Archive of ‘What’s Your Story?’ category

Creating a Better Life- Thupten Sherab’s Story

Dumont CC 1Dumont cc 2

Thupten Sherab, an associate from Dumont NYC, traveled to India and worked with the Monks to build a center for the elderly. During his visit he was able to build new homes and create a senior center. In addition, in each of the 5 villages Thupten visited, he took on projects such as upgrading solar lighting and bathroom conversions to western toilets. Here in New York, Thupten opened his own center for the elderly Tibetan community called the Himalayan Elders Project for which he received the below recognition.


Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club: Samuel Asfaw!

Today’s story in our Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club series comes from Samuel Asfaw, Bell/Door at the Fifty NYC!


My favorite memory of my years at Denihan is when I worked in Housekeeping.  One day they needed someone to clean rooms.  They asked me to work on the 3rd floor and I said sure.

It was a good and crazy experience that I will remember forever.


Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club: Estelita Hodge!

Today’s story in our Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club series comes from Estelita Hodge, Room Attendant at The Surrey!

Estelita Hodge

During the time of the old Surrey a frequent guest, Ms. Carter who has since passed, was always so kind to me.  After her passing, her family and even her lawyers would stay at the hotel and would say how she remembered me and that she appreciated our conversations.

Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club: Pedro Jose Hilario!

The next story in our Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club series comes from Pedro Jose Hilario, Front Desk Manager at the Gardens NYC!

Pedro Jose Hilario

My favorite memory of my years at Denihan is when I transferred from the Eastgate Tower Hotel to Lyden Gardens in 1995.

I was promoted from G.S.A./Night Auditor to a Front Office Supervisor.  It was a rewarding feeling as I used to deliver groceries/medications to guests here when I worked at Regency Pharmacy during my high school years, from 1984 to 1989.

Many of those guests were very happy to see me working here and being part of Management.  I met wonderful guests and great co-workers.

Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club: Claudy LaFortune!

Today’s story in our Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club series comes from Claudy LaFortune, Housekeeping Attendant at the Dumont NYC!


I will never forget what happened in 1997.  We had a Christmas party at the Dumont, the same year I had a chance to release my first CD.

As the room quieted and everyone was being seated for dinner, I heard my music playing and it made me so happy.  Everyone commented on how they loved my music.  It made me feel like a superstar as they all gathered after dinner and asked me for my autograph.

I thank the entire staff for making me feel so special that day.  Dumont Team you are the best!!

Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club: Lourdes Calvo!

The next story in our Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club series comes from Lourdes Calvo, Housekeeping Coordinator at the Fifty NYC!


I remember when I started at the Fifty NYC, August 3, 1989 as a Room Attendant.  My first job in this country, I was so nervous not knowing what to expect.  I never did this kind of work before, it was a challenge but everyone gave me a chance.  Ten months later the GM at that time called me in and offered me the position of Housekeeping Coordinator where I remain today.

I came to work shaking, facing my new position.  After work my friends and family as me how it was, I said “a piece of cake”.  I am so grateful for the opportunity this position gave me, the ability to raise my children in this country, who graduated college and are successful today.  This is my home.

Meet the 2014 Quarter Century Club: Francis Ackon!

We had a record number of inductees for the 2014 class of the Denihan Quarter Century Club and this year, we asked those being inducted to tell us about one of their favorite memories from their 25 years with the company. The stories they shared are amazing and over the next couple of months, we’ll be posting some of them here on ChitChat for everyone to enjoy. First up, Francis Ackon, Security Officer at Shelburne NYC!


I have always been a hard worker and strive to lead by example.  One of my biggest rewards was hearing my manager tell me that he sleeps easier at night knowing I’m on duty.  Many people think that working the night shift is relaxed.

I will never forget when a guest went into cardiac arrest and I administered CPR in order to save her life.  It showed me how vital my role is at Affinia.

Be Honorable


Story Shared by Buzzy O’Keefe owner of The Water Club and River Café


Hello, can you share your name and how you know Denihan?

My name is Michael O’Keefe, everybody calls me Buzzy O’Keefe, and I’m in the restaurant business. I met Bud and Arthur, they were a team at the time, I guess it was around late 1968, I was in my 20’s. I was kind of innocent then.

