Wow…our thirty-third letter…time flies! As usual, we share our latest news, plus you’ll read about some special happenings and offerings that might make your holidays even more joyful (and easier!). On a separate page, I (Dennis) ramble on about a memorable trip that Nancy and I took this past summer to Istanbul, Budapest, Prague and the Austrian Alps. This story even has a little drama…if you can stay awake to get to that part. It is amazing how much we learn about all kinds of things, including ourselves, when we travel. On our adventure, Nancy and I found more reasons to be grateful for you: our guests and colleagues.
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Just an aside: The pronoun “we” seems most appropriate because, though I (Dennis) write these letters, many people contribute to them.
We started this process by asking: “What experience(s) would I like in the career dimension of my life, and what experiences might bring joy?” (If you enjoy something, it is likely that you’ll do it well.) Then we explored what might be the deep-down drivers of those ideas to ensure that they were attached to our macro intentions of getting to experience ourselves, and each other, as being loving, compassionate and “of service.” Then we eliminated ideas that might have been grounded in fear or rooted in some shallow ego attachment. (BTW: We use this same method for all kinds of things, from deciding where to go and what to do on a vacation to how to furnish and decorate a room.)
After this sabbatical we came home completely content that we’d employed an optimal process that had led us to a path we were both enthusiastic about. But as time passed, we occasionally found ourselves conflicted about whether to add many more restaurants and hotels or not. It was tempting to fall for what I call implied American peer pressure that says “more is better,” and “maximum is optimal” — even though we know full well that optimal
is optimal. (It brings to mind Eliza Cook’s poetic line: “On what strange stuff ambition feeds!”)
So, in a rather roundabout way, that brings us to how Nancy and I found affirmation and got more firmly grounded on our idea of adding just a few new hotels and restaurants in the coming years. This past summer, during our annual getaway, which was two-thirds our thirty-second honeymoon and one-third a busman’s holiday, visiting great hotels and restaurants in Europe to broaden our frame of reference, we had experiences that deeply affected us. Nancy and I both were emotionally and rationally moved in a way that caused us to lock in on the plan we had hatched rambling around England years prior.
Here’s what happened: We visited Austria, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Hungary. In a sort of magical way we found our people — our peeps, our compadres, our brothers and sisters in spirit — people like us doing what Nancy and I love to do. We found affirmation to the Nth degree when we saw enthusiastic proprietors endeavoring to be of genuine service to their guests and colleagues (just as we aim to do), joyfully playing roles similar to the roles we play. They were hotel and restaurant owners who were in the thick of things every day. Probably not coincidentally, theirs were the places we enjoyed most! These days we don’t find that as often here in the U.S. and hardly ever with places in our category or size. There seems to be a dynamic that I don’t think science and business schools fully understand yet: When proprietors are close to the day-to-day action and sincere about personally taking great care of their guests (customers) and colleagues, the places are more effective. It must be true that, as our great friend, mentor and partner Mike Weaver once shared with us, “The owner’s footprints make great fertilizer.”
Why? Not sure, but here is a stab at a potential reason. Nancy and I think that restaurant and hotel guests notice things that they don’t notice that they notice, so we need to notice what they notice that they didn’t notice noticing (and what they did) so we can make sure that it, whatever it is, large or small, is positive. (Need to read that again?) We reckon that our sisters and brothers who lead the places where we noticed such a wonderful difference
have the same mind-set (and surely they have an easier way to explain it!). As I write this, I’m thinking a lot about the word proprietorship. To me proprietors see their establishments as extensions of themselves, more than a balance sheet line item. They also get that it isn’t about them, it’s about getting to work with a great group of colleagues who share their enthusiasm and values. Here are a few of the places where we most noticed this elusive
Karakoy Rooms, Istanbul, Turkey: Genuine Care
This is a charming, tiny hotel over an excellent, reasonably priced restaurant, Karakoy Lokantasi. We were there three days before we understood that two of the people in the center of things were a wife/husband proprietor team who own the hotel and restaurant. There wasn’t one detail overlooked…from décor to comfort to flavor to genuine care. (The sidewalk tables were a special treat!)
