When Carriage House Inn opened on 90 Avenue south of the Bow River 50 years ago, it must have seemed an awful long way from downtown Calgary. However, the three local families that invested in what was then a motor inn had tremendous foresight and confidence in the growth of this city.
They already had experience with the Highlander Hotel on the north side of the city along the Trans-Canada Highway at 19th Street N.W. and felt the south was poised for expansion.
At the time, Macleod Trail was nothing like the busy commuter road it is today. There was a lot of excitement as Chinook Centre and Southridge Mall were combining to become a huge shopping and entertainment attraction; however, south of Glenmore Trail there were few places to visit and not a lot of residential properties.
The same families who planned, developed, and built the Carriage House Inn and transitioned it into a full service, independent hotel, are still the proud owners.
It quickly became a favourite with travelers and locals and today the location is really only just a few minutes from the core of the city.
The Carriage House Inn still boasts some of its original customers who continue their relationship with the hotel. A number of its loyal staff has been with the business for many years, giving testimony to the quality of the hotel, its ownership and management.
They show a committed dedication to the hotel’s “We take great care of you” motto, offering a strong internal culture and excellent customer service – Carriage House Inn’s management boasts 225 years of collective hospitality within its walls.
Many of the staff are proud of their long association with the hotel. Sally Fanjak has retired from the kitchen where she enjoyed working for the past 40 years, and maintenance engineer, Frank Rzewsky, recently retired after 31 years on the job.
A legend to visitors was the kind and always happy Leo Sheftel, part of the ownership group who was there when the Carriage House Motor Inn was being built and who was always present greeting guests and pouring them coffee every day until he passed away in 2004.
General Manager Keith Grainger speaks fondly of Sheftel with this story. After being hired for a job when he was a 14 year-old schoolboy Grainger nervously stood by the kitchen waiting for instructions. Mr. Sheftel spied him, asked why he was just standing there and said, ‘Come with me,’ and showed him how to bus tables and support the waiters in the dining room.
Grainger worked his way up through all of the hotel’s departments over 42 years, and transitioned into his current position of general manager in October, 2015.
The Carriage House Inn has changed a lot over the years. Over the same footprint, 41 rooms, including 12 suites, were added. Many improvements were made, and the Bottle Room & Saloon opened.
In 1970 construction began on the 10-storey tower that provided an additional 116 guest rooms, conference space, ballroom and Marlborough Lounge. This helped to establish the hotel as a popular spot for conferences, banquets, receptions, meetings and weddings.
Grainger says its doors have welcomed thousands of wedding guests over the years, serving up to 100 wedding banquets annually, creating a larger satisfied customer base.
The venue space boasts 17,000+ square feet of meeting rooms that includes three large ballrooms where up to 400 people can dine comfortably and 800 can be accommodated reception style. Roxane Carlson, Catering & Events Manager, has been with the Carriage House Inn for 11 years and has executed countless weddings and events in the hotel’s diverse function space.
One of the big attractions is the availability of parking close by. Carriage House Inn has ample parking around the hotel, providing guests with more than 750 parking spaces.
The hotel’s kitchen under the direction of Lino Savino, Director of Food & Beverage, and Ken Ho, Executive Chef who has been with the hotel for 25 years, handles meals for all events, the restaurants and room service.
From the outset the Carriage House is known as the go-to place for the best steak sandwich in town (the record to date, for one day, was over 1,000 steak sandwiches) and the best Sunday brunch you could find throughout the city. In addition, it offers casual beer and food in the popular Peanuts Public House where Manager Frank Wong has served for the past 30 years, as well as home-style cuisine in THE Restaurant where you’ll be welcomed by Restaurant Manager, Rahim Omran, who has 32 years with the Carriage House Inn. The hotel also offers fine dining in Ninety Thirty Lounge and cocktails in Dudley’s Gaming Room.
Guests reviews show how happy they are with the level of hospitality and dining options, especially the hearty breakfasts and the enticing products from the in-house bakery.
Besides supplying all of the hotel’s venues, the bakery offers breads, bagels, cookies, pastries, pies and kosher baked goods at a retail cashier station in the lobby where the wonderful aroma attracts a large number of customers, many who drive from surrounding communities to get their high-quality baked goods each week.
Like any high quality hotel, it has many appreciated amenities like a 24-hour business centre, complimentary hi-speed internet, free parking and a fitness centre with a steam room. The year-round outdoor swimming pool with heated deck, bar service and hot tub has become a big winner, even during the cold winter months.
Grainger says its core value of service excellence in hospitality has not changed, but the way the customer consumes information and interacts with a business definitely has. Yet despite economic downturns and the addition of a number of competing properties in the area, the Carriage House Inn has fared very well as an independent, non-branded property.
Its 180 fulltime staff work hard to maintain the company motto, ‘We Take Great Care of You”, annually welcoming thousands of satisfied guests through the hotels guestrooms, function space and dining outlets.
The hotel remains a mecca for travelers to the city while enjoying a loyal following of Calgarians who appreciate the lounge, fine dining restaurant and classic bakery goods, as well as the convenience of its convention and meeting facilities.