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The End of an Era: The Sutton Place Hotel Toronto

Frank Giavroutas Delivers Moving Speech To Both Past and Present Employees
As The Sutton Place Hotel Toronto's longest-serving employee Mr. Frank Giavroutas delivered a moving speech to the assembled audience of current and former employees. 
Last Thursday I attended a party for the current and former employees of The Sutton Place Hotel Toronto. The occasion was a nostalgic one as the hotel is about to close on June 15. It felt somewhat like a high school reunion, except that not everyone had moved on… A bittersweet affair for employees like Frank, Harvey, Izzy and a few others who have worked at the property for 40 or more years since it opened in 1967.

 One of the original owners of the hotel, David Dennis, recalled that when the Sutton Place opened its doors during Canada's Centennial, Toronto was still a young, unsophisticated city; “Hogtown” compared to its cosmopolitan neighbor in Quebec.  The Sutton Place Hotel quickly rose in fame as the city evolved. Aside from people losing their jobs, the closure of the hotel is a sad location because:

  • it's going to be transformed into a condominium… It will be just one tree in a forest of high-rise, high-density residences.  A "disease" according to many Torontonians.
  • Doreen Ashton Wagner with Tracey De Groot
    pictured left to right: Former Sutton Place Toronto employees Doreen Ashton Wagner, former VP Marketing; Tracey deGroot, former Director of Catering; Cathy Leavens Smith, Director of Sales & Marketing 1993-99.
  • it's the end of an era.... in its heyday the hotel did very well with the celebrity market and competed admirably with the Four Seasons Hotel.  It was the home of countless film productions and the Toronto International Film Festival. It was the epicenter of what became known as Hollywood North. Its star undoubtedly was its general manager, Hans Gerhardt.  He even wrote a book about his time at the hotel.   Now the city doesn't host as many film productions.
  • it's the demise of another independent hotel. With globalization and the staggering growth of global brands, smaller, independent hotels have had a tougher time to compete. When I joined The Sutton Place Hotel in 1993 the property had fallen on hard times, a victim of the recession of the early 90s. It was bought for a mere $30 million and we worked hard to bring it back up to standard. We still had the celebrity market, the relationship was
    Nick Vesely and Werner Schneider
    The last General Manager of The Sutton Place Toronto, Nick Vesely and CFO Werner Schneider.
    more tenuous. Our new owners were not craving the media attention and the bottom line was all that mattered.  Still, we had a good brand name on our hands and we spread it to Vancouver, Chicago, and Newport Beach, California. When I left in 1998 to start Greenfield services Inc., the future looked relatively bright. But 14 years later, after another recession, the Sutton Place was a victim again.

During my five-year stint at The Sutton Place both in Toronto and at its other locations, I had the privilege of working with wonderful professionals. Cathy, Tracy, Julie, Janice, Lori, Annemarie, Nick, Peter, Charles and even Werner, the CFO with whom I so often disagreed…  To all of you, thanks for the memories.