By Cindy Atoji Keene
Hotel managers have to pay their dues, and veteran hospitality honcho Rick Colangelo has done just that. Not only has he cleaned rooms, worked the front desk, and served tables, Colangelo has done the multi-city career shuffle, living in 11 cities during his three decades in the hospitality business. “If you want to advance in this field, you need to be willing to move around, especially for young growing companies,” said Colangelo, whose three children were born in different states as he relocated around the country for several major hotel chains.
Colangelo, now a regional director for the Kimpton Hotels, also acts as general manager for one of the chain’s flagship properties, Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, a boutique property that caters to the high-tech community. From the hotel’s trademark animal print robes to the “discovery” time capsule in the lobby, Colangelo still easily recites every detail that went into the opening of Hotel Marlowe eight years ago. “A hotel is a living and breathing building,” said Colangelo. “You need to work through all the kinks, whether it’s the hot water not working or helping to coordinate furnishings and equipment.”
Q: You are tasked with overseeing daily operations as well as administrative, financial and aesthetic decisions. How does your day usually begin?
A: Right now I’m in Miami. The sun is out, and I’m doing budget reviews for a Florida property, but back at my home base in Boston, I usually start the morning with a housekeeping morning line-up. Cleanliness is the heart and soul of any hotel, so I review any duties for the staffers who each need to scour, dust and straighten over 15 guest rooms a day.
Q: How many employees have you hired throughout the years?
A: Literally hundreds of people, more than I can count. From day one, I’ve had a philosophy of hiring for personality, not necessarily experience. Hospitality is not a scientific or technical industry; the things we do everyday are common-sense tasks, so I look for positive people and then train them in the culture of the company.
Q: What’s your hotel horror story?
A: A valve blew off a main pipe that feeds water into the building. It was connected to the electrical system as well, so we had a double whammy, I had to close the hotel and evacuate the guests. It was something you never forget. We’re in the people-pleasing business, and when things go wrong like this, you’re not pleasing anyone.
Q: Where do you like to stay when you’re on the road?
A: I like to stay at the newest, hottest, boutique lifestyle hotel that I can find. I’m not a luxury hotel guy, but instead like a place that’s unique, cool, and on the cutting-edge. My kids like it too; they get to travel and experience more amenities because I’m in this business.
Q: What was the first hotel that you worked in?
A: In high school and college, I worked at a family-run inn in Hyannis. I did it all there, and got bit by the hospitality bug. Once you change linens or clear a table, then you understand what it’s like to do any position and can teach others how to do it.
Q: Ever had any celebrity guests in any of your hotels?
A: The one I remember most is Michael Jackson in the late 80’s when he was extremely popular. He and his entourage rented an entire floor at a hotel I worked at, with his own chef, security, dancers, and others. Michael himself was in the presidential suite and we had to clear the adjoining room to set up a dance floor so he could practice his moves. I have also had presidents United States, but that is not as exciting as the celebrities, and is much more “official” with secret service checking in weeks before and loading the hotel up with security measures, and high tech devices.
Q: When Hotel Marlowe opened, a time capsule was put into the lobby, to play off of the “discovery” theme of the hotel. What did you put into the capsule?
A: We put in objects from yesteryear. I grew up in Everett, so I put in a Charleston Chew bar of my own.