To the Editor:
I’m writing to you about The Nines and its history in the making. Our city’s Meier & Frank Building is a 15-story, glazed terra-cotta building located in the heart of our city across from our equally famous Pioneer Courthouse Square. This well-loved building with a rich history began its life as the first major project for prolific Portland architect kkkk. E. Doyle, the project beginning in 1909 and final stages completed over several years until it became home to The Meier & Frank department stores headquarters in 1966. Portland developed fond memories and a true relationship to this building through the decades, through footsteps of any number of celebrities, the grand holiday windows, the tea room, monorail, the library—finally winning her rightful place on The National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Excellence was always the legacy of the building over the decades, and so it was a good choice for its next phase of life to proceed with an admirable $100-million renovation in the summer of 2008. The Nines, a 330-room Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel, opened it’s doors to the City of Portland.
I was familiar with the grand Meier & Frank building through the decades as a native Portlander, a tradition handed down from our family’s generations before me. The new soul of the building exceeded the expectations of a city known for its intrepid culture. The Nines Hotel quickly became the new favorite of luxury experiences in Portland. Reading material throughout the hotel and small library was carefully chosen from Powell’s Books, the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. The art collection boasted of works from some of Portland’s biggest names in the city’s art scene. The Nines interior design was a contemporary breath of fresh air. Singularly unique.
In any number of times I’d visited The Nines Hotel with friends, family and colleagues, I’d experienced my time there in line with Sage Hospitality’s guidelines, striving for the best that hospitality industry customer service delivers. It wasn’t until I was offered a unique opportunity to work with The Nines Hotel team did I realize what that brand of superior service meant, and how this hospitality family served their city.
Unique, shape-the-path, destination-objective leadership and highest of industry knowledge is just a couple of The Nines’ secrets for their legacy. Every department has these aspects of pride, implementation of unique ideas and employee fostering that lends to its continued success in the industry. Jean-Marc Jalbert, The Nines general manager, hails from an impressive international academic and hospitality management background. His teams are carefully chosen and they aspire to bring the same level of knowledge and unique quality to their departments. The beginning of 2020 would test the bounds of what that great team would look like under enormous pressure and lightning speed of change. Not just any change, a global pandemic, and a fast-moving one at that. Jalbert moved quickly and methodically to form and execute next moves to protect his public and his teams. They say challenge is what makes a manager shine. Well, there would be no greater temptest for truth than the arrival of COVID-19.
Every department doubled down, never flinching in performance but now having the quasi second job of restructuring, planning and preparing. It was a whirlwind. The dust settled by March 22nd as The Nines suspended service. The City of Portland along with the rest of the nation reeling in the wake of this global pandemic, a war zone of which no one possessed a map. Corporation Nation was reeling in the wake of this global pandemic, as corporation after corporation, city and nationwide, made headlines for their intrepid layoffs and subsequent closings.
Operations being what they may, Jalbert and his management teams chose to observe this as just another opportunity to foster community and take care of his employees and their families. They set up fundraising to prepare a massive distribution of staple household items and food for their furloughed employees. They set up a communication grid that handled sensitive information for employment, meetings, furlough status and benefits. Each employee is genuinely cared for, and it shows.
No doubt that planning and strategizing are in place for a firm and successful comeback in the near future. The Nines will bustle once again in her former glory. Guests from all over the globe will walk through the doors of the great historic Meier & Frank building. This time the grand dame will have one more memory to add to her impressive memoirs. The memory of Jean-Marc Jalbert and his management teams, lined up out front, in masks delivering food, supplies and desserts to his employees and their families. Here’s to the next chapter.
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CALENDAR OF EVENTS
AAHOA Convention & Trade Show
Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL
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JW Marriott Nashville, Nashville, TN
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HSMAI ROC 2020
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New York Boutique Hotel Investment Conference
New York City
NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference
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