Restaurant Nicole at the TomTom Suites, Istanbul, Turkey: Authenticity
We dined outdoors on the rooftop, enjoying fantastic views of the city and the Bosporus. Husband and wife chefs Kaan Sakarya and Aylin Yazicioglu knock it out of the park; she does the sweets and he handles the savory dishes. That she has a M.Phil. degree in Sociology from Cambridge and he trained further west in Europe, including at a little place in Paris called Tallevent, might tip you off that this place ain’t ordinary. The all-Turkish wines paired with each course were great. Near the end of our meal, both chefs shared some time with us, and they were as charming and authentic as their food.
Hotel Arlberg, Lech, Austria: Soul-Stirring Service
In Lech, Austria, an amazing ski resort with great summer hiking, we were staying in a lovely third-floor flat accessed by a spiral staircase at Furmesli Apartments. We slept with the windows open, drinking in the rich mountain air and letting the cowbells serenade us to sleep. Whew…we loved it!
After three days, and just a week prior to our flight home, we caught a “hiking bus” to the beautiful, remote Formarinsee Lake. Our plan was to follow the Lech River back to Lech, but two miles into our nine-mile journey home, Nancy stepped from a glacial erratic rock onto a gritty patch and her foot slipped. Another rock stopped her slide, but that sudden stop severely broke her ankle. Luckily for us, five wonderful German women we had had a brief conversation with back at the lake happened along. They turned out to be our sheros. Marie, the shero with the best command of English, took charge of telephone communication. The others held a space blanket over Nancy to keep her in the shade, carefully applied a cooling spray to her ankle and generally comforted her with their warmth and kindness.
After about an hour and a half, an impressive rescue helicopter landed nearby, and the pros quickly stabilized Nancy’s leg before getting her loaded in. Dr. Rhomberg, a third-generation orthopedic surgeon, met the helicopter in Lech. (I guess it makes sense that small ski resort towns can support three generations of people who fix broken bones.) Five hours later, Dr. Rhomberg and his mother had put a seven-inch plate with eight screws on one side of her ankle and two longer screws on the other side. They couldn’t have been more competent, polite, goodnatured or accommodating. We spent the night in the clinic, which was more like a boutique hotel.
After the accident, the twisting steps to our flat were too risky on crutches, so I went off to find a place with a lift. I started at the Arlberg Hotel, where two days prior we had enjoyed a fantastic dinner in the garden. At that dinner a genuinely helpful fellow named Willie and his colleague, Eve, got right much of our attention by suggesting some amazing Austrian wines and offering advice that we could tell was sincere. Given that we’d come to trust Willie and Eve, I went to find them to ask if they’d introduce me to someone in the hotel who might be as helpful as they had been. Willie marched me over to the hotel and asked hotelman Michael to take good care of us. And boy did he! Michael was incredibly thoughtful and considerate. He showed me several rooms, and we collaborated on which one might be best given Nancy’s limited mobility. Later, more than once, he used his personal car to help us get over to the clinic for PT.
Long story short: We spent the next five nights at the Hotel Arlberg, and we ate every meal there…with the people whom we’d come to like and trust. We felt that the entire hotel — not just the people but also the place — existed to serve us…not in a royal obligation sort of way but in a “we are glad to be your host” way. It really was like being a guest in someone’s home without the guilt of overstaying your welcome. Here are just a few examples of things that were extraordinary at Hotel Arlberg:
- The food was amazing. The menu changed enough and had enough breadth that we didn’t tire of dining there even after so many meals.
• They always had a table set for us, along with a special stool and pillow arranged so that Nancy could keep her leg elevated.
• One afternoon, the proprietor of the hotel, Mr. Schneider, had his Maserati Quattroporte parked out front when we came down for Nancy’s scheduled ride to the clinic. He said, “I’ll take you today.” He didn’t have to do that, but he wanted to. It was our perception that he enjoyed taking us as much as we enjoyed the ride. And he picked us up an hour later (probably after a mountain road joy ride for himself — that’s what I’d have done!).
This genuine care stirred our souls and re-affirmed our plan to focus most of our energy on our current responsibilities. We hope that our continued focus on being active proprietors will result in deep, genuine camaraderie with our colleagues and wonderful experiences for our guests. Maybe our guests will notice a positive difference that they did not notice that they noticed. (Smile!)
Back in Greensboro: Bringing It Home
When we got home, partially because of Nancy’s immobility, we spent a month staying at the O.Henry and Proximity. We got to experience these wonderful hotels and restaurants like never before — we really felt like guests, not staff members or even proprietors just visiting. It was a great way to compare them with the fine establishments we’d visited overseas. We loved our stays and dining experiences…and we did notice a few things that were inconsistent with our intentions (rest assured that attention is being paid to those). What we were left with more than anything is how lucky we are to get to work with such fantastic, dedicated people!