How did you meet them?

I met them because they were checking out the places I had – Pear Trees at the Beekman Tower. I know Arthur liked the shrimp that was done with the kind of Chinese-Hawaiian style. Bud liked it too. We had a pretty nice crowd. I guess they were interested to see if anybody could make that place work.

You know, I mean they had, both of them had great personalities. Bud of course was…Arthur was more like Pavarotti, but it Bud was a combination of I guess James Cagney and, and what did they say…Jimmy Stewart. Pretty, pretty funny.

You know, nobody has one father. I learned so much from my neighbors around me, the German guys, the Scotch guys, the Italian guys, I learned so much from them. So Bud was very charismatic and he became like, like part of our family.. And we’d have long talks with him, and he was, he was always very colorful.

What did you talk about?

We had long talks before we did anything. They came to see us and I would talk to them, and I was a philosophy major also. So I’d be talking to Bud he was a person we related to. And we talked about honor and commitment. I mean I’m still talking about honor and commitment!

How did honor and commitment factor into first deal with Bud and Arthur?

We had these long talks about you know, honor and integrity. And then so we came to the closing of our first deal and I had this old time lawyer – his clients loved him and he loved them. He was a very good attorney. And we [Bud, Arthur, and Buzzy] had it all worked out, and we were about to sign the lease and something was missing on a Thursday. And we said, we’ll be back tomorrow to finish this up. You know, so we left, and we come in on Friday.

And when we came back on Friday and Bud and Arthur come out and said well the deal is off. My lawyer said, really? We, we agreed to everything yesterday, we shook hands, we agreed to everything. There was nothing just some technicality had, and they said well the deal is off. And I said, why?

So I said, wait a minute can I speak to the two of you privately please? Okay, we go to the office, then they sat down. I sat down, I said, you know, past couple months we were talking about honor, and integrity, and I said and keeping your word, and you know, making a promise you do it no matter what. No matter what the cost. And they said, could you step outside a minute please, so I went out and they come out a few minutes later. And they said, okay where do we sign you know, and they signed it up. So that’s where we had our first confrontation; it was a very philosophical thing. From there on it we both had to be very honorable, we both had to be very honorable. 

Thank you, Buzzy.

Anything for Bud.

No Drama

Story Shared by Connie O’Reilly & Nuala Herron of Niles Restaurant at Affinia Manhattan


Hello, can you share your name and how you know Denihan?

Connie: Hello. My name is Connie O’Reilly and I own Niles Restaurant which is the restaurant in the Affinia Hotel. We opened up Niles in 1987. Started work here in 1986 and we opened in ’87 and I think we signed a lease with Dan (Denihan) in 1988 after he had it open, this was the way we did business back then.

I was playing golf at Plandome Country Club one day with Dan. And Dan asked me, would you ever think about opening up a restaurant in the south gate. And I said yeah, we’ll take a look at it. At that time, it was just… it was a shoe shop. And there was only a little space really, it was the front of Niles where the bar is now, even smaller than that. So I looked and Dan said well let me see if I can get some more space.

So Lerner I guess had the space behind Niles, which is now our dining room and kitchen and stuff like that. So Dan was able to negotiate with Lerner which I believe that was very tough negations because we were asking for something back that they owned. So anyway, we got the space and we put in Niles into it.

Did you win that golf game?

Connie:  Nobody ever wins against Dan!

I imagine over the years you’ve had some interesting guests come in and out of the restaurant – can you share some stories?

Connie:  Okay. I think, Nuala, you would be more familiar with the guests.

Nuala:  My name is Nuala Herron and I’m the manager at Niles restaurant and I’ve been working with Connie O’Reilly since 1987, November ’87, soon after Niles opened. Well I guess we’ve had over the years, like the Rangers used to always come before their pre games, you know and that… Even the year of the Stanley Cup, the Rangers used to always come and have their pre game meals, so that was great excitement after they won and having them come back in with the cup and everything like that. It was really good. They used to stay here and go for their naps in the afternoon before they would go over for the games at night. So they would come and east first and come… and then have their rooms upstairs and leave then and go over and play the game. So that was very exciting here, that was 1994, right. We’re still waiting for them to win another!

