What started as a career change in Washington D.C. in 1994 has developed into a lifelong passion for Robert and Michele Carmines, founders of Riverside Cottages at the Shores, southern St. Johns County’s only locally owned-and-operated assisted living facility. This July marks 25 years since the Carmines left careers in association management, political fundraising and consulting to take ownership of downtown St. Augustine’s Grafton House. That momentous transition has culminated in the next phase of their lives—the 2016 opening of Riverside Cottages, which recently opened its second 36-bed building and now offers a range of residential care options including specialized memory care.
A quarter-century of success in the rapidly changing field of assisted living is no small feat, but the Carmines chalk up their consistently positive ratings to a simple commitment to warmth and home-like flexibility.
“We have made family-focused care a hallmark of our careers since we took ownership of Grafton House in 1994. We bought Grafton House at 1 p.m., and by 3 p.m. we were preparing dinner to serve to our residents at 5 p.m. Our philosophy has always been to work hard and to practice what we preach. We believe that, with heart, anything and everything is achievable,” said Michele Carmines.
The expansion of Riverside Cottages is good news for St. Johns County, given that Florida hosts an aging population with more than 26.5% of residents over the age of 59 years old. With more than 36,000 people aged 65 and older now living in St. Johns County, the Carmines recognize that there is a critical need for high-quality assisted living care in the region. Riverside Cottages was designed to meet the growing need for assisted living housing.
The two 15,000 square foot buildings on Riverside Cottages’ five-acre campus feature enclosed porches overlooking natural landscaping, open spaces and plenty of natural light. Levels of service range from light assistance with daily living activities to specialized assistance for residents with cognitive issues. Two executive chefs, a pastry chef and a personal masseuse serve residents daily. Activities include live music twice a week, art classes, offsite outings, movies, games, walks and more.
“I first met the Carmines when my husband reached the point in his battle with dementia where I needed advice and support,” Nancy Sorkin said. “The Carmines were very helpful in providing information and suggestions when I had issues with my husband’s care at home. Two years later, when I decided that the time had come for me to select a residential facility, Riverside became not only Bob’s home for the next three years, but my second home as well. The most memorable occasion was the first Valentine’s Day that we were apart after 56 years of marriage. The staff decorated a parlor just for the two of us, including red flower petals on the table, and served an elegant dinner. Days like that helped me in dealing with my husband’s disease.”
“I believe the services Riverside Cottages provides for so many people are the most meaningful services our society needs. There is a broad and precious impact of the heartfelt devotion of the staff at Riverside Cottages,” Risa Doria said. “I can't really express how much this was appreciated by my sweet mother and how it will always be appreciated by me, my brother and my mother’s dear friends and family.”
“Every resident and his or her family are treated as if we are one family,” said co-owner Michele Carmines. “If an individual decides to move in, we are committed, and residents and resident’s family members soon realize that the Riverside Cottages team is ready to assist in a multitude of ways. We are not perfect but, we strive to always do our best.”