So, there you have it, yet another rather aimless Rambling that I enjoy sharing and I hope you enjoy reading.
Dennis W. Quaintance
We are really jazzed about this Jazz thing at O.Henry. An amazing Greensboro icon and writer, Ogi Overman, recently penned some words about what’s up. Here are some excerpts from his “Select Jazz on Select Saturdays” in the Greensboro News & Record:
“But what to do with [Dennis Quaintance’s] pride and joy, the Social Lobby of the O.Henry Hotel? Designed after the famed Algonquin Hotel in New York City, long a jazz Mecca unto itself, last September he and [Jazz] curator Victoria Clegg launched Thursday Cocktails and Jazz at the O.Henry. The ongoing series features saxophonist Neill Clegg, Jr. (Victoria’s husband), pianist Dave Fox, both music professors at Greensboro College, and a rotating roster of cream-of-the-crop featured vocalists. To say that it has been a wild success is putting it mildly.
But still, ecstatic as he was over the jazz series, the affable Quaintance felt there was something missing, something that could be done to embellish the overall jazz scene in the community. He explains it thusly:
‘We envisioned Cocktails and Jazz as an American Songbook-based thing. The variety is based on the vocalists themselves. But if jazz is considered a 360 degree circle, American Songbook is probably about 90 degrees of the spectrum. We wanted to do more but did not want to tamper with the format that fits the room. Thursdays have been so wonderful, we decided to start a series that would employ the other 270 degrees of the circle in different ways.’ The result is Select Saturdays O.Henry Jazz Series (Vol. 1)…”
Select Saturdays O.Henry Jazz Series (Vol. 1) is from 6:30-9:30 PM on select Saturdays. Schedule: Nov. 14 – Jazz Nomads featuring Randy Craven and Sheila Duell; Nov. 28 – Diana Tuffin; Dec. 19 – Melva Houston; Jan. 9 – Joey Barnes; Jan. 23 – The Quintessentials. Every Thursday Cocktails & Jazz from 5:30-8:30 PM. See the full schedule at ohenryhotel.com.
Consider our Select Saturday Jazz Series Package: one night’s gracious accommodations, preferred seating at our O.Henry Jazz Series, a $30 amenity voucher, a Southern-style breakfast buffet and a late checkout. $249 plus tax and gratuities. You can book online at ohenryhotel.com or call (336) 854-2000.
Here are a few ideas, happenings and news items to brighten your holiday season and help you take it easy celebrating with friends, family and loved ones:
Neighborhood Rate: Experience the holiday enchantment of O.Henry and Proximity Hotels for yourself or give the gift of luxury to someone you love. Take advantage of our Neighborhood Rate of $199 plus taxes for a King or Double Queen Room. Available November 22–29, December 20–27 and January 1–10. For reservations, call Proximity at (336) 379-8200 or O.Henry at (336) 854-2000 and ask for the “Neighborhood Rate.”
Holiday Dining: Get out of the hot kitchen this year and dine with us.
- Green Valley Grill and Print Works Bistro are both open 12 Noon–8 PM on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day(serving their dinner menus plus a special “traditional favorites” menu), and their bars remain open until 10 PM. Print Works will also serve breakfast from 7:30–11 AM.
- At Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Cary, we’ll be open on Thanksgiving Day from 11:30 AM—7:30 PM, servingour regular menus plus a traditional turkey plate. Greensboro Lucky’s is closed on Thanksgiving. Both Cary and Greensboro Lucky’s will close at 3 PM on Christmas Eve and be closed on Christmas Day.
2016 Cooking Class Series
Here’s the perfect holiday gift for the foodie in your life! Print Works Bistro and Green Valley Grill Executive Chef Leigh Hesling will present six classes in 2016, three at Proximity Hotel (Feb. 13, Jun. 18, Sept. 10) and three at O.Henry Hotel (Mar. 12, Jul. 23, Oct. 22). Start with a seasonal cocktail during the cooking demonstration, then savor a three-course meal paired with some amazing wines. Tickets are $80 per class or purchase a three-class package for $225. For tickets, contact Lee Healy at (336) 478-9126 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Turn these Saturday classes into a real weekend by staying overnight.
