’s publisher) asked me if I’d be interested in modeling a Lilly Pulitzer dress for the magazine. So of course I said yes … and I went from popcorn maker to being on the cover of a magazine in just a few days,” she said with a laugh.
It was through that magazine cover shoot that Tara met Kris, manager at The Palm, who offered her a sales associate position at the store.
Although her main hobbies require snow, Tara said she would like to eventually try kite boarding or kite surfing, saying that while they’re more expensive sports, they’re much more her pace rather than kayaking or paddle boarding.
“I don’t like leisurely sports. I’d much rather go mountain biking at a fast pace on a rough terrain or hike to the top of a cliff,” she said.
Tara has a strong interest in pursuing health and fitness as a career. She’d like to work with individuals and small groups in some facet or transition into the recreation aspect of her degree, which she tried to pursue before winding up in food and beverage services.
So what’s next for Tara?
“I don’t see my wanderlust or desire for adventure ever fading away, but I would ultimately like to build a small off-the-grid home in the mountains or along a rugged coast to call home,” she said.
Tara is the daughter of Boca Beacon employee Karen Clark, who also happens to be the person Tara admires most in life.
“She is an incredibly strong person … and she’s always been so supportive of me throughout my entire life. I’m very lucky that she’s my mom.”
Tara has one older brother, Tom, who lives in Tallahassee. Tom is married to Kristen and they have two sons: Hayden, three and Bryce, 9-months.
Tara has one older sister, Kim, who lives in Idaho. She currently lives in Gulf Cove and has two cats: Starla and Namir. She rescued both cats from the Bitterroot Humane Society in Hamilton, Montana.