Thirteen Going On Winner

My thirteen-year-old daughter recently recounted a story for me about a disruption at her school involving a classmate that required administrators to respond to a sort of “Code Red” emergency. Weighing life’s major moments of civil unrest, online this one sounded fairly tame on the terror threat scale, but it still landed hard as a story of a disruptive teen who was clearly struggling with the challenge of finding a way to appropriately express an emotional response to something that had gotten under her skin.

I couldn’t help but think of this tale as I took my seat next to Tamia, her mother LaQuanda and Tamia’s Big Sister Denise at a recent gala held by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Milwaukee in the Pfister’s Grand Ballroom. My mind didn’t turn to this tale of troubled teenage drama because of anything happening over plates of chicken, drugstore fish and dinner rolls, but instead because I found it hard to believe that thirteen-year-old Tamia could have once easily been cast in the role of the disruptive girl in my daughter’s story.

The broad smile across Tamia’s face didn’t seem like the mask of a troubled kid. But I discovered in talking to this bright young girl and her caring mother and Big Sister that trouble had seemed to follow Tamia everywhere she went during her preteen years. As an elementary school student she had difficulty focusing in school. She caused her fair share of incidents and was the central figure in many stories like the one that my daughter had shared with me about her recent particularly eventful school day. All that began to change when her mom LaQuanda decided that she, as a single mom trying the best she could, would not be able to tackle the Tamia problem alone. LaQuanda did what any loving mom would do—she reached out for help, and in doing so found a sister for Tamia; a Big Sister to be exact.

Denise has been Tamia’s Big Sister going on some five years now. She and Tamia have a relationship that is now forged in steel, but according to Denise was once more like a pile of fresh clay ready to be shaped into a symbol of strength.

Denise remembers that when she first met Tamia, the little girl was timid and scared, a young lady who hid behind her mother and barely spoke. I look across the table at Tamia who scans the ballroom with a gentle, open, honest, and inquisitive gaze. She’s chattering away with her mom and confidently answering the questions that the couple who are seated with us as our tablemates are asking her. It’s impossible to imagine that this poised and charming young woman was once the type of kid that could turn a sunny day dark. She’s now the type of child who will pick up the phone and call her Big Sister for help with her math homework even when Denise is traveling in Asia for business. You know that Denise adores Tamia because she tells me that she took that call at 3am so she could work out some tricky word problems with her Little Sister across time zones.

Denise and Tamia are special honorees at this evening event, recognized as the Big Sister and Little Sister match of the year. They are shy about the honor, almost embarrassed whenever anyone offers them a nod of congratulations. They seem to realize that they’re just lucky to have found each other, one of the many success stories from the 1,300 matches that the Milwaukee Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter makes each year.

LaQuanda takes another approach to celebrating tonight’s honor. She’s gaga about where her daughter is today. LaQuanda is playing the role of the proudest mother in town and she does what any fierce, strong mom would do on a night that her kid is publicly recognized for something great. She takes as many pictures as she possibly can and claps and cheers louder than anyone.

DSC03575
Tamia and LaQuanda out on the town.

As I watch LaQuanda standing in a crowded room taking pictures of Tamia and Denise receiving the recognition they deserve, I think of my own thirteen-year-old daughter and how blessed I am to not be a single parent, but to have a superbly supportive and wise spouse to help me raise my two children. I don’t know if I would have been as smart as LaQuanda to reach out for help if I found that my daughter was headed down a rough road as a young girl, but I’m wise enough to know that LaQuanda deserves her own round of applause.

DSC03574
The proudest mom in town capturing the Big and Little Sister getting some serious props.

LaQuanda and I end up talking about options for high schools for both our daughters, a dynamic concern we both share about making sure we get our children in the right environment for success. I catch Tamia and Denise bantering back and forth across the table about the food at the event, and they absolutely look like there’s a blood bond between them with the obvious love they show one another. Our table hoots the loudest as Tamia and Denise get their moment in the spotlight, and then we all conspire over how we might trick our server into bringing us double dessert. Just your average night when you’re seated with the coolest people in the room at a fancy affair.

