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Yacht club fetes maitre d' on 35 years of collegiality

Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Major Bloom Jr. knew the realities of life. He had a family and he needed steady work, and when the chance came to work as a server at the Tampa Yacht & Country Club, Bloom took the job, no looking back.

"Raising a family I figured it out real quick," Bloom said. "I needed a certain amount of money and I figured this place wasn't going to go out of business. I figured it was a good place for me to be."

That was 1977, the year the original "Star Wars" film was released, the Dow Jones industrial average hit a high of 999 and Elvis Presley died.

The years went by and Bloom's prediction that the club, which traces its beginnings to 1904, would be a solid place to work proved a reliable one. Time passed, but the private club remained a sanctuary for meals, functions and events for its members.

He was there so long that some of the current members and board of directors were children who were brought to the club by their parents. He remembers bringing them orders of french fries and cherry Cokes. He's now offered the same friendly service to their children.

Bloom, now 74, retired last month. He began as a server but stepped down as maitre d', a position he had held for 17 years.

In a town where employees come and go, particularly in the hospitality business, Bloom was an employee who stayed with his employer, treated his guests with respect and was in turn rewarded with their affection.

People noticed.

On Feb. 12, the club will host a celebration of Bloom's career. Five hundred guests are expected. Bloom is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the New York Yankees spring training game on March 11.

His knowledge of the club and its members runs deep. When a customer came in for lunch or dinner, he knew what they liked.

"You know where they want to sit, what they want to drink and how long they want to be here before they get ready to eat," Bloom said.

He liked being in charge of the table and having an opportunity to talk to the guests.

"I knew when to be comical," Bloom said. "I knew when to be businesslike."

He's met mayors, local leaders, governors, state representatives and top brass from MacDill Air Force Base.

He became friends with many, including the late New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, and his family.

Steinbrenner invited Bloom to Yankees spring training games, where he got to sit next to the dugout. The Yankees owner gave Bloom a 2000 New York Yankees World Series championship ring with Bloom's name embossed on it.

One of his favorite famous guests was Phyllis Diller, the actress and comedian who died in August at age 95.

"She's very funny," Bloom said. "She didn't mind talking to you. Just a very funny lady. She had a funny laugh and a hoarse voice."

Bloom was born in Georgia. At 17, he moved to Tampa, where his sister and her husband lived.

In the 1950s, he got a job as a waiter at Morrison's Cafeteria in downtown Tampa. He later worked at other restaurants in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

In 1972, he got a part-time job waiting tables at the Tampa Yacht & Country Club. The job turned to full-time work six days a week. He was there for four years but left for a job delivering furniture for a Tampa interior design business.

When the business shut down, he inquired about his old job at the Tampa Yacht & Country Club. He was rehired, beginning what eventually became a three-and-a-half decade-long job.

On a recent visit to the club since his retirement, former colleagues came by to greet him and express how much they missed him.

Scott Fairbairn, general manager at the Tampa Yacht & Country Club, has known and worked with Bloom for 17 years.

"He was a good person as far as thinking on his feet and thinking outside the box," Fairbairn said. "He just built up a level of trust."

Bloom said he earned people's respect with his straight talk.

"I'm sincere," said Bloom, who lives in Sulphur Springs with his wife and has two adult children and two grandchildren.

"I mean exactly what I do or what I say," he said. "I always like to meet people and have a friend. Everyone is on the same level with me. I'm not over them. I'm right on the same level with them. I don't care how small or big they are."

He's going to miss the friends he's made and the conversations, he said. He misses watching his grandson, Major IV, who works at the club as a busboy.

But he's not planning to sit in front of the television in retirement. He's used to being busy so he plans to work or volunteer.

"I'm going to do something," Bloom said. "I'm not going to sit at home and watch TV. I'm not going to sit on the couch and deteriorate."

Bloom said the years passed quickly and easily. He liked to make people feel welcome, liked getting to know them.

"I was doing what I like to do," Bloom said. "So it was easy. When you're doing what you like to do, your job becomes easy."

jpatino@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7659 Twitter: @jpatinoTBO

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