DiLucia back at helm of Aspen’s Hotel Jerome
ASPEN – The man long considered the heart and soul of the Hotel Jerome’s modern era has been rehired as the general manager.
Tony DiLucia will take the helm of Aspen’s iconic hotel Nov. 1. He was hired by Auberge Resorts, which takes over management of the Hotel Jerome the same date.
Eric Calderon, chief operating officer of Auberge, said he knew whom he wanted as general manager as soon as Auberge inked a deal in September to take over the management contract.
“I chased him from the get-go,” Calderon said. The men are friends and were friendly competitors for years while Calderon was general manager of The Little Nell hotel in Aspen.
Calderon said there were several well-qualified candidates for the position, but DiLucia was the favorite because of his past success at the hotel and his keen awareness of the Hotel Jerome’s important role in the town.
“He was by far my top choice,” Calderon said.
DiLucia, 49, worked at the Hotel Jerome as an apprentice in 1986, then started there full time in April 1988. He advanced from director of catering to assistant food and beverage director to director of sales and marketing.
In February 1992 he was promoted to general manager. He held the position until RockResorts, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, decided not to retain him when it took over the management contract in May 2007. Many of the staff in place at the time departed once DiLucia wasn’t retained.
“It was very easy to say ‘yes,’ and at the same time it was a difficult decision,” DiLucia said of his return.
It was easy to say “yes,” he said, because of the chance to work with Auberge and, specifically, Calderon and Auberge principal and CEO Mark Harmon. He said he probably wouldn’t have accepted the position with another management company. He is confident that his vision aligns with Auberge’s vision.
It was also easy to take the position because of his affection for the Hotel Jerome and appreciation of the hotel’s place in Aspen history. It has been a centerpiece of town since it was completed in 1889.
“It’s so hard to put into words what the place means to me,” DiLucia said.
The difficult part in accepting the position was the effect on his current position. After leaving the Hotel Jerome, DiLucia pursued a career in real estate sales. That was about six months before the recession hit, but DiLucia said he has thrived in the new job despite the economic slowdown, and he enjoys it. He is a partner in Aspen Associates Realty Group.
Nevertheless, he said he had to take the position with the hotel: “Sometimes in life, events choose you instead of vice versa,” he said.
DiLucia will stay involved with his real estate firm and in sales after he rejoins the Hotel Jerome.
DiLucia said it is too soon for him to talk about any specific changes he will make at the Jerome. In general, he intends to rekindle the relationship with the community. DiLucia didn’t want to comment on management at the Jerome in the 4 1/2 years since he was let go. Many observers feel the hotel management lost touch with Aspenites during a period of turnover in ownership and under RockResorts’ tenure.
“There has to be a connection to the locals,” DiLucia said. “You have to embrace the locals at all levels.”
One goal is to get locals comfortable with the J-Bar again as a favorite watering hole. Tourists like to go where the locals like to go, DiLucia noted. In his earlier tenure as general manager, he was proud that his staff treated locals and visitors alike. All were welcome.
Another goal is to resurrect the ballroom’s stature as a hub of community activity. One way of doing that is to create the best banquet food and service possible, and make it consistent, DiLucia said.
He also said he looks forward to nurturing a tight-knit staff. “I ran the hotel like a big family. The staff was everything,” DiLucia said.
In summarizing his expectations, DiLucia said, “I would love it to be what it was when I left 4 1/2 years ago.”
Calderon said DiLucia’s skills are unique: “He has a passion for business and the Jerome in particular,” Calderon said. “He’s seen the hotel rise and fall. He’s hung in there through thick and thin.”
Calderon expects DiLucia’s appointment to be popular with people knowledgeable about the Jerome. “Hopefully Tony will attract some of his loyal supporters,” Calderon said.
One of DiLucia’s duties will likely be overseeing a renovation. Calderon said all 94 rooms will be renovated and some public places will be “refreshed.” That could happen as soon as the end of next summer, he said, and will require a brief closure.
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