As our night winds down I promise to take Tamia and LaQuanda to see the top floor swimming pool at the Pfister. Before I do I pull Tamia aside and tell her, “You know, my daughter is thirteen-years-old, too, and she’s ALMOST as nice as you.” Tamia gives me a chuckle and flashes a smile to make your heart melt, and I know that my own child wouldn’t even roll her eyes over that corny bit of dad humor. Tamia is all winner, and thanks to a mother and Sister who have her back, she’s ready to tackle any mountain that might get in her way.

Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.

Fred Pfister: Part 2 of 2

“My grandmother used to save this stuff and my mother was a saver too. Now that I am all alone in the house, rather than just throw it away, I wanted a way to preserve it,” Fred Pfister said about the beautiful handmade clothing his grandmother created. We couldn’t be more flattered that he has entrusted the Pfister Hotel to preserve his family’s legacy. Before we tuck  away these artifacts for safe keeping, Timothy and I felt such unique, delicate garments deserved one more walk around the hotel. And lucky for me, they fit like a glove.

The maroon jacket, made from traditional linen with decorative, silk ribbon appliques, dates back to the early 1900s. The wicker boning on the inside was very rare for the time; most tailors used whale bone. Fred’s grandmother Margaret made the jacket for herself – she sewed all of her own clothes. Timothy helped me carefully place the jacket over my shoulders and immediately I felt like a character in a black-and-white photograph. The sophisticated bun perched atop my head, created by the WellSpa, solidified my look as a true Gibson Girl pin-up of the Belle Epoque.

The pink satin dress belonged to Fred’s mother, Helen. She loved to dance. The cool satin cascaded down my body, stopping to rest on each curve. As I slipped into it, I felt myself morph into Helen Pfister. Fred explained that his grandmother made the dress for Helen to attend a wedding party.  The above-the-ankle hemline and flared bottom allowed for movement when she would glide and turn. Helen loved to waltz, but she didn’t care much for  the flappers – she thought they were too risque. Helen waltzed right into the arms of her husband Fredrick Pfister at the Milwaukee Club (right across the street for the Pfister Hotel) and spent the next 60 years of her life with him.

Helen’s silk crepe blouse was originally black, but over the years, has faded to a rich olive hue. It’s embellished with iridescent glass beads and a high, pointed collar. Both the blouse and the dress date back to the late thirties, though paired with denim, the blouse looks contemporary and chic.

Thank you to Fred, who allowed us to revitalize these objects of art and preserve the memory of Margaret Faubel and Helen Pfister. Fred dutifully cared for his mother until she died in 2003 at the age of 94.

To see part one of the Fred Pfister story, click here. All photos courtesy of Carol Rice Kraco and Kraco Photography.

 

741089_4403460160947_1103219705_o

739764_4403324637559_1492313166_o

 

 

 

740730_4403321797488_244401667_o     740819_4403496561857_1042574057_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

265343_4403320637459_25213016_o

737789_4403320877465_482375883_o

A Palace for the People

The King of Hospitality knows a thing or two about throwing a party. I, along with 500 of Mr. Marcus’s closest friends, attended a dinner celebration last week to commemorate his 50th anniversary of Pfister Hotel ownership.

Both Mayor Barrett and Governor Walker declared December 6th “Steve Marcus Day” in Milwaukee. Guests even took home Steve Marcus bobble heads. If there’s any indicator that you’ve made it in life, a mayoral declaration and a personalized bobble head should really top the list.

Stephen’s father, Ben, handed the hotel over to him in 1962 in total disrepair so Steve undertook a $7 million renovation and added on the 23-floor tower. He later found out that the collection of Victorian art was worth more than the hotel at the time. Steve was able to carry out the original vision for the hotel, creating a “palace for the people.”

A few other fun facts I learned:
[next_lists style=”bullet” ]

  •  Every president since McKinley has stayed at the hotel
  • Rosemary Steinfest was the first female GM and worked there from 1962 to 1996 (She’s a lovely lady – more on her to come in January)
  • Dr. Jeffery Hollander has been the musician in residence for 30 years
  • There was a piano piece commissioned in 1894 called The Pfister March

[/next_lists]

 

The three Marcus boys talked about the historical significance of the hotel and its impact on their life and family. Greg, Steve’s son, put it best when he said they think of it more as “caring for” the hotel, rather than owning it.

