Category Archives: Hotels

Ambassador Hotel finalizes deal with Autograph Collection by Marriott

WICHITA — The Ambassador Hotel has finalized a deal to become part of the growing Autograph Collection by Marriott.

Have You Heard? first reported the deal was a possibility in September.

“It’s been a big deal,” says Paul Coury, chairman of Tulsa-based Coury Group.

His Ambassador hotels in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Kansas City are part of the deal as well.

Coury says Marriott officials are “excited about the fact that they could bring four hotels into their brand.”

“It’s going to have a great impact on the people in the corporate world who want to stay at hotels that get reward points.”

Coury says the ramifications are huge for his hotels as well.

“Well, obviously, I did it because I think it’s going to have a big impact.”

Coury says the Autograph Collection is what’s known as a soft brand. The Ambassador will keep its own identity and add Autograph Collection by Marriott to its name.

He says Marriott has high standards and that the Ambassador already meets them.

“We basically had everything they were looking for.”

Not everyone is excited for the new brand, though.

“There were some objections,” Coury says.

He says there’s a process Marriott goes through when deciding if a hotel fits its brand. Part of that is getting the opinions of other Marriott franchisees in the area. None of them could be reached for comment for this story.

In October, the Tulsa Ambassador will be the first of Coury’s hotels to be rebranded. The Wichita Ambassador will follow in the third week of October.

Guests can’t start booking through Marriott until then.

“In the meantime, everything’s getting in place to make that conversion within the system and the training,” Coury says.

Other than that, Coury says he doesn’t have to do anything.

“Nothing,” he says. “That’s what’s beautiful.”

You don’t say

“I did get all the files back after spending all that money.”

Jack DeBoer on why he dropped his lawsuit against two former Hotel at Old Town employees, who he said took files with them to the Ambassador Hotel

“My client denies any wrongdoing whatsoever. … The parties chose to enter into a confidential settlement agreement to resolve their differences. … So, under the circumstances, no further comment is really appropriate.”

Terry Malone, the attorney for Ambassador general manager Sheila Cole and director of sales Amy Grossman, who used to hold the same positions at the Hotel at Old Town

 

You don’t say

“There is a ‘Rock Star Suite’ at my hotel in Wichita. Needless to say, I will be staying in the ‘Small Indie Label Closet.’ #Wichita”

– Comedian Mike Birbiglia tweeting about his upcoming stay at the Ambassador Hotel for his May 16 performance at the Orpheum

Bruce Haase named Value Place CEO

bruceWICHITA — There’s a new CEO at Value Place, and founder Jack DeBoer calls him “a superstar.”

Bruce Haase spent a dozen years with Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest franchise organizations with brands such as Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn and Clarion.

“I think Value Place quite honestly is the best opportunity in hospitality right now,” Haase says.

He says it’s “a very uniquely positioned brand” with “tremendous growth opportunities.”

Haase started with Choice Hotels as treasurer and six months later was given the international division.

“It was actually quite troubled at that point.”

He says he spent a lot of time overseas making the division stronger.

“That’s really where I learned franchising,” Haase says.

He says during that time, he became more of a generalist instead of focusing strictly on numbers.

“It was quite a fascinating journey.”

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Siena Tuscan Steakhouse loses chef

UPDATED — Another person in what’s been a string of Ambassador Hotel employees coming and going – from the general manager on down – is gone.

This time, it’s executive chef Marshall Roth, who moved to Wichita to open the downtown hotel’s Siena Tuscan Steakhouse.

“We kind of just parted ways,” Roth says. “I need to do what’s right for myself, and they need to do what’s right for the hotel.”

Hotel owner Paul Coury says he’s a huge Roth fan.

“He’s a great guy,” Coury says.

Roth says he came to Wichita to be his mother’s caretaker. He says he recently was looking to hire more nurses for his mother. Now, he says, he won’t have to.

“I’m going to be taking care of my mom.”

Coury says Roth’s schedule of caring for his mother sometimes conflicted with his schedule at the restaurant.

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Ambassador Hotel closer to possible Autograph Collection by Marriott deal

WICHITA — Last fall, Have You Heard? reported that the Ambassador Hotel may become part of the growing Autograph Collection by Marriott.

At the time, Paul Coury, chairman of Tulsa-based Coury Group, said that he was looking into a soft brand concept.

He didn’t confirm that the Autograph Collection by Marriott was one of them. Nor is he confirming anything now.

However, it looks like the deal may be getting closer. There are still a few hurdles to go, though.

The soft brand trend allows boutique hotels to retain their independence but align themselves with the power of a large chain.

“We’re not where we originally hoped to be by now,” Coury said in September.

“I don’t think we did as good of a job as we needed to to get the major demand generators exposed to our product.”

