LAKE PLACID - Dr. George Hart and his wife, Ruth, were the first given the honor of being the first customers at Lake Placid's newest hotel, the Hampton Inn, as it opened Thursday afternoon.
They and their daughter Nancy were at the hotel at 3 p.m. Thursday, just in time to check in as workers bustled around the hotel and its exterior putting on the finishing touches.
"We've watched the hotel being built from day one," Ruth told the Enterprise.
Hotel entrepreneur Art Lussi, right, talks to the first patron of his new Hampton Inn hotel, Dr. George Hart, center, after he and his wife Ruth check in Thursday afternoon.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
Her husband was born about 100 yards from the property, which is on Mirror Lake Drive next to the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, and he used to play on a playground where the hotel now stands.
He ran a local medical practice for years. He graduated from Lake Placid High School in 1934 and served on the school board for about a decade back in the 1970s.
Ruth has lived in Lake Placid with him for 67 years. The couple resides on Interlaken Avenue.
"How fun to spend opening night in a new hotel in your hometown," Nancy said after her parents checked in.
The Harts moved past the welcome desk and into the hotel's main "great room," with high ceilings and plenty of cushy seating that has a view of Mirror Lake courtesy of a wall made largely of windows. Art Lussi, whose family built the new hotel, met them and listened to the Harts talk about the old days when the Lake Placid Club still was on the hotel site.
Lussi told the Enterprise it was special that his first doctor was the first customer of the hotel. He explained that Dr. Hart was celebrating his birthday at the Crowne Plaza, another Lussi property, when he told Lussi he wanted to be the Hampton's first customer.
Lussi said he plans to join the Harts for breakfast in the morning and get their critique of the new building.
The Harts weren't the only ones expected to stay at the new hotel Thursday night. Richard T. Cambeis II, the hotel's general manager, told the Enterprise about six guests were expected to make reservations.
"So it's pretty exciting," he said. "Everything's ready to go."
There will be about a one-week delay until the pool works, but it should be ready for the Ironman triathlon July 28, Cambeis said.
The hotel features 97 rooms over five stories, and there's a 24-hour mini convenience store in the lobby. Cambeis said that in the mornings, the great room will be a seating area for hotel patrons taking advantage of the complementary hot breakfast buffet. Then in the afternoons and evenings, the lights will be dimmed, candles will be lit, the TVs will be turned on, and the hotel will encourage guests to hang out there, sort of as an extension of their guest rooms.
Off the great room are a 24-hour business center with computers and printers, plus 1,100 square feet of meeting space. Cambeis said he expects the meeting space will be mainly used for social functions, and it can be divided into two rooms if necessary. The rooms open onto an outdoor patio with a fire pit.
"I think that's going to be a popular spot," Cambeis said.
The hotel will employ about 35 people. During the construction phase, Cambeis estimated that somewhere between 100 and 125 people worked on it.
"It was a pretty big crew," he said.
This is Cambeis' second Hampton Inn opening. The first was in his home state of New Jersey. He's been vacationing in the Adirondacks since he was a kid, though, and he said he was thrilled when there was an opportunity to move here for a job.
Lussi told the Enterprise he was relieved the hotel was finally open, and he said it felt good to be able to give people a definite opening date.
"It's come a long way in two weeks," he said. "I never dreamed it was going to make it. But it's pretty spectacular in here."
He said all the work couldn't have gotten done by now if it hadn't been for cooperation from the village electric, water and highway departments, and all the business' other friends and neighbors.
The Lussis had been hoping to open in time for the horse shows, but it was nice to be able to open the week after, when Lussi said it tends to be quiet, to give management a week to work out the operating kinks before Ironman comes to town.
He said he looks forward to getting the 29 parking spots on neighboring Searle Lane back into the village parking system, which is expected to happen soon.
"That's a big deal for me and the community," Lussi said.
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or email@example.com.