Winter Specials at Proximity and O.Henry Hotels: Neighbors: Share these offers with friends and family coming to visit, or take a break from the holiday hubbub with your own getaway. These offers are available Friday and Saturday nights, November 20–January 23, and every night December 20–24.
- Sustainable Cheer at Proximity: Check in early and use your $30 amenity voucher for dinner at Print Works Bistro or
wonderful breakfast in bed the next morning. Stay cozy a little longer with a late checkout of 2 PM.$229 plus taxes.Book at proximityhotel.com or call (336) 379-8200.
- Gift of the Magi at O.Henry: Check in early, then use your $30 amenity voucher for Green Valley Grill, afternoon tea and more. The next morning, enjoy a full Southern-style breakfast buffet overlooking the Cloister Garden and relax with a late checkout of 2 PM.$229 plus taxes. Book at ohenryhotel.com or call (336) 854-2000.
Every Wednesday: Mussels-Wine-Music
Unwind with friends at Print Works Bistro every Wednesday night with our Chef’s Mussels for $15, five wines from $10 to $15 a bottle and live acoustic music from 7–10 PM by Evan Olson and Jessica Mashburn of AM rOdeO. Fantastic covers and original live music. No cover charge!
Songs from a Southern Kitchen: Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro features extraordinary performances by exceptional musicians, impressive Southern snacks and libations. Join local acoustic musicians (such as Laurelyn Dossett or Molly McGinn or Martha Bassett and others) as they dish up some pretty cool vibes to help you chill out. Every Tuesday from 6–9 PM…no cover charge! Visit lucky32.com for the full lineup.
Skillet-Fried Chicken: Starting at 3 PM every Sunday at Lucky’s in Greensboro, just after we quit serving our brunch menu, we dish up this extra-special fried chicken! In Cary we serve our skillet-fried chicken every Wednesday from 4 PM until we run out. This is good stuff, pan-fried in locally-rendered lard and served with mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, collard greens and a hunk of dipping cornbread. You can also get it packed up to take home or for a tailgate party.
Our afternoon tea at O.Henry Hotel has become quite a tradition, so much so that we have expanded the serving hours. Now, our regular hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 12 Noon–5 PM, and Monday–Thursday, 2–5 PM. (December 3–31, Thursday afternoon tea hours are from 11 AM–3 PM to accommodate Thursday Night Cocktails & Jazz.) For reservations, call Green Valley Grill at (336) 854-2015.
Let Us Do the Cooking! Here are some options so you can spend more time with family and friends and less time in the kitchen.
Thanksgiving-to-Go Orders: To make it easy for you Green Valley Grill is offering Thanksgiving-to-Go. Place your order by 10 PM on Monday, November 23, then stop by on Thanksgiving Day (10 AM–3 PM) to pick up your juicy, wood-fired, rotisserie-roasted turkey with all the trimmings; along with your choice of sides, salad, bread and dessert. To place your order visit greenvalleygrill.com or call (336) 854-2015.
- We’ve Got You Covered!Heading to a party and need to bring a side dish? Lucky’s offers a yummy party sides to-go menu. Pick up pint and quartoptions of collards, soups, beans and greens, whipped sweet potatoes, creamy grits, pimento cheese, and artichoke dip — and don’t forget the black bean cakes! See our “Party Sides Menu” at lucky32.com. To place an order, call Lucky’s in Cary at (919) 233-1632 or in Greensboro at (336) 370-0707.
- Get Lucky & Go:Call Lucky 32, order from our regular menu or choose one of our “family meal” options, then we cook and bring your order right to your car. Please see our “Get Lucky & Go” menu atlucky32.com.
Nutcracker Tea at O.Henry: This holiday tradition is wildly popular! Treats inspired by dreams of dancing sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers and waltzing flowers will accompany your choice of seasonal tea, warm apple cider or hot chocolate. Children will enjoy decorating gingerbread houses, making holiday crafts and watching vignettes from The Nutcracker performed by the Artistic Motion Dance Company. Afterward, join Clara by the tree as she reads The Nutcracker. Bring your camera! November 29, and December 6, 13, and 20 (All DatesSold Out!). Reservations are filling extremely fast, so call (336) 854-2015. $44 per person for adults and children, plus 20% service charge.
Our restaurants and hotels offer gift cards available for purchase seven days a week onsite, or order online at qwrh.com. Customize a gift certificate for a hotel night’s stay (or choose from a variety of packages) for your fortunate recipient by calling Proximity at (336) 379-8200 or O.Henry at (336) 854-2000. Consider ordering our Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Voodoo Sauce (by the bottle or case) from our online store at qwrh.com or pick up a bottle at Lucky’s.
