ESCONDIDO — North County has changed a lot over the years, but one thing has remained the same for Vista resident Adriene Edwards — she has always loved going to work.
This year, Edwards celebrates her 55th anniversary of working at Welk Resorts. The Pennsylvania native who moved to California in 1963 began working at Welk Resorts shortly after entertainer Lawrence Welk opened the business.
Edwards was a waitress at a nearby restaurant when the lodge, formerly named The Welkome Inn, opened. However, when the chef of the restaurant left for the new inn — she and three others joined.
“I feel blessed to have been a part of this company’s journey and to have been so close to Lawrence and his family,” Edwards said. “I just loved him. When I started, I had no idea that this would be my lifelong calling, but his hospitality and kindness did encourage loyalty and those values are still a part of our culture.”
As the longest-serving employee, Edwards has been a witness to many changes. What started as a small motel with a nine-hole golf course has emerged into a 450-acre resort, with two golf courses, multiple pools, spa, theater and more. The company has also expanded to include resorts in other areas of the world. Edwards has also served in many different roles at the resort before landing her current position at the Welk Theatre.
Although the company has flourished since opening in 1964, Edwards said it remains a family business, which shows in the way employees interact with their guests.
“For instance, when our owners or rental guests arrive, our staff always say ‘Welkome home,’” Edwards said. “It pays homage to the Welkome Inn. It’s a fun tradition and just one of the ways we always provide superior customer service to our guests.”
In fact, her favorite moments include that of the late entertainer and his family.
“One of my favorite Lawrence Welk memories was from one of the Lawrence Welk Christmas shows,” Edwards said. “Lawrence had his entire family on (children, grandchildren, members of his band) and while he was introducing everyone, he introduced his son, Lawrence Welk II, and then moved to his grandson, Lawrence Welk III, however, with his accent, he said ‘I want you to meet Lawrence Welk, The Turd.’ It was quite a comical moment.”
It isn’t just Welk’s family Edwards has created memories with. She’s also creating memories with her own, including her daughter who also works at the resort.
Sean Coogan, vice president of resort operations, said Edwards shares that family experience with each guest she encounters.
“Adriene makes the family experience,” Coogan said. “We are able to honor her, and she carries on the family values that Lawrence Welk promoted. Everyone who stays at Welk Resorts San Diego or works for our resort or head office knows her signature big, black eyeglasses.”
Edwards also embodies the mission and values of the company, Coogan said.
“She brings Lawrence Welk’s memory and legacy to life for our younger owners and our new employees,” said Coogan who has worked with Edwards for more than 30 years. “She is also such a warm and welcoming presence at our San Diego property. She works harder than any manager on property.”
Edwards, a mother of three children, grandmother of four and great grandmother of eight, said she plans to stay at Welk Resorts for as long as possible.
“I plan to work as long as God gives me the strength to,” Edwards said. “I also love talking about Lawrence and sharing the company’s history. Lawrence held firm to his strong beliefs in integrity, honesty and trust and we convey that message to our staff. It’s important to me, and I think it’s what people really love about staying at Welk Resorts.”