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Meet the Desk: Graig Sammis, Hotel Elysee

Published: November 8th, 2014

For the first ‘Meet the Desk’ segment of National Blog Posting Month, Hotel Elysee interviewed their Front Office Manager,  Graig Sammis.  Graig has been with LHC Collection for over five years now and worked his way up from Guest Service Agent to Front Office Manager at both the Elysee and Library Hotel.  Graig shares a bit of his background with us and his experiences working at Library Hotel Collection!

Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from originally?

Depending on who asks I am either from Atlanta or Long Island.  I lived in Long Island until I was nine and then moved to Atlanta until I was 16,and then back to Long Island.  My family is still in Long Island.  I have lived in Brooklyn for the past seven years.

Which city do you prefer?

That’s a hard question because I loved spending many formative years down South and I always miss it, especially at this time of year during football season when the Georgia Bulldogs are making their annual run for the SEC Title, but in the end I have to choose New York as there is no other city quite like it.

Why New York?

Overall the quality of life here is second to none.  We have some of the best restaurants, museums, coffee shops, concert venues, movie houses, and sporting events.  I love jumping on my bike, crossing a bridge, weaving in and out of busy thoroughfares, traversing the city and taking as much in as possible, including the ongoing struggles of my beloved New York Jets.

I actually always wanted to live in New York.  I am an avid reader of the New York Times and New Yorker as well as a cinema lover.  I was always drawn to the city through its romantic and gritty portrayals  in many of my favorite films like “On The Waterfront”, “The Naked City”, “Taxi Driver” and Woody Allen classics like “Annie Hall” and “Hannah and Her Sisters”.  I love that movies always come out first here and you can see anything from indies, classics, and big budget movies.

Finally and on a more personal note I have family history here.  My great grandfather was a Korean writer who emigrated to the city.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to read many of his autobiographical works, most notably “East Goes West” where he tells the story of how he left Korea and made a life for himself by starting out in New York and connecting with the Korean community.

What other jobs did you have prior to working at the Elysee?

Prior to working at the Elysee I was  interested in a career in radio.  I wanted to be an on air personality and I actually fulfilled a childhood dream when I worked as an intern at the Howard Stern Show for a year.

What was that like?

It was surreal, it still seems like a dream.  I would wake up at 345 AM to catch the 430am train into the city so I was at the show by 6am.  Once there our main responsibilities as interns for the morning were answering the phones and assisting the celebrity guests.  It was crazy though because you never knew what could happen, maybe you would get roped into doing a prank with Sal and Richard, or Gary the producer would have you research information for Howard to use later on the show, and you would never know who would call either.  I loved every minute of it.

How did you come to work at the Elysee?

It’s funny because working in a hotel had never crossed my mind growing up or as a student, the circumstances that led me to the Elysee were very fortuitous.  After college I worked in a typical entry level cubicle gig for two years and  desperate for a change of pace.  One night I was downtown with a friend at “The Stand” restaurant on 12th street which is unfortunately no longer open(I miss those marshmallow milkshakes) and I ran into a college friend of mine Jud.  We engaged in small talk and he mentioned he was working at this place the Hotel Elysee.  I didn’t think much of it until my friend Ted chimed in and said “that Concierge job he was talking about seemed really cool, I am going to recommend that to my friend Brian”.  Immediately is occurred to me that Ted was absolutely right and I realized that it would be a perfect job for me.  I was 25 years old and looking for something new and exciting, and I figured my experience having worked in Deli’s and restaurants throughout high school and college would make me a great candidate.  So I reached out to Jud on Facebook the next day and inquired about employment.  It just so happened that he was leaving the job to move to Chicago next week and they were looking for someone to replace him.  Two weeks later I started training at the front desk.

Can you describe that experience?

It was really great actually because all of the incumbent staff were so helpful in training me.  They helped me discover I had a natural passion for hospitality which motivated me to learn everything I could so that I could handle the myriad situations presented to us on a daily basis.  I was constantly studying the Zagat and the neighborhood so I could become more comfortable making dinner suggestions to guests.  Also, I would answer the phone as much as possible so I could gain experience taking reservations.  Finally, I realized the importance of learning the layout of the building and each guest room, which is no easy task at the Elysee due all the variation and nuances of each room and floor.  This helped me allocate the rooms to maximize guest satisfaction.  Overall the training process was a lot fun and I knew I made the right decision in coming to work here.

At what point did you know you wanted to pursue hospitality as a career?

I think that happened in my interview with Mike (the previous Front Office Manager at the Hotel Elysee, now at the Hotel Giraffe) and John (the General Manager).  I knew I wanted to try the business out before that but didn’t really know much about long term growth.  In the interview I immediately got the sense that these were two people I wanted to work for, mostly because of their sincerity when they told me that this was the kind of company where someone with passion and a strong work ethic could rise very quickly.  So from day one I had full intentions on becoming a manager.

Can you describe the experience of being promoted to Front Office Manager at Library Hotel?

That was another incredible experience.  I had been at the Elysee 2 ½ years at that point and was functioning as Assistant Front Office Manager and was eager to take the next step.  This was a completely new experience for me as I had never been a full time manager before, so naturally I was nervous about entering uncharted territory of being someone’s boss which makes me the one responsible for all of the actions taken at the front desk as well as arbiter of all major decisions about the front office, not to mention doing the holiday scheduling!  But I was confident I would do a good job because I could draw on all of the guidance I received at the Elysee.  It was paramount to lead by example by setting a positive tone for the staff and cultivate place where everyone was excited and happy to work.  When the staff is happy the guests can pick up on those good vibes which helps create a memorable experience.

Thank you so much for the insight, Graig!  We are so lucky to have you on the Library Hotel Collection team!