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La Jolla Heroines: Anne Evans and Grace Evans Cherashore extend their ‘work family’ across the region

Grace Evans Cherashore (left) and her mother, Anne Evans, have led the Evans Hotels company for decades.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

A look at the La Jollans and longtime leaders of Evans Hotels, whose properties include The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla.

Much of La Jolla’s early advancement was fueled by prolific philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. But many more women have followed in being important benefactors to La Jolla. This series by the Light highlights local women who have worked for decades to further the evolution of La Jolla and areas beyond.

The notion of family has kept Evans Hotels from floundering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re too stubborn to quit,” Grace Evans Cherashore said of the company, which was founded by her parents, William and Anne Evans, in 1953 and has been family-run since.

Cherashore became chairwoman of the board of Evans Hotels in 2014 after having served as chief executive and president since 1994 and chief financial officer for the 10 years prior, a role she took on in 1984 when William Evans died.

Anne Evans served as chairwoman from 1984 to 2014. She now attends all board meetings as chairwoman emeritus.

Evans Hotels, which started with the Bahia Resort Hotel in Mission Bay, expanded to include the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa in Pacific Beach in 1958 and The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, which opened in 2002 after an extensive renovation.

It has been “so integrated into the community,” Evans said, contributing to the region’s economic growth.

Evans and Cherashore, both La Jolla residents, have themselves contributed to the community. Evans has served on UC San Diego’s The Preuss School Founders Circle and the board of advisors for UCSD’s Rady School of Management. Cherashore served as the 2019 chairwoman of the California Chamber of Commerce, among other activities.

Evans and Cherashore answered questions from the La Jolla Light about family, advice and legacy.

Q. When did you feel you were a success as a woman?

A. “I don’t stop to reflect, ‘Am I a success?’” Evans said. “You just have to be maneuverable and prepared to respond, because it’s coming at you all the time.”

“Anne always says, ‘Keep your knees bent,’” Cherashore said.

“It’s a skiing thing, Evans said. “You have to be prepared for the slalom course, the bumps and the surprises around every turn.”

“It’s day to day,” Cherashore said of success. “Our business doesn’t have a graduation day.”

Q. What’s your advice to the next generation of female leaders?

A. “I did not experience the pushback because of gender,” Evans said. “Along the way, opportunities just seem to have come to me. Challenges also have arrived unbidden.

“Make a five-year plan. You surely cannot make a 10-year plan. Keep a positive attitude, no chip on the shoulder, no expectation of being disappointed. … Just expect to be included.”

Q. How do you build resilience to bounce back from setbacks?

A. “It doesn’t matter to me if some setbacks [were] because I was a woman or because I was old or I was too young,” Cherashore said, “because usually it’s more their problem than yours.

“My dad had a friend who’s an old Texan, and he would just say to me, ‘Gracie, just drive your own truck.’ And what that would mean is, make your own plan where you’re going. Don’t get all distracted by what other people are doing. … Don’t listen to incoming static or to applause.”

Q. What excites you about the work you’re doing now?

A. “Retooling our properties to be the very best they can be for individual leisure travelers,” Cherashore said. “Summer travel has really come back very strongly in Southern California. I feel really excited about some of the offerings that people want.

“What hotels are has evolved tremendously.” Evans Hotels has tried to “be a work family … providing good, steady, long-term jobs with a retirement plan and medical insurance for you and your family. ... That was not expected in our industry. [It] has been super, super important to us.

“We stayed open through the pandemic [to] try to maintain employment for our people. The other reason we did it was to be of service to the medical community,” working with all major health care companies in the region to provide low-cost rooms and meals for health care providers who might have immunocompromised family members at home.

Evans Hotels owns The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla.
(File / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Q. What keeps you awake at night?

A. “Despite having stayed open, despite paying over the … living wage, we are still, as is every hotel that I know of in San Diego, really having trouble getting enough staff,” Cherashore said.

“I think the problem is that many people moved to places with cheaper cost of living. So what has me worried, as a parent with two children in their 30s … is it’s just really hard for young people to have housing.

“It’s really an emergency here in San Diego. … I don’t think we really want to become a place that only old retired people can afford to live in.”

Q. What do you want your legacy to be?

A. “I can’t imagine,” Evans said. “I mean, I have a family, I have children.”

“I think [Evans’] legacy will be trying hard every day to do everything she could to support the growth of San Diego,” Cherashore said, “and trying very hard to be part of [the city] being a positive place for wonderful young families.

“[I want] to continue that and to have our hotels grow and our company grow cautiously and in a way that helps us to be a positive member of the community in terms of a place to work, a place to have your wedding reception, a place to … stay.” ◆