Rick “Cardo” Casey aka “Spring Break”
By Bob Tagert
Rick “Cardo” Casey aka “Spring Break”
Many of you may remember our friend Rick Casey from his days of writing “My Favorite Places” in the Old Town Crier. Rick had established himself within the hospitality business with his company Capitol Representation, and we shared office space at 112 South Patrick for many years. He was an Old Town resident back then and brought a lot of spontaneity to our gatherings on our popular patio and at our favorite watering holes. Rick was in town recently and I had the chance to reminisce with my friend and finally write about him.
His path to the hospitality business was possibly predetermined since he grew up in Covington, Virginia, just 18 miles from the Homestead in Hot Springs and Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, which would one day both become his clients. When I asked what he learned in high school, he responded with that famous grin…”the three R’s: Readin, Rritin, and Road to Roanoke!”
While in school Rick was a talented musician and began playing at the Homestead and would also work as a “Walker”. “I would escort the daughters and granddaughters of wealthy families to dinner.” At the time, Rick was only 15 and getting ready to go to college. “Sometimes I would get very interesting offers and on one occasion a family wanted me to marry their daughter,” he said.
In 1973, Rick went to Madison College where he majored in pre-med. “Well, that lasted ten days”, he says, “I then changed my major to undeclared. I had 3 science labs and classes every day at 8:00…that wasn’t my style, especially organic chemistry, so I learned “drop-add”, and to stay on scholarship, I took badminton, racquetball, handball, Marriage and Family Relations and Military Science.”
While Rick was attending Madison, he was also working in hotels and restaurants and loved the environment. “In 1976, Madison started a School of Hospitality, and “I jumped on that,” he tells me. “We had a faculty dining room in the President’s Mansion that we turned it into a club, which was pretty cool. I had the best Godfathers in industry, and they took me on many consulting missions…including the infamous Pall Mall in Georgetown bust.” In 1977, the school was renamed James Madison University, and he still wanted Madison College on his Diploma. Unfortunately, he “crammed 4 years into six” for a 1979 graduation. Since then, he has served as Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Hart School of Hospitality, Sport & Recreation Management for 23 years.
Rick graduated with a degree in Business and Hospitality and moved to Washington, D.C. where he continued to play music. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do and pissed off a lot of major hotel execs when I didn’t go into their corporate training programs. I met this gentleman who ran a company marketing luxury hotels throughout the world. He told me, if I went to work for him, he would put me on the map! So…after being one of the top hotel grads in the country (there were only 10 back then), I took my first job as a secretary to Tom Silliman, and he lived up to his word.” After being a secretary for 3 months, Rick became a sales manager. “He was going to start his own business and asked me to go with him, but at the same time the Stouffers Hotel chain had been looking for a sales manager for 6 months. I only had two months sales experience, but they hired me on the spot,” Casey related. On his birthday in 1980, Rick left Stouffers and went back to work for Tom Silliman marketing luxury resort hotels.
In January of 1987, Rick took a bigger step and started his company, Capitol Representation which still exists today. “It is the best job in the world, I’ve had more fun than anyone…traveling and staying in the best resorts. My clients were all friends who were “club members” and it was great,” he declares. Being a “hotel guy also”, he had the best of both worlds, just bringing friends together for a common goal for over 30 years. “The only thing more fun than Cap Rep was the 10 years Bob Bennett and I served as the cellar guys for our dear friend, Lloyd Flatt’s legendary vintage French wine collection. As we were all country boys (including Flatt), we definitely had more fun than the law allows”.
Recently Rick began to think out of the box. “To say where I am right now is, well, everything runs through cycles, and I am a study of business cycles. The “Hospitality” business after some time can become the “Hostility” business, and I have decided to sit this one out,” he says. While he is not really retiring and maintains some personal clients, “when the idiots who proclaim personal relationships and marketing are dead…for the 5th time in my career…are proven ill advised…yet again, you will see me in some new Phoenix rising toward something very fun”.
Years ago Rick moved from his home in the Torpedo Factory to the “Valley”. He had a house at Bryce Resort and maintained a small “cabin” in Mount Jackson. That was a number of years ago, and since then he has purchased 4 more cabins, and has remodeled them and has restored the exterior of a log cabin. The mountain cabin he has now, and the ones he has restored are located on a little mountain called Buck Hill. Rick is a good example of “get an education but also learn a trade”, something we don’t see much anymore. He says some of his most fun projects were villas for friends in Antigua and Provo in the Turks and Caicos.
Rick’s articles in “My Favorite Places” were some of our most popular when he was writing. He brings to mind some of the responses we got from the articles. “It was so much fun writing those 100 articles, and we got a ton of good feedback. When I wrote about the Duke of Wales Restaurant at the del Coronado in San Diego and spell check made it Duke of Whales…this gentleman wrote me from San Diego to chide me and he was totally correct…I thanked him for even caring to send the note,” Rick remembers. Hawks Cay in the Florida Keys was another of Rick’s Favorite Places. The owners were so pleased with the article, they invited us at the Crier to come visit for a week. When I asked him his favorite place, he didn’t hesitate…”The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs!”
Rick did not idle his time away while living in Alexandria. He and friend, the late Bob Adams, opened Commonwealth Court, a 10,000 square foot facility in the World Trade Center in Old Town, designed for dining as well as catering in 1990. The restaurant lasted 6 years and was very popular.
If you are wondering why the title “Spring Break”? Well, since Rick moved to the Valley, every time he comes to Old Town to visit, it turns into a party of some sort. His longtime friend John Burke named him “Spring Break” many years ago, and it has stuck.
As our conversation came to an end, we remembered the legend of the golf cart! “My 18 year run in Old Town (1985-2003) couldn’t have been a better time back then. I left because all my friends were leaving me, Lloyd Flatt, Dave Underwood, John Burke (these three have sadly passed away) and others. They were well known to many and mythical to others,” he says.” “It was unbelievable some of the stuff we did back then, it was almost illegal…the golf cart…got to have the golf cart in this!”
The Golf Cart: Rick begins, “Somebody took Underwood and me over to Captain Billy Tindall’s where we picked up the golf cart and drove it back to Old Town through the Wilkes Street tunnel to Landini’s. The whole bar was outside. We decided to would take a drive up King Street, and these two young lasses hopped on for a ride to the new King Street Metro station. There was a Metro Police officer and an Alexandria Police officer at the Metro and one said, “Man, I would like to throw the book at you, but I don’t even know where to throw the book, just get the hell out of here!” “I never returned to the Metro again.
Dave and Rick continued to drive the cart around Old Town for two years, much to the chagrin of a certain police officer “out to get them”, and a local printer friend even had a parking sign made for “Golf Carts Only” in front of Landini’s. It was a magnetic sign that could be attached to the metal sign if the boys were on their way…and there was always a spot.
When Rick left our interview, and we were still laughing. He was headed to “Da Bank” to spend a few days with his brother. “Da Bank” is their first family cabin and sits on the bank of the Jackson River that they bought many years ago. It is located between Covington and Hot Springs, VA. He says it “Always feels like going home!” Eat your heart out Thomas Wolfe.