New Hotel Wows Guests of Grand Opening Party
By Rick Hiduk
Hundreds of residents of Wyoming County and surrounding areas, as well as business and civic leaders, attended a grand opening celebration of the new Comfort Inn and Suites in Eaton Township, across the Susquehanna River from Tunkhannock on July 14. Live music emanated from the parking lot to the right of the building at 5 Eaton Road, which was just one of several areas where guests could congregate to enjoy a variety of food and beverages in between checking out some of the guest rooms and other amenities.
Parking for the event quickly overflowed into the lots of adjacent businesses, from which excited visitors were tendered to the hotel via a fleet of vans. Guests were amused that one of the owners, Don Sherwood, was helping to direct traffic at the intersection of Route 29 and Eaton Road, just off the river bridge. Don, Art Sherwood, and Art’s wife Jennifer mingled with the crowd but took a back seat to the real star of the show—the facility’s unique and appealing ambience.
“It’s wonderful to see this quality in Tunkhannock,” said Beth O’Malley of DGK Insurance of Factoryville.
“I like the variety of rooms you have to choose from,” added O’Malley’s coworker Ronda Macedonio.
“The rooms are extraordinarily nice,” Liz Myers of Oklahoma City concurred. She was one of dozens of grand opening guests who is in the area due to gas drilling activity.
“I’d feel very good about recommending that people stay here,” stated Kathy Reposa of Springville, as she and her husband Paul looked at one of the rooms.
“It’s so beautifully situated on the lot,” Patty Davis of Tunkhannock remarked. She was also impressed with the use of local bluestone in the fireplace and walls in the hotel’s main lobby.
Davis was among many guests to comment on the massive copper beech tree directly in front of the hotel. Another guest who was familiar with the construction of the facility noted that project engineers were careful to keep heavy equipment off the tree’s roots to ensure its survival as what is sure to become an icon of the venue.
At least seven local restaurants and catering companies were set up in areas throughout the property, such as the lobby, swimming pool, and each of the conference rooms. Delectable offerings included beef medallions and stuffed mushrooms from the Fireplace Restaurant, beef and pork barbecue sandwiches by Ma Greenley’s BBQ, crab and shrimp dip and jambalaya from Remingtons, and fried polenta on a bed of fresh spinach with a dollop of boursin cheese from Epicurean Delight Catering.
“I think that the Comfort Inn is a perfect fit for our town. It’s a beautifully constructed hotel (with a) breathtaking view of the Susquehanna River and our beautiful downtown,” offered Chris Maruzzelli, who participated in the grand opening as one of the owners of Antonio’s Pizzeria and as one of the lead singers of the 10-piece band am Radio, which is comprised primarily of Tunkhannock area residents, even though their fan base is far reaching. The band’s faithful renditions of hits from the ’60s to today literally drew gala guests from the hotel’s hallways to the parking lot, where they clapped their hands and swayed to venerable pop favorites as diverse as Maroon 5’s “This Love” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and Carl Douglas’s “Kung Fu Fighting.”
“It was an honor to play for the grand opening of the new Comfort Inn,” added band member and group cofounder Chuck Pirone. “It’s always nice to play for a hometown crowd. We knew the majority of the people at the event and consider them to be friends.”
Additional eateries to take part in the celebration included Twigs and Tioga Bistro. The goal behind hosting the outside eateries, noted Comfort Inn general manager Gary Kaschak, was to increase awareness of the many other fine establishments in the Tunkhannock area, as well as the variety of food that they offer.
Kaschak is a 2002 graduate of Marywood College’s hotel and restaurant program, although his career began at the Radisson Hotel in Scranton in 1998. He left a position as general manager of Candlewood Suites in Hazleton to take the job in Tunkhannock because he had faith in the Sherwoods’ vision of providing clean and comfortable lodging for the community and hospitality that would leave every guest feeling “relaxed and renewed.”
His decision was vindicated by the comments shared with him during the grand opening. “We are proud to be able to serve the need for lodging in and for the community,” Kaschak stated. “It is really wonderful to have the opportunity to work in a position amidst all the positive feedback.” Since the hotel opened on June 17, it has been maintaining about 90 percent occupancy with a large mix of clientele, including gas workers and those from supporting industries.
The opening of the hotel has also provided employment opportunities for at least 20 additional area residents, like Denise Henry of Tunkhannock, who was excited to be hired as a front desk clerk from a large pool of applicants. She will return as a senior this fall to the University of Scranton where she is pursuing studies in marketing. “This is a really good way for me to incorporate my major,” she stated.
Gina Genoble of Wyalusing graduated from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2010 with a bachelor’s of science degree in hospitality management and has anticipated the opening of the hotel for months, starting her career there as front office supervisor, and recently making the move to Tunkhannock to be closer to work.
The enthusiasm of the employees and managers has made a big impression on hotel guests like David Coffee of Oklahoma. “I like the fact that the staff is so friendly,” he remarked.
“It’s a great addition to the community,” said Wyoming County United Way executive director Connie Pheiff, as she enjoyed a beverage in the setting sun. “It’s something that was really needed.”