Pelican Hill Back Stories
Rays of sunshine dance across the lush expanse of The Resort at Pelican Hill,® as if training a spotlight on each elegant detail. It is a breathtaking vision, but one that doesn’t automatically maintain itself. Pelican Hill’s polish comes courtesy of a staff that works tirelessly behind the scenes. In this installment of Backstories, meet three members of the family who help make the Resort feel like a well-kept home.
Elba Perez: Housekeeper
Before embarking on a career in housekeeping, a young Elba Perez worked as a secretary in her native Guatemala. Thirsty for knowledge and new horizons, she took a leap of faith and, in the summer of 1995, moved to the United States.
“I did not know any words in English,” she said, noting that she had hoped to go to school once she developed and strengthened her basic vocabulary. Ever determined, she looked for work in a field that would allow her to absorb the language from behind the scenes.
When a cashier job left her uninspired, Elba discovered the hospitality industry. “I really like hotels,” she enthused. Clearly, hotels like her right back. She was recognized by her former hotel manager as a top employee of the year—and that was in 2003.
Opportunity came knocking eight years ago, when Elba was invited to transfer from Island Hotel Newport Beach® to its sister property, The Resort at Pelican Hill.® She is currently part of the public spaces housekeeping team, a role she cherishes as it allows her to interact frequently with guests.
“I work at the Villa Clubhouse, and it is my place that I take care of every morning,” she said with pride. “The guests ask me things about the coffee in the Clubhouse or for directions in case they want to get to Coliseum Pool & Grill.”
These small opportunities to assist bring a smile to Elba’s face. “Housekeeping is hard work, but I really like to practice my English,” she said. The work has been worthwhile in more ways than one. Elba is making excellent progress in her second language and recently began attending classes at a school near her home.
Jan Flach: Carpenter
Jan (pronounced “Yan”) Flach likes to joke with guests who detect his accent and ask him where he is from. “I tell them I was born in Czechoslovakia, but that it does not exist anymore, so I don’t know where I come from!”
In 1985, Jan fled his country and sought political asylum. He spent nine months in Madrid before landing in the United States.
Though he knew nothing about the region, he requested that the government place him in Garden Grove. There he found sanctuary in a community that was close enough to Los Angeles to allow him to find work in home remodeling.
An expert craftsman with high expectations, Jan takes pride in his handiwork. Over the years, his career progressed from construction to carpentry. For a time he ran a small salon business with his wife, handling repairs and honing his carpentry skills while she tended to customer service and the back office.
Jan’s passion for building led him to Pelican Hill® when he answered a 2008 newspaper advertisement for a carpentry position. While much of his time now is spent keeping the Resort’s elegant woodwork looking as good as it did on opening day, he derives special satisfaction from building things from scratch. Jan speaks modestly about the pieces he has created, be they structures for the Resort’s annual Festa dell’Autunno or table extensions to accommodate special events at Caffè and Market.
“Every year I am asked to build something for Festa,” he said. “It is one of my favorite parts of the job because I like to challenge myself. I enjoy it best when I can design something from start to finish and do things in a different way than expected.”
Loreto Simonella: Server, Andrea
If not for his wife, Julie, Loreto Simonella might never have applied for a position at Pelican Hill.® “I wasn’t even aware they were opening because of the way the Resort is built,” he said. “You can’t see anything from the road; the beauty is tucked behind the olive trees.”
If not for Julie, Loreto would not be in California at all. Born and raised in the village of Pordenone, Italy, he spent summers working at a hotel in Venice and, after finishing school, moved to England. He then joined Royal Caribbean Cruises, where he worked for eight years as a waiter in the at-sea dining room.
“My wife was a passenger on the ship,” he said, “and we felt an instant connection.” Loreto eventually gave up his life of travel and settled in Julie’s hometown of Long Beach. He was working at an Italian restaurant in 2008 when she came across an ad for the Resort. “I’ve been here since the very first day,” Loreto said.
Even after eight years as a server at Andrea, Loreto enjoys meeting guests from around the world and loves getting to know his regulars. He has learned to anticipate their every need, from favorite drinks to special food preparations that he has committed to memory.
“A lot of guests come by regularly and ask for me,” he said. “Some of them don’t feel like guests anymore; it’s more like seeing family. The fact that I was born in Italy makes Andrea a good fit,” said Loreto, explaining that the restaurant is named for Venetian architect Andrea Palladio. “I feel like I’m almost at home.”