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Boutique hotels a fresh option

April 2, 2012
By Ashley Rittenhouse - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

Boutique hotels offer guests an experience different than that they might have at a chain hotel.

Those who work at local boutique hotels say their popularity is on the rise as more and more guests look for that unique experience.

"It's been a good year for us so far," said Sheila Rhodes, manager of the Lafayette Hotel on Front Street in Marietta. "Currently we have a lot of business travelers. This year the number of business travelers is up from last year - we see a lot of oil and gas workers."

Rhodes said most business travelers stay at the hotel between three and five days, while leisure travelers usually stay only on the weekends.

"The weekend traveler is someone more historic," she said. "They're coming to the area to look at the museums or ride a boat. A lot of the time guests on the weekend are here for sightseeing."

Rhodes said she hopes to see more people from the oil and gas industry staying at the hotel in the future, as an oil and gas boom makes its way into Washington County.

Fact Box

Q&A: Lafayette offers variety of venues

While the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta offers hundreds of unique rooms in which visitors can stay, there are also several different dining and banquet facility options there.

The hotel's food and beverage manager, Dave Hendrickson, is responsible for the budgets of the hotel's restaurant, bar and banquet facilities, as well as drawing in new business.

Q: What is your background as it relates to the food and beverage industry, and what training have you had?

A: Most of my training has been on the job training. I've only been working in the restaurant business about nine years. My first job in the industry was as daytime bartender at the (Lafayette) Hotel, and then from there I've worked at several other establishments throughout town, mostly on the bartending side. I recently got hired back here in November as the banquet supervisor, then promoted around February.

Q: What are the dining options at the hotel, and which is the most popular?

A: We have our Gun Room (Restaurant) and that's our main dining area and we also have the Riverview Lounge. We also have the Grand Ballroom and then we have a few other banquet areas we use. We have the Rufus Putnam Room and a suite of rooms downstairs and we also have the rooftop and we do some functions there, some for the public and some private. The ballroom is pretty busy. If we don't have a wedding in there we have an event planned in there every Saturday for the rest of the year and we have a few events that happen on Sundays.

Q: How many people work on the food and beverage end of the business, and what is your busiest time?

A: We probably have around 20 to 25, not all full-time. It is a team effort. I would say the happy hour on the lounge side is our busiest time, about 5 to 7 (p.m). During the year the Sternwheel (Festival), that's definitely one of the busiest times and the (Riverfront Roar) boat races and the holiday season is always busy.

Q: What do you see as the future of the food and beverage business at the hotel?

A: It's been a tough time with the recession but I'm starting to see more people come out a little more and I think money is starting to flow a little bit. As long as the economy keeps getting stronger, we'll definitely stay busy and probably even get busier. I think the downtown area of Marietta, it's kind of unique. It's not like every other downtown area and I think every business downtown grows with the growth of other businesses.

Ashley Rittenhouse conducted this interview.

"We've seen a steady group of people here and each week it's a few more of them so we're hoping it's something that comes in and is good for the entire area," she said.

Although she hasn't seen very many folks from the oil and gas industry yet, Charlotte Furbee hopes to see them soon.

She owns The Cottage on Washington Street, a bed and breakfast in Marietta.

"I see leisure travelers, I see people involved with the college and I have one couple that's been here ever since I started for the Sternwheel (Festival)," Furbee said. "People looking for a house stay here. It gives them a good chance to look around the neighborhoods."

Furbee added that most folks stay with her two nights, usually on the weekends. She said while her website,, is a good advertising tool, word of mouth also helps her gain many guests.

She said the future of the boutique hotel industry depends on the state of the economy.

"I think everyone has been hit in the hotel and motel business so hopefully that's going to change," Furbee said.

Marietta's newest boutique hotel is The Hackett Hotel, located on Second Street. It opened for overnight guests Feb. 10.

John Walsh, senior vice-president of corporate development for Alliance Industries, Inc., said the hotel is currently serving mostly business travelers who typically stay two days during the week.

Other guests have included honeymooners, couples looking for a little time away from their children and folks who are in town for various events at The Galley restaurant and The Adelphia music hall, located in the same complex as the hotel.

"We think the future bodes well for The Hackett and for all boutique hotels, in general - $4 to $5 per gallon gasoline might encourage folks to stay closer to home but still do something special," Walsh said, noting that people can enjoy the hotel, the restaurant and the music hall all in once place.

He noted that drawing more guests in the future will involve offering customized packages for business events, including corporate retreats, strategic planning sessions and conferences.

"Phase II of The Hackett, which will be located adjacent to The Galley in The Tiber Way, is in the design phase," Walsh said. "We hope to add another 8 to 10 rooms to The Hackett by later this year."



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