He was referring to groups and businesses that can commit to annual contracts with hotels, often at the start of each new year.

“It’ll be fine,” Coury said. “It’s going to be a great property for us, and it fits well into the market we’re trying to develop.”

Look for more news soon.

Value Place to expand with a couple of dozen more employees

WICHITA — As the number of Value Place properties continue to grow, so does the need for more employees at the company’s corporate headquarters on East 21st Street between Rock and Webb roads.

“We’re definitely … hiring a lot of people,” says president and COO Kyle Rogg.

The company opened a property in Jacksonville, Fla., this week and has three more under construction.

“Franchisees are building as well,” Rogg says.

He says Value Place’s properties, a number of which are under renovation, are performing solidly.

“We’re pretty much on plan with where we expected to be,” he says.

“It just takes more people to continue to grow.”

The Wichita office has about 65 employees, not counting the ones at the company’s three properties here.

Rogg says the company likely will add about 25 employees this year.

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Phil Ruffin buys Florida oceanfront property sight unseen, but it’s no joke

UPDATED — There are a lot of jokes about waterfront property in Florida that someone would like to sell you sight unseen.

The oceanfront property that billionaire Phil Ruffin purchased in December – without even looking at it – is no joke on him, though.

“We went down there and looked at it at New Year’s, and it’s a beautiful piece of property,” Ruffin says. “It’s a luxury property.”

The price may be even more attractive. Ruffin paid $6 million for 500 feet of oceanfront property on almost 12 acres in Vero Beach for which the previous owners paid $17.5 million.

“It was a bargain,” Ruffin says. “Someone took an $11 million hit.”

There used to be a Radisson hotel on the property, but it was torn down after a storm.

“Once that happens, you have to start over again,” Ruffin says of rezoning for potential hotel use.

He’s going to go through the rezoning, but Ruffin says he isn’t sure what he’ll do after that.

He might build a new hotel.

“Or we might flip it.”

Ruffin, who owns Treasure Island in Las Vegas and the Wichita Marriott on Corporate Hills Drive, says he likes investing in land.

“I’d rather have land than money right now,” he says. “Money’s not worth a lot. It’s very hard to invest our money and make anything off it right now. The interest rates are so low that money markets are not good, and stock markets are a little bit jumpy, so land is a pretty good investment right now in hot areas.”

So, ah, what are those hot areas that perhaps the rest of us may invest in?

“Well, Florida’s real good, and Vegas is getting better, and Wichita’s not bad,” Ruffin says.

“I like my little hometown. I’m not sure they like me, but I like them.”

Hotel at Old Town borrows Neiman Marcus gift idea

WICHITA — If you’re desperately seeking that special last-minute gift, perhaps for the person who already has everything, Michael Frimel wants to talk to you.

The vice president of sales and marketing at the Hotel at Old Town is taking a page from the annual Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, which offers what it calls “fantasy gifts” that are outrageously priced, one-of-a-kind presents.

Frimel’s idea is to sell the entire hotel and its banquet space for New Year’s Eve 2014 – that’s next New Year’s.

“It’s the ultimate Christmas gift, which is why I think now is the perfect time,” he says.

He’s selling it for $123,120.14.

Fourteen cents? Does that really matter on a $123,000 tab?

“Look at it from a date perspective,” Frimel says.

That’s Dec. 31, 2014.

“So that’s the price tag,” Frimel says. “That includes guest room accommodations for 114 of your favorite couples. It includes all of your food and beverages.”

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Ambassador Hotel may align with Autograph Collection by Marriott

WICHITA — Wichita’s Ambassador Hotel, which has struggled since opening in January, may become part of the growing Autograph Collection by Marriott.

“I’m looking into soft brands,” says Paul Coury, chairman of Tulsa-based Coury Group.

The soft brand trend allows boutique hotels to retain their independence but align themselves with the power of a large chain.

Coury won’t confirm if he’s working on a deal for the Ambassador to become part of the Autograph Collection.

He does say, though, “If we were to do anything, it’s a good fit for what we do.”

Coury says a soft brand would allow the Ambassador to keep its name and individual style “but still maintain certain standards.”

“We’re not where we originally hoped to be by now,” he says.

“I don’t think we did as good of a job as we needed to to get the major demand generators exposed to our product.”

He’s referring to groups and businesses that can commit to annual contracts with hotels, often at the start of each new year.

“We’re getting ready to burn through 2013 pretty quick,” Coury says. “Once January rolls around, based on the feedback we’ve been receiving … we’ll reach the original projections.”

There are several hurdles, he says.

“Sometimes things don’t go the way you project,” Coury says. “I made some mistakes. I misread the market on some things.”

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