As manager of The UPS Store in Ponte Vedra Beach, Erica Vona enjoys connecting with customers in the community where her roots run deep. A descendant of the Mickler Family, Vona’s ancestors have lived in the Palm Valley area since the 1700s.
What do you enjoy most about your position managing the Ponte Vedra Beach UPS Store?
That’s easy...the people! I started working part time at The UPS Store about 16 years ago – really, just because my little one started school. It’s been because of my awesome co-workers, customers and local business community that I truly couldn’t imagine being anywhere else! I love what we have here. Every day, we get the opportunity to love on people, hear their stories of the heirloom gift going to the grandchild that’s graduating, see the daughter that just had the newborn baby that we get to print a poster, of or the random stranger in the military that our customer has decided to ship a surprise care package to. I love this community! The amount of love and camaraderie is amazing.
What is the biggest challenge of managing the operations at the UPS Store?
I would honestly say that the challenges I face are that of any other business manager...are my customers satisfied? Are my employees happy? Are we running to the best of our ability? The way we look at it is that every day is a learning opportunity.
Your family has deep roots in the First Coast. Tell us about your family’s history here.
My family having deep roots here is quite the understatement. I feel so very blessed to have such a remarkable family history. By the late 1700s, my late Mickler ancestors settled into Palm Valley, which was now known as the Guana or “The Neck” as the old timers called it. The Mickler family is one of the oldest families on the First Coast, with Minorcan (a small island off the coast of Spain), Austrian and German heritage. I am a Mickler by my mother’s side of the family. My grandad, Sid Mickler, is one of the more iconic family members due to the fact that he’s never met a stranger and couldn’t dislike anyone if he tried. But if you’ve ever met any Mickler, you’d know that our family is very close, our faith is very strong and we are so very blessed to say the least.
My grandfather on my dad’s side, H.L. Medders, moved to Palm Valley in the 1950s, I believe. He moved here when the valley was changing from remote to what they considered civilized. They were sectioning off plots of the land on the Intracoastal at a very fast pace. He bought two pieces of land on North Roscoe on the Intracoastal and 5 acres across the street that he used for a big garden and for housing his construction equipment. He built many houses in Ponte Vedra and Palm Valley, cleared much of the land and helped to make it more developed.
Did your grandfather ever tell you stories about what Ponte Vedra and Palm Valley were like when he was a boy?
Oh, wow, where do I start?! My mom’s father, Sid Mickler, is one of those people that you can sit and talk to all day long. The stories he has just during his lifetime are ones that you would think came from a movie. Palm Valley back then was not the illustrious place that it is now. It was so much more! It was deep, beautiful woods and lively marsh. People had cars, but the roads were all dirt and so rugged that they actually just rode horses. The Palm Valley bridge was just a rotating barge when he was younger. From the moonshine stills that were a way of life to the alligator hunting, fishing and seining on the beach… you really can’t choose a favorite story when listening to Papa Sid. His childhood was so different than any other. It was hard and necessary and minimal, but at the same time so filled with faith and love that I bet if you asked him, he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
What changes have you seen in recent years as a lifelong resident?
It’s funny, because I’m really not that old (or at least I try to convince my children that I’m not) but I have definitely seen some. Back then, the traffic was non-existent, the Palm Valley bridge was a drawbridge, Mickler’s Beach was only referred to as The Crossroads and everyone literally knew everyone else. I grew up on Roscoe Boulevard, so I really didn’t have the typical suburban upbringing where you walk over to your friend’s house next door or across the street. One of my most favorite memories was when I was about 12 or so, I was supposed to babysit my younger cousins that grew up on Twenty Mile Road. But because the Palm Valley drawbridge was stuck in the up position, I had to paddle across the Intracoastal on a surf board with my younger cousin!
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
All of my freetime is devoted to spending as much time with my kids as I possibly can before they start thinking I’m old and boring. I have two of the greatest kids that still have respect and manners. I attribute that to the family upbringing that they were raised around. We are constantly taking trips and getting outdoors. We do a Mickler family lunch every month and in between we are grilling out at each other’s houses, camping or fishing. I have such a blessed life. Material things and money do not hold a candle to the love and support in my life. Without my family, I’d be lost.