Guy Turbé was one of the last of the great builder according to his peers. He comes from the small neighbourhood of Flamands and was born into a family established on the island since the beginning of the 19th century. He was born when St-Barth was only a rock in the middle of the ocean. He always left a mark on people, his story and the challenges he courageously faced are a testament to the experience of many of his generation’s islanders.
From the beginning to the end of his life, hard work and big projects have helped him create a life of human adventures and a nearly 60 year St-Barth saga.
Everybody knows Guy Turbé as “the man with the 1000 projects,” always working, “today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow” as he liked to say. Guy was a visionary, a free man. He learned from an early age that “the early bird catches his future and business”. At the age of 10, he asks his mum to buy him a hen from a neighbour. Little Guy was the king of his farmyard and he gave all his love to his beloved hen. He used to grow sweet potatoes and yam to feed it and proudly sell fresh eggs and chicks. Guy Turbé already understood the basic rules of what would make him one of the great St-Barth, always one step ahead and always thinking about the next one.
He buys his first carpenter tools with his first savings and his chickens. Free at a time when the island’s kids were leaving school early, young Guy was eager to learn and was what people today would call “hyperactive.” At a time when everything was possible and when Rockefeller had just discovered the island and its 2,000 residents, Guy, now in his teenage years, decide to learn a trade as soon as possible.
Then came the first meeting that would change his life and make a man out of him. As a young and puny 17 year old, he would leave every morning at 4 with his mother to meet Eugene Blanchard the carpenter. This nice man knew that Guy would have a great future and took him under his wing to teach him everything he knew. Guy worked for free for the first year and then became an apprentice and started learning all the different trades in construction. He was so good at it that he soon became a full on employee and one of the best in Eugene Blanchard company. However, his freedom and entrepreneurial spirit were taking over and he felt the need to stand on his own two feet and follow his dreams.
Visionary is really a word that sticks to Guy Turbé as he was one of the first to believe in St-Barth’s tourism development at a time when there was only one plane landing everyday.
At 26, using all his savings from years of hard work, he buys from his parents a plot of land on baie des Flamands’ beach. Whit his audacity and passion, he builds two little beach houses that he rents on a weekly basis. This was a risky project that will get him started in the construction business, a passion that will never leave him. Earlier on he was seeing big things, always bigger.
A second chance encounter is going to change his life. Two Canadians, Claude Michel and Jean Arnoux, who were staying in one of his bungalows become his friends. They push him to expand on Flamands beach. The three friends are now business partners and it is the beginning of the first hotel on a St-Barth beach: “L’Hotel Baie des Flamands.” At 35 he demolishes his first bungalows and build the biggest hotel of the island with 24 rooms, full board and the first big swimming pool that all the kids of the island could use to learn how to swim.
Guy Turbé was a real family man. He got all of his family working with him on the project. His dream of a family business came true. Guy bought back his partners’ shares to stay independent and live new adventures. Guy was a very discreet and secretive man but also extremely sensitive, simple and accessible. He always helped the young people of St-Barth and always supported their projects. With a wellknown flair for business, his advice was always taken and appreciated.
Guy always left a mark on people’s hearts thank to his vision and spirit. His audacity and courage made him one of the first entrepreneur of St-Barth in the 70s. Guy always had a comb in his pocket but also a little green notebook to continually write down all of his new ideas. He was so elegant that he could pull off boarding a plane in sandals to go promote St-Barth, as a pioneer once again, in Miami or New York attending hospitality and tourism conventions.
He was a wise businessman but most of all an ambassador of the island. His perfectly fitted and tailor made suits showed how much he understood the codes and common practices of the modern world, always ahead of his time and always ready to build new relationships and take on new challenges.
The Flamands neighbourhood soon becomes too small and Guy and his construction company start building residential houses. He is very proud when two of his children, Monique and Hervé, decide to follow his steps. Guy taught them the values of hard work, high expectations and most of all that nothing should be taken for granted.
Monique Turbé still remembers fondly when she was taking a break sharing a fruit juice and biscuits with him sitting on concrete blocks or in the cabin of a backhoe loader. Hervé and Monique trained themselves very early and even if their dad followed them with his experience, he never made it too easy for them. Guy Turbé was very generous but never showed his feelings and was very discreet but nevertheless extremely sensitive. He could be seen as someone who only had work on his mind. However he never shied away from praising, outside of the family circle, those who achieved big things without his help when they started like him at the bottom.
After the construction of the Hotel Baies des Flamands and right in the middle of the 1976 oil crisis, Guy Turbé wants a more ambitious project, something bigger and crazier when tourism is a completely new thing in St-Barth. Guy leaves his Flamands bay for good and buys a plot of land on the Grand Cul-de-Sac beach. He wants to build an even bigger hotel between a lagoon and the Grand Cul-de-Sac pond, but this time, he will build it alone: the “St-Barth Beach Hotel” and later a smaller one: “L’Hotel de la Plage.” This was one of the riskiest gamble for Guy as this part of the island was wild and inhabited and everything had to be build. Le “St-Barth Beach Hotel” was a big single floor building with 36 rooms separated in a way that gave the illusion of independent bungalows with a magnificent bay view. He used the simple style of his first constructions, focusing on wide spaces to accommodate big families at a very attractive price.
This big project showed once again what a pioneer and visionary he was. He built the first tennis court of the island and started developing water sports for the first time, but also the first gym and fitness centre with a fantastic view on the Grand Cul-de-Sac bay. At the centre of the hotel was a restaurant “Le Rivage” which was one of the most renowned place on the island with its famous “lobster pasta” followed by some homemade vanilla rum. A little further down the beach he will turn the “Hotel de la Plage” into eight 2 bedroom villas to offer an alternative for a new, more exclusive, clientele. At Petit Cul-de-Sac, one kilometre away, Guy builds the “St-Barts’ Residencies”, a 23 (one to three bedroom) villas complex with more than seven swimming pools with a panoramic view over the ocean. And that’s how the young chicken farmer became the biggest entrepreneur of the island and one of the first employer and tourism promoter.
