By Eric Heinz
Rick Anderson and his wife, Susan, have sold their local business and can now retire in paradise somewhere near the beach… like San Clemente.
It was 30 years ago when Rick realized his ambition to get into the hotel and service industry, and he decided to purchase the land that would become Casa Tropicana Boutique Beachfront Hotel, located at the bottom of the Pier Bowl.
“I was sitting right here, when it was the Beach Garden Café (now Bear Coast Coffee), in 1986,” Rick said. “The Tropicana had been abandoned and blighted, and I wanted to turn it into a bed and breakfast. I tore the building down and started construction in 1989.”
Rick said he went through 31 public hearings to get his design and business permitting approved. They opened for business on July 1, 1990. The couple also lived on the top terrace of the building.
Susan painted the interior over the years and helped decorate and do a remodel a few years ago.
Rick’s Bar and Grill was located at the bottom of the hotel, where Pierside Kitchen + Bar is now, a place that “rocked” on the weekends, Rick said.
During the late 2000s recession, they had to cut all but one of their staff members and worked the hotel themselves.
Rick was also a member of the California Association of Boutique and Breakfast Inns; chairman of the California Hotel and Lodging Association; and a member of the California Travel and Tourism Commission, for which he traveled to Japan with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to promote tourism in California.
Rick’s formal education ended after high school, and he went straight to work as a general contractor.
“I did it all with sweat, callouses, tenacity and common sense,” Rick said. “I don’t have one unit of college under my belt. I started working and that’s how I acquired the property. I started learning about my industry that I was now in, and then I joined the bed and breakfast association, and it just kind of mushroomed from there.”
Rick was also instrumental in making improvements to the Pier Bowl area; he was president of the Pier Bowl Merchants Association, and he built the platform for the Pier train station and helped with sidewalk projects.
He started the fundraiser “The Show Must Go On” to bring fireworks to San Clemente when the city couldn’t afford to put the show on years ago.
Rick was also a reserve police officer for the then-San Clemente Police Department for 20 years.
Mark Geragos, a celebrity attorney who has dealt with high-profile cases, bought the location and hopes to make it similar to his Southampton, New York, hotel, Capri, according to his business partner and commercial real estate broker, Tina Glandian.
Glandian said they intend to renovate the property to a “similar caliber” version of Capri.
“As of now, (Casa Tropicana) is run pretty well, and we didn’t want to make any immediate transitions,” she said. “The location is so spectacular and the proximity to the train station. It’s a charming and unique property, and we look forward to improving it.”