Shake-up at Hotel Saranac

A month into rebirth, company fires general manager

Hotel Saranac General Manager Michael Salyers, who was dismissed Tuesday, leads reporters theough the Great Hall during a tour in November 2017. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

SARANAC LAKE — A month after opening the reborn Hotel Saranac, Roedel Companies fired the hotel’s general manager.

Michael Salyers said the company let him go on Tuesday without telling him why. He said it came out of the blue, with no warning.

The company declined to discuss the matter, responding Friday through a hired public relations firm.

“Roedel Companies does not publicly comment on personnel decisions,” said Jim Fennell of EVR Advertising, based in Roedel Companies’ home state of New Hampshire.

Salyers stood up for his work and his commitment.

A guest carrying a bag walks through the Hotel Saranac’s arcade hallway Thursday, as seen through the revolving door on Main Street, Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

“I bled Hotel Saranac,” he said. “My last day off was the 15th of January.” The hotel opened Jan. 18.

While it searches for a new general manager, the company has appointed Brenda Edwards to the job on an interim basis. She has been general manager of Roedel Companies’ Hilton Garden Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, since 2009. She, RGH Hospitality President Glenn Hardeman and RGH Hospitality Operations Manager Martin LeGay were at the Hotel Saranac Thursday.

Salyers held the position for a year-and-a-half before the hotel opened, starting in July 2016. He hired the management team and much of the staff, put together the standard operating procedures and did a little bit of everything in setting up the hotel’s rooms, restaurant, bars, gift shop and spa. He was also a liaison with the community and thus became known around Saranac Lake. He has worked at four- and five-star hotels and spas in various parts of the country, including in Lake Placid for about eight years before getting the Hotel Saranac job.

Saranac Lakers had seen him welcome them for the hotel’s opening day, Historic Saranac Lake’s Roaring ’20s gala Jan. 20, an open house Jan. 24 and a formal ribbon cutting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo last Saturday, Feb. 17.

“To make this dramatic change is a bit of a surprise so soon,” said artist Tim Fortune, a native of the village whose painting studio is a few doors down Main Street from the hotel. “It sounds like it’s an internal mater that hopefully will be resolved in a positive way for the community. Of course, if the hotel succeeds, we all succeed, so to hear of any bumps in the road this early is concerning.”

The six-story Hotel Saranac is located at 100 Main St. in the heart of downtown Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

Fortune said there’s nothing much to go on at this point.

“The restaurant looks like it is doing very well with customers,” he said. “From everything I’ve seen, it looked like it was off to a great start.”

Roedel Companies is owned by the Roedel family, which has roots in Saranac Lake going back more than a century and still maintains a summer residence here. The family has consistently said it considers the Hotel Saranac to belong to the community and described the restoration as a passion project.

It’s been a long, hard road. When Roedel Companies bought the shuttered hotel in 2013, the owners expected the restoration to cost $17 million and planned to reopen in 2014 or 2015. But then they expanded the scope of the project, and there were delays for both construction and to look for new financing. Last Saturday, Chief Financial Officer Fred Roedel III said the cost has more than doubled to over $36 million.

Salyers speculated that he may have been an “easy scapegoat” if the hotel fell short of its revenue goals. He said when company officials recently reviewed the hotel’s budget, “I know they weren’t overly excited about the returns.”

Around 200 people gather in the Hotel Saranac’s Ballroom last Saturday, Feb. 17, to hear Gov. Andrew Cuomo speak before a ribbon cutting for the hotel. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

Also, he said, local vendors of food, gift shop products and spa products have been calling about when they will get paid.

Still, he said, “Thirty days is a tough evaluation.”

Could a behavior issue or professional failure led to Salyers’ dismissal instead? “Nothing that I was told about, asked to change,” Salyers said.

“I’ve not been written up for a single thing. I’ve not been counseled or coached on a single thing.”

How has business been in the hotel’s first month? Salyers said the restaurant is busy and that while the 82 rooms are quiet mid-week, “like a typical winter,” they’ve come close to selling out most weekends, especially those involving Presidents Day and the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival.

“I wouldn’t say it’s dramatically off,” he said.

He pointed out that the Hotel Saranac opened only three days after the village gave it a Certificate of Occupancy, whereas he said a hotel staff would normally have 30 days in between. That left some start-up details still being worked out. He also said he hasn’t seen the main construction firm, JNK of Glens Falls, on site since the opening, and there is still work to do.

“So it’s kind of fallen to my staff, including myself,” Salyers said, “trying to run a hotel and trying to work out those things.”

How did he feel two days after being fired? “Still a little shocked,” he said.

“I feel bad for my staff, the staff I put together. I’ll make it. It’s a tough industry — not always a lot of loyalty. I enjoyed working for the marketing and PR partners that we had. I enjoyed working with the people I did work with. That’s why this was a shock. It’s not like I had a feud with anybody. I felt like I had a good rapport with the ownership. Every time Fred was in town, he’d say hi.”