By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www. AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – In September 2013, The Otesaga’s new general manager, Marty Rosenthal, had just completed his first year as GM of a major hotel, the 269-room Millenium Harvest in Boulder, Colo.
If he thought he could relax, he had to quickly think again.
On Sept. 11, the worst floods in its history struck Colorado, and Boulder was hit hardest, with rains peaking at 17 inches on the 17th – the amount that normally falls over a whole year.
“Is this some kind of rookie initiative?” Rosenthal asked himself.
With the ground floor flooded, the relatively new GM set up “triage” – an emergency-management unit – in the second-floor ballroom to keep the hotel running as winds stronger than fabled Hurricane Katrina buffeted the property.
Other hotels raised rates, taking advantage of patrons forced from their homes. Marty, imbued in customer service, took a longer view, lowering rates.
“We didn’t want to take advantage of the situation,” he remembered in a Friday, Oct. 30, interview, in his high-ceilinged new office. He arrived at the 111-year-old Otesaga two months ago from the 250-year-old Equinox in Manchester, Vt., where he was general manager.
In listening to Marty Rosenthal recount his story, he’s been adept at turning challenges into opportunities every step of the way, just as he did in Boulder.
At The Otesaga for only two months, he announced last week that the storied hotel will, for the first time in its history, be open year-’round.
In part, he said, it’s because the Cooper Inn, The Otesaga’s sister establishment, is being used during this COVID-19 winter as temporary offices for Clark Foundation staff members from New York City.
Seeking to draw guests within driving distance – even as close at Utica and Oneonta – looking for a cozy weekend getaway, Rosenthal also announced a Winter Wonderland Special, a Holiday Lantern Tour package and a Curl & Unwind Special.
This year’s challenges also present “a good testing ground,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to put our toe in the water.”
Turning a challenge into an opportunity came early for Rosenthal, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in East Islip.
An avid rugby player at Springfield College and a good one, a coach nonetheless pointed out to him on his 1989 graduation that he simply wasn’t big enough to pursue the sport professionally.
So instead, he founded Ultimate Rugby, organizing development camps for players, developing equipment and rugby wear lines, and hosting tournaments.
With no rugby in the winter, Rosenthal headed up to Vermont in 1999, and was soon running the ski and snowboard school Mount Snow, with promotions following one after another.
When the Mount Snow Company was sold in 2004, the new owner shifted him to the Steamboat Grand in Steamboat Springs, Colo., in food & beverage. By 2011, he was general manager of the Millenium and Copthorne hotels in Boulder.
Along the way, he reached out for training offered by AHLA, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and developed a leadership style, “growing teams, monitoring, raising standards and implementing new ideas.”
He credits his advancement to one phrase he heard repeatedly, “Marty, can you go and fix it?”
One example of many: The Steamboat Grand used to routinely win Wine Spectator magazine’s Award for Excellence, but had slipped. He again made the Grand a contender.
“Did they need any of that?” he asked. “No. But it made them better and more competitive. I say, yes.”
Two years’ problem-solving at HEI Hotels & Resorts properties led to his appointment in 2018 as GM at The Equinox, and he found himself with a particular challenge.
Manchester, Vt., had developed outlet malls as a magnet for visitors. But Internet shopping had sapped the outlets. Plus, The Equinox, long the only game in town, was suddenly facing competition from two new hotels.
Marty Rosenthal began to do his thing.
Manchester is an artists’ hub, so he began weekend “pop-up” art galleries in The Equinox ballroom, a new magnet. He participated in developing community events – a tractor parade each Christmas, for instance.
The Equinox is set on 1,300 acres, including a sizeable pond. And, every full moon, he organized evening hikes that ended with a pond-side dinner. When a national magazine ranked the best places, state by state, to enjoy a full moon, The Equinox was the choice for Vermont.
When former GM Jim Miles approached him about the top job at The Otesaga, of course he knew it by reputation. He had worked for independent and stand-alone operations, and was intrigued by the marketing possibilities of an independent hotel of The Otesaga’s stature.
Owner Jane Forbes Clark’s commitment to the operation – and Cooperstown, generally – impressed him, as did the thoroughness of the recruitment process. One day, he met with more than a dozen managers.
So he and his wife Jessica, moved to town, to the general manager’s house on Lake Street, and they love it, he said. In particular, his wife is enjoying the short walk to Main Street, and its offerings.
“Everything is a learning experience,” said the 40-something executive, walking across the lobby onto the veranda and the view of Otsego Lake and the Sleeping Lion. “I definitely approach life that way.”