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Hamptons Life

'Hotel Impossible' Made Possible

Publication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press
By Dawn Watson   Apr 3, 2012 9:43 AM
Apr 4, 2012 1:12 PM

Gurney’s Inn in Montauk, sited right on the beach on Old Montauk Highway, is known for its spectacular ocean views. Although the resort had undergone some renovation last year, the lobby of the family-managed hotel was still in need of a bit of sprucing up and modernizing.

Enter “hotel fixer/hotel whisperer” Anthony Melchiorri, the host of the Travel Channel’s brand-new series “Hotel Impossible” and the man who made it his business to help the Monte family—who have been at the helm of the seaside resort for more than 50 years—pump new life into Gurney’s. Mr. Melchiorri, who has been in the hospitality business for the past 20 years, has developed and repositioned some of the most high-profile hotel and resort properties in America, including overseeing a basement-to-roof renovation of the famed Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan.

Visiting Gurney’s was an event he said he wouldn’t soon forget.

“Wow! This view is ridiculous,” Mr. Melchiorri exclaims when he arrives at the hotel during the first moments of the premiere episode of “Hotel Impossible,” set to air on Monday, April 9, at 10 p.m. on the Travel Channel.

On first glance, he gives the property, which locals will get a kick out of when he says it’s located “10 minutes from the Hamptons,” a thumbs-up.

“Beautiful view. Great location,” he says.

But though the view is what

brings people to Gurney’s, the hotel was not without its challenges. One of the biggest problems with Gurney’s, according to Mr. Melchiorri and agreed upon by general manager Paul Monte and spa director Candice Monte, was that the reception area was old-fashioned and needed some aesthetic upgrades.

“It’s the place to be since the 1920s, but not anymore,” Mr. Melchiorri said.

“I think we could use a face-lift in certain areas, definitely,” said Ms. Monte.

“It doesn’t feel first class but they are charging first-class prices,” Mr. Melchiorri says of the approximate $400 a night fee. “You’re living off the view ... Your competition is going to clean your clock,” he warned Mr. Monte, if changes weren’t made quickly.

After inspecting the entire hotel—including the newly renovated Sea Grille and Caffe Monte and the Sea Water Spa, which he deemed in tip-top shape; the lobby, which he said needed some sprucing up and modernizing; customer service operations, where some help was needed; and the clean and well-kept guest rooms—Mr. Melchiorri brought in New York-based interior designer Karen Gorman. Her task was to oversee contractors and renovate the lobby in three days’ time. In true reality TV fashion, the extreme deadline was made all the more pressing as a wedding had been booked on the fourth day.

As is the case with the reality genre, the television show plays up the extreme in dramatic fashion. Regular Press readers might recall a few years ago when Finn’s (then named Finn McCool’s) in Westhampton Beach received similar treatment when hothead chef Gordon Ramsay visited that restaurant for two episodes of his reality show “Kitchen Nightmares.” Similarly, in “Hotel Impossible,” a management conflict between Mr. Melchiorri and Mr. Monte gets pretty intense.

As seen on the show, Mr. Melchiorri loses his cool when Mr. Monte and his staff don’t show up on time for a proposed 10 a.m. meeting on the beach. The missed appointment is shown to be even more ironic as it was supposed to be about addressing the staff’s poor customer service practices.

“We’re on Montauk time,” Mr. Monte explained, which caused Mr. Melchiorri to let loose a few choice expletives that most likely won’t make the cut when the episode airs.

The tense situation comes to a head when the hotel fixer and the Monte family have a sit-down to discuss the future of the hotel. By the end of the three-day visit, all the conflicts are patched up and everyone seems happy with the end product.

“I’m impressed with this family,” Mr. Melchiorri said of the Montes and their commitment to Gurney’s Inn.

“He’s got a lot to offer and I’m very happy that he offered it to us,” Mr. Monte said of Mr. Melchiorri at the end of the episode.

In fact, due to some changes made before and after the episode was taped, according to information provided by “Hotel Impossible,” summer 2011 was the best summer ever at Gurney’s.

And in a statement issued on Friday, the host of the series added, “As a New Yorker, I was honored to have the first hotel be the legendary Gurney’s Inn. Gurney’s Inn is on one of the most beautiful sites on the east coast. The staff is passionate and dedicated to providing the best service and amenities to their guests. And the spa is the standard for all spas on Long Island.”

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