DUNEDIN — Florida's west coast is too sleepy for a voluptuous Dunedin millionaire looking for Mr. Right.
So, Cheryl Mercuris, the head of a Clearwater telemarketing company, doled out a half-million dollars to rent a 31,000-square-foot mansion in the Hamptons.
The New York tabloids devoured her tale a few weeks ago after she shared her extravagant plan to find love.
The "dating pool" is much better there than here, she told the New York Post.
"There are so many career-oriented people here, unlike the west coast of Florida, which is very quiet and laid back — not great for someone who is single and raising a child," the 45-year-old Mercuris told the Post.
And the two-week summer rental was "worth every penny," she told the paper.
It's not clear if she found the man of her dreams, but the Post reported that she was swamped with phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages from eager suitors.
"I've never had more fun, and I've never met as many exciting people and such friendly people — not to mention the publicity," she told the Post.
She had a different story for Joy Behar.
"I just happen to be single in the Hamptons, but I'm not in the Hamptons to meet a man," she said on Behar's HLN show, which aired July 26.
A few minutes later, the Millionaire Matchmaker, Patti Stanger, told Behar that Mercuris tried out for her show.
"She actually called in so I really feel like, you know, she's doing this to get exposure, Page 6 and all, getting on your show, now her Facebook will blow up and she'll take offers," Stanger told Behar.
Mercuris told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday that Stanger's claim was false.
News of Mercuris' "man hunt" made headlines as far away as Australia.
But she declined to do a formal interview with the Times, unless the paper agreed to omit how much she spent on the summer retreat. She has no need for local press, anyway, she said.
"There's no benefit to me to do it," she said.
Mercuris, who told the Post she made her fortune in telemarketing, is founder and chief executive of Quality Resources in Clearwater, which has clients in the health care, wellness, travel and retail industries.
Over the past three years, 199 complaints have been lodged against Quality Resources with the Better Business Bureau.
That's not a big deal, Mercuris said.
"Our complaints are less than 1 percent, which is really remarkable for the kind of business we're in," she said.
Apparently, several of her former employees weren't happy, either. They said, among other things, they were not properly paid for overtime work, according to suits filed last year and last month.
Mercuris said she treats her more than 400 employees well and that most of them are happy.
Mercuris lives in a 10,000-square-foot, $2.4 million home in Dunedin, and she owns another house valued at $900,000 in Clearwater, Pinellas County records show. She split with Kosta Mercuris in 1999 after four years of marriage.
According to their marital settlement agreement: Both parties waived alimony. She got the marital home. He got a Clearwater condo. She kept a 38-foot Baja boat. He kept two smaller ones.
The Hamptons estate, known as Sandcastle, was more of a getaway than a man-catching lair, Mercuris told Behar. The 14-bedroom home sits on 12 acres and features a slew of amenities including a two-lane bowling alley, a squash court, spa and a rock-climbing wall. The Jonas Brothers reportedly eyed the home as a rental and MTV's Teen Cribs filmed an episode there last year.
"It," Mercuris told Behar, "was just something beautiful and extravagant and different to do for the summer with my family."
Lorri Helfand can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4155.