So what is it like to work with someone, for both of you, for as long as you’ve worked together? And what is it like to run a restaurant that is connected to a hotel?

Nuala: Oh, it’s great. It’s good. It’s interesting.

Connie: I think the key to it is keep out of each other’s way! But Nuala is great because she’s excellent and there’s no drama. We don’t do drama, okay. We get to solve the problem now. I think we passed drama in ’88, so.

Nuala: And you have to have a sense of humor I think when you’re in the hospitality industry because you really can take… even with the guests and everything, you can’t take everything to heart, you can’t take things personal, you’ve got to move on very fast in this business. And if everybody… if you think everybody has a grudge or something’s wrong, you’re never going to move ahead in hospitality because you’re always going to be looking behind you as opposed to going forward. And I think it’s so important in this business, you know. So I think that’s why we work well together because we’re both into what we can do to make things better as opposed to figured out what went wrong yesterday, you know.

Connie: It’s water under the bridge. You know, we’ve made mistakes, I’ve made mistakes and I’m sure Nuala has. But we learn from our mistakes and that won’t happen again, or we try not to let it happen again. but basically our business is no different to your business, it’s about the guests. The guest keeps us here. And that’s… we need a guest to be pleased with what they’ve got, value for their money, good service, be treated the way any of us like to be treated and hopefully get repeat business.

Whether it’s in Niles Restaurant, whether it’s catering in the hotel, whether it’s room service. And a guest may come in and have a nice room and stuff like that, comes down to the restaurant and has a bad experience, that destroys the whole overall picture of what we’re trying to achieve.

Nuala: It does, but I guess what makes the Affinia so special, and I’m sure it’s the same with all your restaurants, but you make us feel very inclusive with your organization, which is great. Like even this morning, I had staff meetings and that. That’s how you learn what’s going on, so you don’t feel like someone’s coming down and saying, oh just do this. You kind of get the whole picture, a broader overview of everything, you know, which is great… you know, it’s educational as well.

Connie: Nuala is great, like she takes that time. And we’re in step with what’s happening in the hotel, if there’s something that needs to be done for a special group that are coming in, we’ll know about it.

What is it like to partner with Denihan for so long?

Connie: Well Dan and Brooke and Patrick… … it’s a joy for us, and I see what the. And it’s an absolute joy for us to be part of the bigger picture, because we feel we’re contributing as well in whatever little way we can. And it’s nice to know that there’s so much good work being done by a family. And that we’re part of that company… actually, part of that family, if you don’t mind me saying so. And it’s just nice and enjoyable.

Me and My New Cyborg Body



Story shared by Jeanette Diaz, James Assistant at James Chicago

Been with Denihan for almost 6 years

Hometown: Detroit, MI


How did you find Denihan?

I had found a listing for “Overnight In-Room Dining Server” and I applied on a whim as I had some F&B experience and was a total insomniac at the time. It turned out to be a great fit, and I eventually transitioned to being a Daywalker at the front desk after 3 years in Overnight IRD.

What do you like best about your Job?

My amazing colleagues and community, meeting cool people from all over the world, and the sense of fun and family we have here the James in Chicago.

How would you describe Denihan Culture?

A very big, slightly weird, genuinely happy family. Can’t beat our Kool-Aid, as I tell the noobs.

What’s your favorite part about your role?

Actually looking forward to going to work and seeing my team! Most days: I make no promises during Lollapalooza.

Unforgettable Story:

I control the Spice. I control the universe.   No, seriously, the frantic days of relaying messages and making sure everyone knows who needs what where and when make me feel like I the absolute best at PBX! It’s very rewarding to know how good I am at what I do, and to work with the supportive team that taught me what I know.

What makes you proud?

Aside from the time a major big-time Hollywood director described me as a “Ray of Sunshine?” I’m extremely proud of our cross-training program here in Chicago. Anyone from any team can spend about 40 hours learning how to do almost any other position in the department. The time I spent with Housekeeping and Reservations helped me do what I do better and helped us work even more seamlessly as a team.

On the 100th anniversary of Denihan, I fully expect to be the GM of the James in the Martian Colony. Me and my new Cyborg body, of course.

