Geno is back at DUNE, telling stories and keeping guests happy
After a five-months absence, DUNE Burgers on the Beach, located inside the Ritz, seems “normal” again. Geno Marron, bartender extraordinaire, is back at his station after kneecap replacement surgery, his third on the same knee resulting from an injury suffered while playing football at the University of Dayton in Ohio.
When first meeting Geno, even before sitting down, we see just what makes him special and has hotel guests and locals alike asking for him. A captivating smile, overflowing energy and positivism and yes, a story a minute. Each better than the last!
His first day back at work was typical Geno in every way. He returned a day earlier than planned. Why? A group staying at the hotel asked specifically for Geno. Not to disappoint, he came back to serve and entertain like only he can.
Some locals also learned Geno was back and showed up with balloons and a Welcome Back cake! This is the kind of impact any interaction with Geno leaves on guests. After working late that first day, he got up early the next day, went for a swim, and was back at it.
What makes Geno different from other mixologists? For him, it’s not so much about the drink. It’s you -- the guest -- that’s most important. This is not to take away from Geno’s expert mixology skills, but his focus is on creating special memories for his guests. Every guest is treated with a handshake, a smile and a “Good to see you, I’m Geno.”
To hear him explain the drinks is a pleasure. On this day, three ladies visiting from Nashville were celebrating a birthday. They were met with Geno-isms as he welcomed them and then invited them to taste a green frozen mojito, DUNE’s most popular beverage, which he had prepared for a photo shoot. In a matter of minutes they were smiling and listening to one of Geno’s stories. One of the things you notice about Geno is his uncanny ability to find ways to connect with guests.
Geno has been a staple on the island’s hospitality scene for 40+ years, starting with his days at the old Sonesta. He explains why he feels so comfortable at the Ritz -- the company’s philosophy matches his perfectly: Guests first. He demonstrates this with a story, of course, telling how he approaches guests with a special request; a clap of the hands, followed by “This is Ritz-Carlton, what’s the question?”
His favorite drink to make? A margarita. Favorite stories? They are many, and collectively they give you a sense of who he is. Rainy days? While most at a beach-side bar might see it as a problem, Geno sees it as an opportunity. Now he has a captive audience! He tells a story of a couple who went back home telling their friends what a great time they had, even though it rained most of their stay on the island. His story on waiting on Lebron James is fascinating, as is the one about serving the San Francisco Giants baseball team, who were exposed to Geno’s “Guadalajara game.” What is the Guadalajara game? You will have to visit DUNE to experience it first hand.
“Your greatest personal growth comes from your worst defeat.” This is Geno’s personal philosophy and a quote he repeats often in conversations. He does not have many regrets in life. There was this one time, however, when a guest invited him to fly to Kentucky on a private plane to help at a party for a special guest. As Geno recalls: “My work ethic got in the way. We were busy and I could not leave. Oh the guest? Muhammad Ali.”
Spending quality time with boxing’s greatest, Geno says, would have been an experience!
The favorite part of what he does? Always, the guests. And they remember too. Recently two guests who were part of a group that specifically requested Geno the day before, stop by for a drink as they were leaving. “See you in two years, Geno!” And when they come back in 2022, Geno will no doubt remember every detail of the previous trip.
Asked what message he would like to send to Key Biscayners, his neighbors, Geno said: “Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve you and making me feel special for 40 years.”
For more on Gen's extraordinary career on the island, read a previous #tasteofkeybiscayne interview with island legend Geno.
If you go
DUNE Burgers on the Beach is located inside the Ritz-Carlton, 455 Grand Bay Dr, Key Biscayne. (305) 365-4500. They open Thursday to Sunday 11 a.m. to sunset.