Discovering Paradise: The Story of Keystone Motel – A Legacy Built on Family Dreams

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Nestled along the pristine shores of Pass-A-Grille, the Keystone Motel stands as a beacon of family tradition, hard work, and the realization of an immigrant’s American dream. Founded by Bruno Reitano, a tenacious Italian immigrant with a flair for entrepreneurship, Keystone Motel is more than just a place to stay; it’s a journey through time, echoing the laughter, dreams, and resilience of a family dedicated to creating a slice of paradise. This article delves into the heartwarming story of Keystone Motel, exploring its humble beginnings, the challenges faced, and the legacy that continues to thrive through generations.

The Visionary Journey Begins

The founding of Keystone Motel was the result of an unexpected journey taken by Nonno and his daughter, driven by the search for relief and a better quality of life. Their trip aboard the auto train to Florida was a leap of faith, guided by the hope of healing in the warm, saline waters of the Gulf of Mexico. When they first laid eyes on Pass-A-Grille, it was as if fate had led them to a hidden gem, ripe with opportunity and beauty. This moment of discovery was pivotal; it was here that Nonno’s entrepreneurial spirit sparked the idea of creating a place that would offer not just lodging, but a haven for those seeking the serene embrace of nature and the sea.

As dawn broke over the horizon that first morning, the potential of the land before them was undeniable. Nonno, with his keen business acumen and a lifetime of building successful ventures, saw more than just an empty parcel of land; he envisioned a destination where people could come to find peace, rejuvenation, and a touch of home. This vision was fueled by the same determination and hard work that had characterized his earlier endeavors. Together with Mary, they began to lay the groundwork for what would become a beloved landmark, intertwining their family’s future with the sandy shores and gentle waves of Pass-A-Grille.

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Building a Legacy

The construction of Keystone Motel in 1945 marked the beginning of a new chapter for Nonno and his family. Moving to Florida represented not just a change in location but a wholehearted commitment to bringing Nonno’s dream to fruition. The early days were filled with challenges, from the logistical hurdles of building in a relatively undiscovered paradise to the financial strain of supporting a new business from afar. Mary, remaining in Maryland to manage the family’s established businesses, became the financial backbone for Keystone, her contributions ensuring its survival and growth during those precarious initial years.

The motel’s foundation was built on more than just concrete and ambition; it was the manifestation of a family’s collective dream and the enduring belief in the power of hard work and perseverance. As Keystone began to take shape, it became a symbol of hope and opportunity, not just for Nonno and his family, but for all who would come to visit. The challenges of spreading the word about this new paradise were met with innovative solutions and an unwavering dedication to service, setting the stage for Keystone’s evolution into a cherished destination for generations of travelers.

A Family Affair

The narrative of Keystone Motel is deeply entwined with the personal stories of its founders and their descendants, each adding their own chapter to the motel’s history. After the passing of her husband, Mary faced the daunting prospect of raising three children on her own. Her decision to stay in Maryland until her youngest had graduated high school was a testament to her strength and commitment to providing for her family. This period of separation from Florida and the motel was a sacrifice, underpinned by the belief in a better future that Keystone represented.

When Mary and Mary Jo eventually made the permanent move to Florida, they brought with them a renewed vigor and dedication to the motel’s success. Mary Jo’s marriage to Bob introduced a new dynamic to the family business, blending his background in law enforcement with the motel’s needs. The Keystone became more than a business; it was a home, a playground, and a workplace for the family, including young Danielle, whose earliest memories are intertwined with the motel’s pool and guest-filled hallways. This period marked a significant evolution in Keystone’s story, as it truly became a family-operated endeavor, each member contributing to its legacy.

Continuing the Legacy

Mary, affectionately known as Mom and Nanny by those who knew her best, was the matriarch who left an indelible mark on Keystone Motel and its guests. Her presence at the motel was one of warmth, compassion, and genuine interest in the lives of those who passed through its doors. Her comments on the weather, her comparisons of the chill up north to “cold country,” and her insistence that each sunset was “picture perfect” became trademarks of a stay at Keystone. These personal touches went beyond mere hospitality; they created a sense of belonging among guests, many of whom returned year after year for that feeling of family and home.

Today, Keystone Motel continues to thrive, not just as a testament to its beautiful location and comfortable accommodations, but as a living legacy of a family’s journey through adversity, dreams, and enduring love for each other and their guests. The values instilled by Mary and the generations before her remain at the core of the Keystone experience. Guests are not just visitors; they become part of the extended family, welcomed with the same warmth and care that has characterized the motel since its inception. It’s this continuation of tradition, combined with the personal stories woven into the fabric of the motel, that ensures the Keystone Motel remains a beloved destination, offering more than just a place to stay, but a place to become part of a storied legacy.


The Keystone Motel, a cherished brand rooted in family tradition and the visionary legacy of its Italian immigrant founder, Bruno “Nonno” Reitano, represents more than just a seaside accommodation. Established in 1945 in the picturesque Pass-A-Grille, Florida, this family-owned and operated brand has flourished through generations, each adding their unique touch while preserving the core values of hospitality, warmth, and a sense of belonging. From Nonno’s initial vision, to Mary’s resilience and dedication, and the continuation of the legacy by Mary Jo and her family, the Keystone Motel has become synonymous with personal connections, “picture perfect” sunsets, and a welcoming atmosphere that treats guests like family. The brand’s enduring success lies not only in its idyllic location but in the rich tapestry of stories, hard work, and the communal spirit that defines the Keystone experience, making it a beacon for those seeking a slice of paradise intertwined with genuine, heartfelt care.