By: Glynis Hart
The Hotel Saranac ballroom is seen Tuesday with new chandeliers, restored oak wall paneling and — revealed underneath the old carpeting — a herringbone-pattern wood floor. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)
SARANAC LAKE — The long-awaited reopening of the Hotel Saranac on Main Street will take place on Dec. 28, according to hotel management. The hotel began hiring long ago, but as summer wore into fall, the anticipated opening got farther and farther away.
Although the hotel was booking rooms for November, each of those bookings has been moved or otherwise addressed. General Manager Michael Salyers said, “I have personally reached out to every reservation we’ve had to move” to make sure the customers are satisfied. Many simply accepted a later date, he said.
On Tuesday, Salyers led Enterprise staff on a tour of the hotel, where carpenters and painters are working through their punch lists — the last things that need to be done before guests can come in.
In the future gift shop at the front of the hotel, workers were setting up display shelves and dusting, getting ready for the inventory.
The restaurant, on the other side of the arcade, was finished but empty, with the tables and chairs arrayed as if lunch customers would arrive any minute. Farther back in the main kitchen, Executive Chef David Pittman and his staff were testing recipes. Standing over a plate of cornbread and a dish of roasted garlic, Pittman said he’s aiming for three things: comfort, elegance and a campfire aesthetic.
A modern shower and sink are seen in a Hotel Saranac guest bathroom, along with a hotel logo on the mirror. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)
“Your grandmother would know what’s on the plate if you brought her,” said Pittman. “The menu will be recognizable, hearty. Elegant comfort food.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of smoking, braises. It’s rustic modern cuisine. When you go camping, sometimes your whole meal is in one cast iron pot — we want that feeling of sharing to be part of the experience.”
Pittman, who formerly worked at Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, said they’ll do all the baking from scratch and obtain as much local meat and produce as they can.
“I’m looking forward to working with local farmers and seeing what they have to sell,” he said. His goal is to achieve a top rating on Trip Advisor and make the hotel a local destination.
“We’re really here for the food,” said Pittman.
A bedroom on the fourth floor of the newly remodeled Hotel Saranac. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)
Salyers said the hotel has chosen a campfire theme to communicate the sense of people sharing an outdoor experience.
Upstairs, in the Great Hall that opens onto the balcony overlooking Main Street, the hand-painted beams have been painstakingly restored. The terrazzo floors were still in good shape, said Salyers.
Roedel Companies, the new owner of the hotel, has bought a franchise with Hilton, which adds the Hotel Saranac to its Curio collection. While many of the Curio hotels are historic, not all of them have to be.
“These are iconic hotels,” said Salyers, “meaning they’re iconic to the towns, villages, and cities they’re in.
“We get all the power of the Hilton property management system, and our customers get to use the Hilton loyalty program. Employees get Hilton benefits, such as 50 percent off room rentals.”
Spherical lights and reconstructed ceiling molding are seen in the arcade on the Hotel Saranac’s ground floor. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)
The Hotel Saranac will offer 20 suites for large groups or families in a former Paul Smith’s College student residence on Church Street, in addition to 82 rooms (including four suites) in the hotel on Main Street. However, the suites will probably open 30 to 45 days later than the big hotel.
Although the hotel is firm on its opening date, if anything holds it up again it may be the need for more personnel. It has about 25 workers now but hopes to start with 40 to 60. The hotel is advertising for spa technicians, wait staff, room help, a valet, bartenders and other staff.
“We’ve had two job fairs. We’re not finding everybody,” said Salyers. Although the stereotype of hotel jobs is low-paid service workers, Salyers wants a staff he can train to move up.
“I’m trying to cross-train all employees. They’re much more valuable to themselves and to me then. There’s nothing I want more than that vertical mobility,” he said.
On the first floor behind the future gift shop, a full-service hair and nail salon for both men and women is being prepared. A spa downstairs in the overhauled basement will offer a steam room, massage, skin care and more, while wedding parties or people walking in off the street will be able to come to the hair salon or the adjacent barbershop on the corner of Academy Street.
Camp Fire, the Hotel Saranac’s restaurant and bar, is seen Tuesday, almost ready to open. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)
“We haven’t found a barber yet,” Salyers said.
Executive chef David Pittman is looking forward to serving locally grown “elegant comfort” food. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)
Hotel Saranac General Manager Michael Salyers stands in the Great Hall on the hotel’s second floor Tuesday. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)