Ask A Local — The Palm Beaches

by Christopher McNamara
The Palm Beaches

When it cools down, there’s just a different feel and it becomes so natural to be outside & enjoy everything that Florida has to offer.

The Palm Beaches

THOM STEWART

Tell us about yourself and what you do for a living?

I’m a 57 years old single guy living in South Florida. Originally from Ohio, I attended Ohio State University for Hospitality Management, which I have been in for over 30 years now. In 2004 I started working for Concord Hospitality, where I have been the past 19 years.  I have had so many opportunities to grow my career with Concord from various leadership roles, including  Regional Sales Director to Vice President of Talent Acquisition. The company has an amazing culture and is very supportive with their commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.

Thom Stewart

Thom Stewart

Most recently I was the Director of Sales & Marketing at The Ben West Palm (thebenwestpalm.com). I enjoy working with clients and guests from around the world and creating memorable experience from group events, such as corporate or wedding gatherings, to hosting VIP travelers that are well-known celebrities, or company CEO’s. My sales department ranges in age from 25 to 65, providing the opportunity to lead a talented multi-generational team focused on guest service and event creativity.

How long have you been living in The Palm Beaches, and what influenced your decision to move here?

In 2006, two years after starting my career with Concord, I moved to South Florida and Fort Lauderdale, where I resided for 9 years. I loved the climate change and the ability to go to the beach or enjoy the warm temperatures year around. It was always my desire to live in Florida since I was a child when our family spent many vacations in this state. In 2015, I had an incredible opportunity in the company to work at the headquarters in Raleigh North Carolina.  I was there for 4 years, but was missing the warmer year around climate and the energy of a hotel property environment. In 2019, after seeing a set of blueprints, I decided to assume the role of Director of Sales & Marketing for The Ben West Palm hotel, a Marriott Autograph Collection property Concord built that is located directly on the waterfront in downtown West Palm, facing the Palm Beach Island and Atlantic Ocean. I enjoy the beaches of South Florida, the amazing year around temperatures, the blend of great ethnic foods, as well as the vibrant people from all cultures who live here. I am a proud “Dog Dad” of Winston a 6 pound Yorkie. and we both love the fact that South Florida. especially West Palm. is so dog friendly from retail stores to dining, and of course, lodging.  

What are your favorite places to go for cocktails and/or dinner?

There are so many great places to enjoy in the area, but I lean to Lola 41 (lola41.com/location/lola-41-palm-beach/), which has a great bar vibe. For dinner I enjoy Pistache French Bistro (pistachewpb.com), Hive (hivebakeryandcafe.com), or Grato (gratowpb.com), and of course I highly suggest our own Ben hotel’s signature restaurant Spruzzo (spruzzowestpalm.com) which features a great Mediterranean inspired menu and the best views of the island and Atlantic Ocean.

The Palm Beaches Worth Avenue Shopping

The Palm Beaches Worth Avenue Shopping

What cultural attractions or events are a must see for visitors?

Visitors have so many options here, from the annual Palm Beach International Boat Show (pbboatshow.com/en/home.html) that showcases some of the world’s most desired yachts, to the National Croquet Center (croquetnational.com/index.html), or the International Polo League, which also annually hosts the International Gay Polo League Tournament (gaypolo.com)—a must see event. For the shopping enthusiast, a day on Worth Avenue (worth-avenue.com) on Palm Beach Island is enjoyable for shopping or people watching.

Flagler Museum Photo By Discover The Palm Beaches

Flagler Museum Photo By Discover The Palm Beaches

A friend is coming to The Palm Beaches for the first time. Please describe the perfect weekend.

Most of my visitors have enjoyed the beach, shopping, and of course the vast array of dining venues. Depending on my guest preferences, there are options like the stunning Norton Museum of Art in West Palm (norton.org), Flagler Museum (flaglermuseum.us), Butterfly World (butterflyworld.com) in Coconut Creek, and just west of downtown is the Lion Country Safari (lioncountrysafari.com), a drive through experience that continues to rank as the number one attraction in the county. 

Norton Museum visitor (Photo By Discover The Palm Beaches)

Norton Museum visitor (Photo By Discover The Palm Beaches)

What are the best places to truly enjoy the natural beauty of the area?

Certainly the beaches are some of the best around, and it’s worthwhile to get up early and do the sunrise experience. Palm Beach Island is home to some of the wealthiest homeowners in the area, and there you’ll see an abundance of landscaping that is impeccable and exotic beyond most landscapers imagination. One hidden secret is The Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden on the island. Adorned with fountains and bright-pink bougainvillea covered pergolas it’s must see for the garden enthusiast.

What is your favorite time of year in The Palm Beaches and why?

Coming from Ohio, I love the winter season here where you can have your windows open or be outside in a T-shirt while the rest of the country is buried in snow. There is something about putting up outdoor lights or decorating your holiday tree in shorts. Also during this season one can enjoy West Palm’s Green Market (wpb.org/government/community-events/community-events/west-palm-beach-greenmarket) open from October through April it’s the country’s #1 outdoor market, where you’ll find so many selections of culinary treats, gift items, florals, and local trinkets.  

What locally made product would you suggest visitors bring back for their friends or family?  

Art is a large part of our community, so I would suggest always finding a local artist you resonate with and taking a piece of their work home with you. Styles and mediums vary, so it is easy to find something that will blend with your home décor or you desired tastes. A great place to find these pieces is of course at the weekly Green Market where many artists are on display.

Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave The Palm Beaches without…

An afternoon at the beach, or at least walking along the shore and taking in the Florida breeze and the sounds of the waves coming ashore. There is something tranquil and rejuvenating about the ocean that can calm and reset any person, especially those that struggling with stress, depression, or any unbalance in life.


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