Karol Bullard jokes that her husband, Fred, a veteran developer, had run out of names by the time it came to find one for his latest project.
The solution to the problem was right in front of him. Hence, the Karol Hotel.
The Bullards and their son came along Thursday for a hard-hat news media tour of the Karol, a nine-story boutique hotel due to open before Christmas at 2685 Ulmerton Road near the Bullard-developed Feather Sound neighborhood. The first Marriott Tribute hotel in Pinellas County, the Karol will have 123 rooms, including a presidential suite; a mahogany paneled bar modeled after Manhattan’s famed Polo Club; and a rooftop bar with views of Tampa Bay and —faintly — the downtown Tampa skyline.
"It’s going to be a real knock-out,'' said Joe Collier of Mainsail Lodging and Development, which will manage the Karol and currently operates the Epicurean in Tampa and the historic Fenway hotel in Dunedin.
The Karol is on the site of three now-defunct food-and-drink businesses— Penrod’s Palace; Stormin’ Norman’s, a wildly popular night club in the 1980s; and finally Yard of Ale, a sports bar that still has a Tampa location.
"When we leased to Yard of Ale, we knew it was a going operation and we figured if this doesn’t work, we’ve got to think of plan B,'' said Fred Bullard III, a real estate broker. "We sat down, said ‘what are we going to do?’ and Dad said, ‘What about a hotel?' ''
The Karol reflects its owners, down to the initial "K'' subtly worked into various aspects of the airy decor. The Bullards selected the artwork and even the bed linens; there will be the ground-floor K Club bar, a K Club Bistro with a large wine display rack and the Princess K ballroom with space for 200 guests. A smaller group space, the Ruby Room, is named for Karol Bullard’s birthstone.
Prices will be competitive with two nearby hotels, the Hilton Carillon Park and the Marriott St. Petersburg, and will range from about $175 to over $200 in peak periods. "It will have the finishes of a five-star hotel with four star prices,'' Bullard III said.
Promotional materials for the hotel show a photo of Karol Bullard years ago with a “Miss Florida” banner stretched across her swimsuit. She represented the state in both the Miss Universe and Miss World pageants, but met her husband as they were walking down a street in Tampa.
“He said, ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?' ” Karol Bullard recalls. She figured he had seen her on WTSP-Ch. 10, where she had been the "weather girl.’’ (That’s her term — she notes that the female meteorologist on a certain Tampa radio station was then called the "weather chick.'' )
So how does it feel to have a hotel named after her?