Andrew, Greg, Steve and David Marcus

The Pfister is filled with special memories for so many other people too. I shared a table with George and Anastasia Papageorge, who married at the Pfister on October 26, 1958. Their daughter also got married there in 1972 and they even celebrated their 25th and 50th anniversaries there. Now, they are hoping their granddaughter will carry on the Papageorge tradition and tie the knot at the Pfister soon! They say that the “Pfister was, and is, the one and only hotel in Milwaukee.”

Anastasia and George Pappageorge

 

Through all the remarks, laughs and historical details, the most touching part of the evening was that after all these years, the Pfister is still relevant and marvelous things still happen every day.

The Pfister Blog is Now Award Winning

We’re excited to announce that we’ve been named by HOTELS Magazine as the winner of not one, but two of their inaugural Social Hotels awards (SoHo Awards).

We have won awards for both “Best Blog – Property” and “Integrated Digital Campaign – Property.”

Naturally, you’re reading the blog, so you’re already familiar with our Narrator program – a program which left the SoHo judges smitten with The Pfister, commenting “Very nicely done.  This hotel took the forward-leaning step to hire a narrator.  The blog posts are extremely well-written – long form and creative in nature with a lot of personality.”

Our Artist-in-Residence digital voting campaign last winter won us the SoHo award for best Integrated Digital Campaign- Property.  With the judges commenting “The general leadership the hotel is showing to create a property artist in residence is phenomenal.”

You can read about our awards and the rest given out in HOTELS Magazine’s 1st Social Hotels Awards in their September digital edition.

We’ve Won the ‘Stars of the Industry’ Award

We’re proud to announce that we’ve won the national ‘Stars of the Industry’ award from the American Hotel & Lodging Association in the category of guest relations for a large property. The awards program recognizes lodging employees and properties that best symbolize the quality service of the industry.

“We are honored to have been recognized with this prestigious award, which is a testament to our dedication to service,” said Joe Kurth our general manager. “We’re proud of the unique guest programs we’ve incorporated over the past few years, and would like to thank our guests for their ongoing support.”

The award in the guest relations category is given for programs that develop a climate conducive to new or repeat business, create goodwill among guests, or provide special services.

We’re all very excited to win this prestigious award.

The Pfister Hotel Receives AAA Four Diamond Award, Gives Away Diamond Pendant

The historic Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee has received more precious diamonds—and also has given diamonds away to a lucky winner! The Pfister was recently awarded the AAA Four Diamond award for the 35th consecutive year. Leading up to this year’s announcement, the hotel held a contest in which one contestant was awarded a diamond necklace.

“We are honored to have been recognized again with AAA’s Four Diamond award,” says Joe Kurth, general manager of The Pfister. “We are proud of the high level of consistent service we offer our guests and are committed to maintaining this critical focus in the years to come. It is a privilege to be ranked among the top four percent of all hotels in the country that have received the esteemed Four Diamond award.”

Last year, The Pfister was one of only 14 out of more than 50,000 properties recognized with the honor for 34 consecutive years—since the inception of the ranking itself in 1977. To qualify as a AAA Four Diamond hotel, applicants must undergo an intensive evaluation process that assesses the hotel’s cleanliness and condition; management and staff; exterior, grounds and public areas; guestroom décor, ambiance and amenities; bathrooms; and guest services.

“The Pfister certainly knows the meaning of customer satisfaction, as it consistently delivers premier experiences, complete with superior personal service, first-class amenities, and impressive surroundings,” said AAA Wisconsin Regional President Tom Frymark. “To uphold the Four Diamond rating for 35 consecutive years is a testament to their commitment to providing the absolute best experience for their guests.”

On New Year’s Eve at The Pfister Hotel, Cortnie Pfarr of Racine, Wis. was announced as the winner of a 14K white gold, black and white diamond pendant from Kloiber Jewelers for participating in the “Find a Diamond, Win a Diamond” contest held by the hotel, which was held to celebrate the previous 34 years The Pfister had received the award.

Built in 1893, The Pfister Hotel has been the premier downtown Milwaukee hotel for more than a century, and continues to celebrate a tradition of gracious service and impeccable style. Home to the largest collection of Victorian art of any hotel in the world, The Pfister is a member of two of the industry’s leading organizations: Historic Hotels of America and Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Located at 424 East Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee, The Pfister can be found online at www.thepfisterhotel.com, on Twitter (@Pfister_Hotel) or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thePfisterHotel.