41 Years and Counting

Shirley 1  Shirley 3

Story Shared by Shirley Ross of the Affinia Shelburne and Patrick Denihan


Shirley Ross: My name is Shirley Ross, and I have been with Denihan for 41 years. I came in as a room attendant. And I’m now working in the laundry.

And how long have you known Patrick Denihan?

Shirley Ross: Little Patrick or big Patrick? I have known Patrick for 41 years. When I came, Patrick was there.

Patrick Denihan: Your mom worked here too.

Shirley: Yes, my mom also worked there and then she retired … when did mom retire? Probably in the ‘80s.

Patrick: Did you start at the same time?

Shirley: No, she started in August, and I started in October – the same year but different months.

Patrick: And I started in June of that year. You didn’t realize it. I was a newbie. I was a new person there. Shirley and her mother made it very clear to me, “We’re going to teach you how to do a room and make a bed.” They didn’t realize that I went to military school, and I already could do that.

Shirley: And he said nothing. He let us go on feeling that, okay he doesn’t know how to do it. That was not nice.

Patrick: What do you mean it wasn’t nice? They challenged me to make a room when I was … I actually did it better than Shirley did it. Much tighter and much neater. We could bounce a quarter. You guys looked at me like I had a hole in my head!


So Shirley, what was your favorite thing about working at Denihan and working with Patrick?

Shirley: Working with Patrick – it was it was like a family thing. And that … you know that was good. It was really good because it makes people feel comfortable. If something happens you can always go to him. But just be on the up and up. He was good. Yes, you were. But I have to bring up the part with Mommy.

Patrick:       What did I do?

Shirley:       You remember when she fell?

Patrick:       Yeah.

Shirley:       Okay, my mom was doing a room, and they were carpeting the hallway. And when she went in, they had not put down the glue yet. So she came back out to get something off the cart, and she fell. And it messed up her knee. Then she started having problems with her back. Then Patrick saw her, and he said, “Sheila, what’s wrong with you?” because she’s always brisk moving, but she was walking. “Patrick,” she said, “my back …” He said, “Your back?” She said yes. He said okay. He said, “You see this hundred dollars? I am sending you to a doctor.” She said, “But I went to the doctor at the union.” He said, “I am sending you to a doctor.” We went on Park Avenue. I can’t remember the name, but it was on Park Avenue. I went with her and saw the doctor. He took x-rays and everything. He did the whole work. But it come back with the same result. She had arthritis near her spine. After that Mommy decided, okay, she walked in to repay Patrick this hundred dollars. I have never seen Patrick got that serious. You’re like, “Here, Sheila. I didn’t loan that money. I gave it to you to take care of yourself.” My mother just said okay.

Patrick: But you haven’t explained. Your mother didn’t take any … I don’t know how to say this … she wouldn’t take any guff from anybody!

You must have witnessed a lot together over 41 years.  

Patrick:       You know what, Shirley? What I observed in all of our crisis that happened that you and everyone else, no matter what it was, you all teamed together. It didn’t matter what it was. Everybody worked together, and no one said, “It’s not my job.” Everybody said, “I got it.”

Shirley:       In a crisis, regardless, we always come together.

Patrick:       Yes we do.

Any closing thoughts?

Shirley: Okay, well from the day I walked into the Shelburne and I saw Patrick I fell in love with him. Guess what – from that tender age he had a patch of gray. I could not believe it was natural. So I tell my mom. I said, “Mommy, he’s so young and look at the patch of gray.” So she said, “Shirley, there have been babies born with gray hair.” I said, “I don’t think that is natural.” So one day I was talking, I said, “Patrick, is that natural hair?!”

Patrick: It looked like I did it, and I had many people at the Shelburne who used to say, “Who did your hair?” I said, “God did. I didn’t do it.”

All about the People

Story Shared by Stephen Alfieri, Regional Director of Human Resources, New York

Been with Denihan for nearly 25 years

Hometown: Southampton, NY


How did you find Denihan?

I answered an ad for “Front Office Manager” in the NY Times for Manhattan East Suite Hotels

What do you like best about your Job?

