Edward Shore, owner of the 3-acre, 15-bedroom “Largo, A Private Sanctuary” for small groups in Key Largo, discovered the Florida Keys about 30 years ago on a trip to dive reefs and wrecks. “It’s a gift to be here. There’s a purity down here, a positive energy of being one with Mother Earth. We have the United States’ best weather and the best eco-system,” Shore said. “I believe every day is a gift.”
A former lighting magnate, Shore, 65, began working at age 7 at his father’s business, ICON International Inc. Founded in Rhode Island in 1947, the business specialized in commercial shopping center lighting.
Growing up, Shore worked in the factory’s tool room and sheet metal and engineer departments where, he said, “I learned how to build stuff.”
As a youngster, the Rhode Island native also learned to sail — a sport that has taken him across the world from Newport and Cape Cod to Bermuda, the Caribbean, South America and the Pacific.
Along the way, Shore had a few adventures that helped to influence the redesign of Largo from a 1950s-era Keys motel lodge into a retreat resort.
On a trip to Europe at age 20 with a buddy, he bought a powder blue 1963 Vauxhall Viva for $100. He was enrolled at American University but instead decided to study architecture at the University of Copenhagen. He even ran with the bulls in 1972 in Pamplona, Spain.
Shore also attended New York’s iconic Woodstock music fest.
“I was a preppie, but Woodstock had a major impact. I was able to experience a gathering of humans where we co-existed in a moment in time,” Shore said.
“What I believe, is that the purpose of humans is to take care of Mother Earth, to make Mother Earth cleaner and healthier than when we were put on this earth,” he added.
From Europe, Shore returned to American University to finish earning a business degree. He became ICON’s general manager at 25 and grew the company into a 175,000-square-foot global architectural lighting manufacturer and supplier to companies such as General Electric Corp., IBM Corp., AT&T, Target Corp. and airports in New York City and San Francisco.
In 1986 Shore purchased ICON through a leveraged buyout and developed it into an energy saving innovator. He created a computer light, mounting an indirect light source on computer monitors.
At age 60 in 2011, Shore sold ICON and purchased Largo Lodge after searching throughout the Caribbean and Pacific islands for a retreat. Describing Largo Lodge that same year, hotel reviewer Gayot stated, “This small resort dates from the 1950s and still maintains much of the feel of that era. The staff is friendly, and the pace is slow. The property is lush with flowers and trees, making it a haven for pelicans, herons, egrets, ibises and the like.”
Local lore has it that comedians Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz owned a home adjacent to Largo Lodge.
“Largo is old Florida on the edge of the Everglades,” Shore said. “The property is a blend of 21st-century luxury five-star comforts while having a little of the Jurassic Park and Swiss Family Robinson feeling.”
During renovations, Shore installed new underground infrastructure, a cistern water collection system and LED lighting.
“The key is to be totally off the grid within three years,” Shore explained.
Largo reopened in May 2015 and is a member of Chicago-based Retreats Unlimited. Targeted guests include groups gathering for weddings, anniversaries, family reunions, affinity getaways and corporate, incentive and yoga retreats.
Dramatic 10-foot-tall gates, dubbed the “Kong gates” after Shore’s favorite childhood character King Kong, help seclude the property from the Overseas Highway at its mile marker 101.7 location.
“We’re a private sanctuary with accommodations,” Shore said.
Largo’s 5,000-square-foot Lodge — accented with cypress, Dade County pine and a 60-year-old mahogany tree — can sleep up to eight. Its attractions include 4.5 baths and Moe’s Bar, named after Shore’s father.
The property also has six 800-square-foot bungalows, each with two bedrooms and two baths. Up to 30 guests can stay overnight.
A private 120-foot-long pier can host up to 100 people for weddings.
Bill Hansen Catering, whose clients have included U.S. presidents and celebrities such as Pope John Paul II and Bill Gates, provides on-site meals. Guests also can book cooking demonstrations to learn about healthy meal preparation.
New events include interactive scavenger hunts, comedy murder mystery dinners and full mystery weekends. Wellness options include yoga, fitness boot camp and clean-eating retreats.
Guests also can enjoy a 42-foot sailboat named The Dream, use a 21-foot backcountry fishing boat or kayak in a 15-foot-deep lagoon.
Shore doesn’t believe in retirement. He’s also developing an Asian garden, with stone statues from Bali, and an on-site tree house. “I look at Largo as a lifetime project,” he said. “Largo is dedicated to family, friends and Mother Earth. It’s all about living in peace and harmony with each other.”