This big project showed once again what a pioneer and visionary he was. He built the first tennis court of the island and started developing water sports for the first time, but also the first gym and fitness centre with a fantastic view on the Grand Cul-de-Sac bay. At the centre of the hotel was a restaurant “Le Rivage” which was one of the most renowned place on the island with its famous “lobster pasta” followed by some homemade vanilla rum. A little further down the beach he will turn the “Hotel de la Plage” into eight 2 bedroom villas to offer an alternative for a new, more exclusive, clientele.
At Petit Cul-de-Sac, one kilometre away, Guy builds the “St-Barts’ Residencies”, a 23 (one to three bedroom) villas complex with more than seven swimming pools with a panoramic view over the ocean. And that’s how the young chicken farmer became the biggest entrepreneur of the island and one of the first employer and tourism promoter.
However, Guy Turbé was still the same, visiting his properties in sandals or driving the backhoe loader. Guy only lived for his work and never took a holiday during his whole life so he could not stop there. In 1982, he creates “Turbé Car Rental” in order to meet the needs of his clients. His flair for business will do the rest: he creates the first promotional packages “Hotel + Car” at the cheapest price possible. This success attracted the competition but Guy always stayed independent and always declined all of the partnership offers from the burgeoning big groups like Europcar, Avis, Hertz etc…
Yet again, Guy Turbé was staying true to his values: simple and accessible but free and independent, the only leader of his company. However lucky Guy was, there were still tragedies in his life: hurricane Luis in 1995 left a lot of deep wounds on the ground and in the hearts, destroying completely the “Hotel Baie des Flamands” that he had built with his own hands. This happened after Hervé took over the management, financing important refurbishment works 25 years after its opening. His son taking over what he created made Guy very proud but tragedy was to strike again. On May 15th 2006, Hervé died at the age of 36. This loss was the biggest drama in his life. Hervé and his sister Monique were his pride, they both achieved success on their own by taking risks. Tired of responsibilities, feeling lonely without being able to express his sadness, he sells everything less than 8 months after his son’s death after a long life of hard work. He lets go of all the hotels, bungalows and car rental agencies and decide to step back. He lives in Toiny where he can look at the ocean he loved so much when he was younger. However, he kept waking up very early as he always had, still following his rules. He rescued a wild rooster and would go feed him everyday. Nobody ever knew what he was sharing with his rooster, maybe Guy was telling him everything about his sorrow and dreams. Being just a landlord wasn’t making Guy very happy. To stop working and building was like dying for Guy Turbé. He wanted to leave his mark on the island, all the properties he sold had been demolished. Guy still wanted to pass down a legacy to his children. That’s when new ideas arrived.He decided to use his wealth to buy more land so he could leave his children a little bit of the island he loved so much.Guy has been building things on land all of his life and kept going using his experience. He could only live if he was making his dreams come true.He built two villas next to his house: villa “Panorama” and “Soleil Levant” and “Bellevue” in Marigot. Guy’s trademark was big spaces, concrete and simplicity with an open panoramic view.
At over 70 and with 60 years of hard work, things had changed in the construction industry with new materials and new techniques but each villa he made always had his “touch” robust, spacious and very “St-Barts.” He could watch every morning his villas being built but the real estate business had changed and there were now over 400 villas available to rent on the island.
Guy is essentially a builder and he never really took an interest in marketing. With a new fierce competition and having put interior design in other hands, he does not understand why renting his villas had become so difficult. It was a major concern as Guy had invested once again all of his savings. During the tourist season, his villas are empty. He is worried and having never ask anyone for help, Guy locks himself up in worries and a fear of failure.
That’s when his daughter Monique Turbé decided to step up and come to the rescue. Seeing her father in such a state of despair, she uses all of her strength and love to give him hope and happiness. Monique has a 30 year experience in renting her own luxury villas with success. Using her expertise, she is going to do what her brother did 23 years ago and completely renovate and refurbish her dad’s 3 villas to respond to the market requirements.
From May to October 2014, she uses all of her powers and money to make sure the Turbé villas are competitive again. It was an instant success thanks to Monique’s network of professionals. Her concierge service company was bringing a little extra to the mix and Monique was bringing hope again to her father. Monique was a breath of fresh air for Guy and it was the biggest reward for her as her secretive and quiet dad was her mentor and her role model. Sadly, just as Guy had regained faith he learned that he had a serious illness and passed away 6 months later. Guy Turbé was one of the biggest builder of the Island. In a 60 year period, he created a rare and valuable heritage which would be hard to match for anyone today. Until his last days, he could admire his villas from his house, follow his legacy and be proud that people could enjoy it. Guy Turbé still had a lot of dreams.
One of them was to set up a company with his daughter Monique. It was a way for him to contemplate a future, tis dream was his last hope. Shortly before his passing, he said to his daughter: “Ninique (the nickname he gave her), create your own real estate agency to look after my villas, you are the best at it.” Unfortunately, the old man never saw his dream come true but Monique Turbé kept her word and created “My Villa in St-Barth Real Estate” as a tribute to her dad. Every person on the island who ever met Guy Turbé has a story about him. A story about fishing (his other passion) or one of his extravagant habits. His life was a 60 year saga of hard work that made St Barts what it is today. As he used to say: “Nothing comes for free. Only work and effort can bring success. The early bird catches the worm.”