James King opened this safe haven, named simply The Resort, two years ago, after watching overweight people struggle to enjoy themselves at other properties.
“On my first day working at a resort in Grenada, a young woman sat down in one of the loungers, and she went right through it, and everybody on the beach was laughing. The next day I was in my office, and I hear screaming and yelling, and she was having a fit because the owner’s policy was that she was charged $150 for destruction of hotel property. And I thought that it was insane,” King tells PEOPLE.
“I tried to convince the owners that we needed furniture other than this plastic flimsy stuff, and they didn’t care. I decided that I had to do something.”
He worked on this idea for about a decade, before finding five miles of private beach in Eleuthera, in the Bahamas. But he then ran into issues creating furniture that would hold his guests.
“The biggest issue was that no one manufactures for plus-size people,” King says. “We needed beds that are able to hold up to 1,500 lbs., we needed lounge furniture and beach furniture that doesn’t break. And it just doesn’t exist. So everything that we have there I had to create and prototype.”
After making “around 500 mistakes along the way,” he developed a “sanctuary” for his guests. When people arrive at the Resort, even if they didn’t know each other beforehand, they become instant friends.
“They bond in a commonality,” King says. “It’s people who have lived similar lives with the same issues, and all of a sudden most of the stigmas are gone, because nobody’s staring at them. They just feel like they can identify. A lot of people who come have never met, but after just the first night it’s like they’ve known each other for years.”
And business is already strong.
“The response has been phenomenal,” King says. “I’ve been booked all year and about 10 percent of that is repeat customers, which is amazing when you’ve only been open for two years.”
At this point, the Resort is limited to just 24 people at a time, and guests book the entire place at once for a flat fee of $16,400 to ensure privacy. But he plans to build another property on an island nearby, where anyone can come for a stay.
“The guests love it, because it really does feel like their own place,” King says.