For one local business owner, making sure her employees still had work during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic led to a remodeling project.
Liisa Anselmi-Dalton, owner of the Holiday Inn, said she had already ordered materials for the hotel’s remodeling project prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and those materials started arriving in January and February. Anselmi-Dalton said she intended to start a small remodeling project and then go from there. However, after businesses were asked to shut down due to COVID-19 recommendations, the focus changed; and she saw the need to switch gears and focus on renovating the vacant hotel.
Anselmi-Dalton said she decided to have her employees help with the remodeling project so they could still work. A lot of other businesses just asked their employees to go home, but Anselmi-Dalton found a way to keep her employees busy throughout the pandemic. All of the employees, including housekeeping, front desk clerks and maintenance workers, had to learn new skills to complete remodeling tasks. Some of those skills included painting; remodeling bathrooms; caulking; shampooing carpets; and deep cleaning curtains, bathroom fixtures, mirrors, shades, lamps, and door knobs.
According to Anselmi-Dalton, with the exception of the initial demolition and tiling and carpeting projects, the employees have been completing the renovation themselves.
Anselmi-Dalton said when they had to close that meant no more quests, which left employees wondering what they were going to do. Anselmi-Dalton said she applied for the Paycheck Protection Program and received the funding so she knew she could afford to keep her employees working through the pandemic. She and head housekeeper Carol Greer met and came up with a plan on how they were going to start and complete the renovation.
“We had to find stuff to stay busy because obviously it was slow,” housekeeper Tiffany Siler said.
Greer and Anselmi-Dalton went from room to room deciding what needed replacing. They quickly decided a lot of the rooms needed repainting, new carpets, new furniture and most were in need of a bathroom remodel. As they walked through the hotel making lists, they wrote notes on post its and attached them to the back of the room’s doors so every employee would know what needed to be done in that room. As tasks were completed, items were crossed off the list.
After going through each room, Anselmi-Dalton and Greer decided 68 rooms needed new furniture, 100 needed new carpet and 113 needed new bathrooms. They decided to start on the original portion of the hotel first, with the idea that when guests could start returning to the hotel, they would put them in the executive room section of the hotel.
“All of the employees are thankful for Liisa for remodeling and keeping them employed,” Greer said.
With a list in hand, each person was assigned a task, from painting the crown molding and cleaning air conditions, to putting up new drywall and patching small holes with spackling. They also learned how to assemble new furniture and how to put bed sets back together. Siler said it may not had been work everyone enjoyed, but they were happy to have work.
“Everyone learned something new,” Siler said.
It wasn’t just the maintenance crew and housekeeping staff completing these tasks, but front desk clerks too. They would carry shower heads, faucets, lamps, handles to the front desk area to soak in a cleaning solution and then the clerks would clean them in between phone calls and other duties.
“We have a good team here,” Greer said. “We all pitched in together.”
David Schmidt, who works in maintenance, said they were taking out all of the copper pipes and replacing them with flex pipe. It’s something they have been wanting to do and this seemed like the right time. He said remodeling during the pandemic was the best because they didn’t have to worry about disturbing guests.
We didn’t have any guests complaining, because we didn’t have any guests.~David Schmidt
He said the whole idea made sense to him. They already had all the materials for the project delivered so why not get started. Some furniture, lamp shades, mirrors, and paintings are being saved to go back into rooms after they receive a deep clean. Other items that are still in good condition, but no longer being used were donated to hotels or sold on a garage sale.
The employees have been working on the remodeling project for a few months and will continue to do so.
“It was better than focusing on the fact we didn’t have anybody here,” Anselmi-Dalton said.
As guests started to return, the employees were happy to have them coming back, but now they are still remodeling and serving guests at the same time.
“I’m just proud of everyone,” Anselmi-Dalton said. “They’ve worked really hard.”
Guests have returned and are staying at the hotel while renovations continue. Things are starting to go back to normal and the hotel even has a wedding reception taking place this week. This has left the employees scrambling to get everything removed from the ballroom before the big event, but like the other challenges they have had to face, they will get through this one as well.
For now, the employees at the hotel are taking each day in stride knowing they are making needed improvements to the rooms and that has been rewarding for the whole team.