When I was working at the hotel, I especially enjoyed meeting our guests, welcoming them to NYC, answering their questions, helping them, and introducing them to our hotel(s). When I moved over to Human Resources as a Recruiter, I especially enjoyed finding the right person for the job and hearing the thrill in someone’s voice when I made them a job offer. In my present role and throughout my career here, my enjoyment of my job is because of the people I work with and the people I serve which are all our associates! I even still have guest contact since my primary office is at the Affinia Dumont and I get around to our hotels. I greet our guests in the hotel elevators and I still enjoying answering their questions about NYC.

How would you describe Denihan Culture?

Professional, but caring.

What’s your favorite part about your role?

Helping associates and being regarded as an expert in my area for our leadership.

Unforgettable Story?

Wow! There are so many unforgettable stories. I was selected to be a part of one of the company’s first leadership teams that included owners, directors, managers, and line staff. We called ourselves the Guiding Coalition and we were led and mentored by Lily Hewitt and Ted Wiley. Lilly still works with our company today as a Consultant. Amongst many good times in my career with Denihan, that was a particularly memorable and enjoyable time being change agents for our company.

Helping Make Memories

Kristin Byrnes

Front Desk Manager, The James Chicago

Been with Denihan for 6 Years & is from Wisconsin


How did you find Denihan?

I was originally hired as a Front Desk Agent at the Affinia Chicago in March 2008, prior to the grand opening of the property. After a few years, I was promoted and stayed with the Affinia until it changed ownership. At that point, I was invited to join the James Chicago team and happily accepted the position!

What do you like best about your Job?

I did not intend this to be a career when I began; I wanted a job to help me through grad school, to be honest. The guests won me over, since I sincerely enjoy meeting the variety of people that come through a hotel and assisting to make their stay memorable. Additionally, I love the warm personalities of those that work in this profession and how they make it feel like a family.

How would you describe Denihan Culture?

It is truly a family; it starts at the corporate office and comes through to the individual properties.

What’s your favorite part about your role?

Aside from meeting new guests everyday as I mentioned earlier, I was given the opportunity to assist on task force in both New York and Miami. It was great to experience other places aside from my work “home” and see how well we serve our guests at each location.

Favorite Hospitality Story?

When I was agent at the Affinia Chicago, a couple from Australia, came to the hotel and were visiting the United States for the first time. They only intended to stay for a day or two before they continued on their travels. However, they loved it so much they stayed a week. When they checked out, they left me a note with a toy koala bear and described how much they loved the hotel, the city and how everyone made them feel so welcome and at home. I keep the note on display at home, as it reminds me that by working in this industry, we have the power to assist in making wonderful memories for our guests each and every day.

The Mother Bird


Krista Krauss, Senior Concierge at the James Chicago

From Wayne, Illinois (a small suburb of Chicago), Been with Denihan for over 3 years!

How did you find Denihan?
I had been a concierge at another hotel in Chicago, and I saw that The James was hiring. I really wanted to work at The James because I felt that it was not only a really cool hotel that I myself would want to stay in, but also that the values of the company aligned with my own. I applied online and was called in to interview by HR, and the rest is history!

What do you like best about your Job?
I love working in hospitality for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that customer service is definitely a calling for me. Simply put: helping people makes me feel good. Also, I love Chicago, so I love sharing my favorite city with new people. I can talk about Chicago all day- and that’s literally what I do most days! Finally, I love to travel myself so it’s easy for me to empathize with my guests. They are looking for the same things I am when I travel, and I love helping them find the unique experiences they might not have discovered on their own. Plus I love living vicariously through my guests. When I make plans for one of my guests it’s like I’m making plans for myself or one of my loved ones. When I can make someone smile, or help them discover something new in the city I love, it truly fulfills me.
How would you describe Denihan Culture?

It’s hard to describe Denihan’s culture because it’s really quite complex. I think if I had to simply describe it, I would say that if Denihan was a person, I would want to be friends with him. Because our company is cool, hip and trendy- yet friendly, sophisticated and welcoming. And it’s not contrived or forced, it’s very effortless and genuine.

What’s your favorite part about your role?

I have two favorite things about my role: one is who I get to work with. My colleagues are the best: they’re super dependable, they’re funny and friendly, and they’re also awesome at their jobs. My other favorite aspect of my job is working with people. I get to meet new people every day. I get to hear their life stories, I get to laugh with them and I get to help them make memories- it’s pretty awesome.

