Posted on behalf of Sims Foster
Don’t do what’s easy. Do what’s right.
I grew up in a small town in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. And when I say small I mean one stoplight kind of small. Where and how we grow up shapes all of us more intensely than we realize much of the time. It becomes the foundation, the root, the core of who we become. It’s not really about positive or negative. Or bad or good. It just is. It becomes the fulcrum that we pivot around for the rest of our lives.
In small town life there is a special, heightened magnification on certain aspects that may not get the same kind of attention in larger towns or cities. Money or material wealth gets some appreciation. But not much. Education and exposure to the larger world are respected and worth a little more. And certainly friendliness and openness get higher marks. But the true currency in a small town is your reputation, your honesty, your commitment to your word. Your integrity. Without that not much else really matters and certainly nothing else can replace it.
I was lucky enough to have my grandparents live just 1.2 miles away from my parents’ house. I biked it and walked it enough to forever appreciate that was not, and is not, less or more than 1.2. Visiting my grandmother was like having Christmas every day. Or more appropriately, Hanukkah since she was Jewish. She was loved by all because she was an embodiment of life and love. She was one of those women who radiated and whose infection for living fully was contagious.
And in the same house was my grandfather. A quiet, stoic man who had been a tank commander in the Army during WWII. A man who fought, like so many in his generation, for his country and for the principles and beliefs for which he believed it stood. Upon returning from the war he picked up where he had left off. As a builder of homes. Today we would call him an architect or general contractor. But he always just called himself a Builder. For decades my grandfather built homes for his friends and clients and later on for their children as they began their adult lives. He was the man to turn too when you wanted an honest, solid home built. While he was a creative builder, he did not build mansions or opulent estates. More often he built for people with tight budgets and if needed, he worked out payment plans based not on credit reporting but on handshakes.
When I was eleven years old I asked my grandfather if I could work for him. Begrudgingly (and likely with insistence from his wife) he acquiesced. He gave me the “clean up” jobs right away. The worst jobs he could find for me. He’d drop me off at 6am with a packed lunch and come back at 4pm to take me home. I still believe it was in hope I’d give up quickly and he’d be able to go back about his way. But he failed to recognize something about me that has nothing to do with integrity; pure stubbornness. He was stuck with me no matter what he tried. Slowly but surely my quiet, tough as nails, intimidating grandfather started to soften up. And over a few years of me earning his respect our relationship blossomed into something special.
Later on when I was a teenager my grandfather called me and asked me if I could help him with a job. At this point he was semi-retired and was entering the last years of his life. He was not as strong and intimidating physically but was still as strong-willed as ever. He needed help fixing a dishwasher and thought he’d need my help pulling it out from under the cabinet to get to the back of it. It seemed like a strange, beneath his pay grade job request but he picked me up and we chatted about a bunch of things as we drove. As we pulled into the driveway of the house where the job was I realized it was the first house I had ever worked on with him. 7 years before. And so we were there to fix a dishwasher. That he had installed 7 years prior. I immediately boiled up with anger. How could these people expect the builder of their house to do a repair like this so ridiculously long after it was built? How could they trouble an old man whom had no obligation? Why the hell didn’t my grandfather tell them “Sorry” instead of saying “I’ll come on over and see what I can do”? This was completely selfish and unfair.
As I stood there in front of his big old Chevy that he had recently begun having some trouble climbing into and out of, seething, I turned to tell him what I thought. As I turned to him he looked me straight in the eyes. He knew what I was thinking. And his eyes conveyed that he didn’t care. That coming here to him was a matter of keeping his word to build a house that would last. And that regardless of the menial nature of the task and regardless of what I thought, he was not going to jeopardize his Integrity in this matter. Certainly not after over 8 decades of upholding it.
“You Comin’?” was all he said.
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At Denihan we find ourselves as part of a company that doesn’t just speak about integrity. It lives it. A reputation is built in small every day steps. And Denihan has decades of those days as proof of its integrity. Brooke and Patrick are not only trustworthy but their word is as strong as any contract that could be drawn. They carry the value not just as a philosophy but as an integral part of who they are personally and how they’ve built this company.
Integrity is a responsibility. At Denihan that responsibility is a large one. What was so painstakingly built and protected by so many can be given away in a fleeting minute. With every guest we have the responsibility to show them who we are and pass to them the comfort that they will be taken care of by a group that is guided by unflinching integrity.
Integrity is also a gift. To be able to say that we work at Denihan and the instant credibility it gives to us as a team and as individuals is not to be taken for granted. It is a gift that was hard earned and one that needs to be protected and ultimately passed to others that join us as we grow both physically and culturally. Think of it as the Olympic torch.
In a world where we hear less and less about ideals like integrity it is an opportunity and a privilege for us to be able to cultivate it and live it here at Denihan. It will provide us with a deep sense of personal and professional satisfaction while connecting us together. It is a value that will support us every step of the way.
As much as we are a big city company with hotels, restaurants and bars in New York, Chicago, Washington DC and Miami right now, we have integrity that would stand the test of any small town.