Holiday Parties & Special Events!
Host your celebration at our places! We have multiple private and semi-private venues for special happenings. From simple things like being able to pre-order lunch for your group if you don’t have much time to “over-the-top” shindigs for up to 400 people, we love helping with special celebrations and business gatherings. All of our places have options:
- O.Henry and Proximity Hotels offer bespoke events, from weddings,receptions, luncheons and grand dinners to office parties and retreats. Call our events team at (336) 544-9615 or visit ohenryhotel.com or proximityhotel.com.
- Lucky’s in Cary seats up to 70 people in a semi-private dining area. Call(919) 233-1632.
- Lucky’s in Greensboro’s private Starlight dining room seats 10, and we can host larger parties in the dining room. Call (336) 370-0707.
- For a not-so-private gathering, Print Works Bistro and Green Valley Grill can accommodate up to 30 people in their traditional dining areas.
Already have a venue for your event, but need a great place for your guests to stay? We offer special
group rates. Call (336) 478-9111.
For reservations and to learn more about our New Year’s happenings, visit proximityhotel.com or call Proximity at (336) 379-8200. To reserve a table, visit printworksbistro.com or call (336) 379-0699.
- The Avett Brothers Concert & Room Package: Includes two concert tickets, transportation to and from the Greensboro Coliseum, breakfast in bed and a late checkout of 2 PM. Package available December 31, 2015 only. Very limited availability! $599 plus taxes, and stay an additional night for only $129 more. For reservations, please call (336) 478-9105, Monday–Friday 8 AM–6 PM or Saturday 10 AM–4 PM. To learn more, visit proximityhotel.com.
- Cheers to 2016 Package: Check in extra-early (at noon) and unwind with housemade treats and sparkling wine in your loft-like room. Take advantage of priority dinner reservations at Print Works Bistro, then join the New Year’s Eve Pop-up Dance Club from 10 PM–1 AM. The next morning, enjoy breakfast in bed and an extra-late checkout of 4 PM. $329 plus taxes and gratuities, and stay an additional night for only $129 more.
- Print Works Bistro New Year’s Eve Celebration: Full dinner menu and a special four-course prix fixe menu, plus our Pop-up Dance Club at 10 PM, featuring DJ Jessica Mashburn. The party won’t stop until 1 AM. No cover charge! January 1, nosh on brunch from 7:30 AM– 4 PM.
At O.Henry & Green Valley Grill
- Ring in the New Year Package: Celebrate with a bottle of sparkling wine and housemade treats in your guestroom after an extra-early (noon) check-in. Enjoy priority reservations at Green Valley Grill, then watch the arrival of 2016 in your room, snuggled up with your honey, or come to the lobby for Jazz. The next day, enjoy breakfast in bed and an extra-late checkout of 4 PM. $329 plus taxes and gratuities, and stay an additional night for only $129 more.
- Greensboro Symphony Package: Package includes a $30 credit toward dinner and two tickets plus transportation to and from the Symphony’s “A Night at the Oscars.” On your return, find housemade chocolate truffles and sparkling wine in your room. The next morning, enjoy a full Southern-style breakfast buffet and a late checkout of 2 PM. $319 plus taxes and gratuities, and stay an additional night for only $129 more.
- New Year’s Eve at Green Valley Grill: We’ll serve our full dinner menu, plus a special four-course prix fixe menu, and the bar will be open until 1 AM. On January 1 we’ll serve brunch from 10 AM–4 PM.
- New Year’s Jazz at O.Henry: Two performances on New Year’s Eve for those who want to celebrate early (Dave Fox and Jessica Mashburn from 5:30–8:30 PM) or late (Randy Craven and Sheila Duell from 9:30 PM–12:30 AM), plus craft cocktails and a Mediterranean tapas menu in the Social Lobby.
Lucky 32 New Year’s Menus
On December 31, in Cary and Greensboro we’ll serve a special menu along with our regular dinner menu, and the bar will be open until 11 PM. New Year’s Day Menu: We serve “Good luck” food like collard greens, country ham with red-eye gravy, grilled pork loin chops and Hoppin’ John all day
Neighborhood Letter, HOLIDAY • ™ & © 2015 Quaintance-Weaver and affiliate