An Unforgettable Story
I once had a guest who had contacted me months prior to his arrival because he was planning to propose to his girlfriend while he was staying with us. Many days, e-mails and phones calls later, we had his engagement planned. Now this isn’t this crazy part, we plan proposals pretty regularly. What makes this story unique is that about a week before his stay he found out that the engagement ring wouldn’t be ready in time for him to pick up before they left for their travels. He was crushed. He had put such time and effort into all this planning, and now he had to cancel it because the ring was delayed. But the ring was only delayed by about a day or two, so he could still keep his plans if the jeweler could ship the ring directly to us at the hotel. He asked me if that was something he could do, and if I would be willing to receive and hold the ring on his behalf. This obviously made me super nervous because he was asking me to be responsible for a very, very expensive item. But it was also quite flattering, because even though we had never actually met he trusted me to look after this extremely important item. I naturally said I was happy to do it if that’s what he needed to keep his plans on track. Once the ring was in route, I tracked the package diligently online. The day of its arrival I came in early to make sure I didn’t miss the early AM shipment. Once I received the box I held it securely at my desk all day until he picked it up in the afternoon. I didn’t let it out of my sight; I was like a mother bird sitting on a nest protecting this very important package like it was my egg. I don’t think I even took a lunch break because I was too worried to leave the package alone. The guest was so thankful and appreciative when he finally picked up the box, he was nearly in tears. He opened up the package and showed me the ring; he was nervous, excited and incredibly relieved to have the ring in his hands. And let’s be honest, I was relieved too! The rest of the engagement went according to plan. He even came back after the proposal to introduce me to his Fiancé as he had told her the whole story. She too was supremely grateful. It was incredible for me to be so involved with this couple’s pivotal life moment. And the fact that he trusted me without question was crazy! A person’s proposal is such a personal thing, and to share it with someone who is essentially a stranger is a very unique experience to say the least. It was something I will never forget!

Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets

Story Shared by Eleanor Carter

At one time our hospitality family consisted of six owners … A six pack of hospitable partners.

One day an owner by the named of John Ferrari, stated that there was a concern in the payroll dept. and he needed to make some changes.

I’m thinking … “OK, but why is he telling me, my check is fine … a little more money couldn’t hurt. So, as long as my check came on Wednesday, all was well, there were no problems in payroll that I could see … I’m happy.”

Well, whatever problems there were, John didn’t want to eliminate anyone from the family, so he shuffled people into different positions.

He said, Eleanor, I want to move you to the payroll dept. It wasn’t a promotion, I didn’t get a raise—I was just moved into an area that had some concerns. Like I said—I got my check, no problem for me.

I said what if I don’t like it? John promised me I can move back to my old job. But, give it a chance. Don’t decide after a few days that you don’t like it—give it a few months.

Now, I’m thinking maybe there is a problem in payroll—let me go home and look at my check stub again. A few months seem like a long time to decide on something I didn’t really want to do from day one. It wasn’t as though it was a great developmental move.

And John was not the kind of person you could just say no to but, asking me to move to payroll was like asking me to eat pickled beets, there is nothing more disliked by me than pickled beets! I thought to myself, why do it John Ferrari? Nobody likes pickled beets.

After a few days, I had enough. I told John that I want to go back to my old job at Kasden. I want my old job back now and that I did not feel I could last a couple of months in payroll.

John says, why Eleanor? Noooo. They love you in Payroll—stay a while. And I did for over 7 years and it was the best career move ever that fostered growth and development for me. And … I’m still here, no longer in payroll but, I work amazingly close with that team…and today, John Ferrari’s is doing other things. I stayed a while and I’m still loving it. Maybe I should give pickled beets another try; I may actually like them now.


What’s Your Story?

Thank you to the all Denihan team members who participated in our 50th Celebration Story Portraits project.

We will be sharing the unique stories of our diverse team member community; stories that make up an important part of our history as a company dedicated to the Art of Hospitality.

Starting this week, you can look forward to hearing a new team members perspective on Denihan Chitchat throughout 2014 under the “What’s Your Story Tab.”

We will kick it off with a long time team member who is “re-retiring!” Anyone know who that might be?

We do hope you enjoy the stories shared and hope to provide more opportunities down the road to for others to participate.