Working to revive a tradition
Commodore Tony Visconti and his colleagues are trying to resurrect a part of DeLand history that dates back to 1944, when a group of young men freshly home from World War II founded the Lake Beresford Yacht Club.
The Yacht Club building at 1961 Hontoon Road was destroyed by fire in 2007, and rebuilding has been ongoing since, hampered at first by disagreements about how the old building should be replaced, which led to a dwindling of the membership, and, more recently, by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The situation got to the point of a crisis in May 2020.
“We were really and truly days away from a formal foreclosure,” Visconti said.
DeLand attorney Rick Taylor, a longtime Yacht Club member and former commodore, came to the rescue. Taylor found a private lender who was willing to keep the club afloat, and crafted a plan to sell off two buildable 4-acre parcels of the club’s property — both with lake access — to add needed cash to the till.
Also in the summer of 2020, Visconti was elected commodore. It’s his job to oversee the club’s rebuilding on the membership side, and things are beginning to look up.
There are currently 130 members; 225 are needed to create financial stability. About 15 memberships were added over the past month or so.
“We’re not too far off,” Visconti said. “We’ve got a nice momentum going.”
One thing Visconti doesn’t have to worry about is the food. The club is open Wednesday through Saturday each week for dinner, and on the second Sunday of each month for brunch.
This writer attended a wine-tasting dinner at the club in late October, and found the food and service — from the Charleston crab soup through the pumpkin caramel cheesecake — to be shipshape.
“We all do this as a family thing,” said chef Kim Savage, who helped with the dinner. “It’s a team effort to make this club survive another 75 years. We don’t want this to be a memory.”
Visconti, whose family has been part of the Yacht Club for about 20 years, said, in his view, the two top benefits of membership are the opportunity for relaxation, and the reciprocal membership at other Florida yacht clubs that are also part of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs.
Although boat ownership isn’t a requirement for membership, for some the top membership benefit is lake access.
“I’ve had people join this past year just so they can use the boat ramp,” Visconti said, noting that the club’s ramp is less-crowded than public ramps.
In addition to the dining room, there are also a pool, a lounge, an outdoor seating area, special events, and space for private parties available to members.
“It’s a great, relaxed DeLand tradition,” Visconti said.
One tradition of some private clubs that will not be part of the rebuilding at Lake Beresford Yacht Club is exclusion based on religious beliefs or skin color.
“We’re open to all races and creeds,” Visconti said.
He also hopes to overcome the perception that Yacht Club membership is the purview of the gray-haired set.
“We’ve got some younger families coming in,” Visconti said. “I hope we can keep it going.”