Though it has the corporate brand name, this is no run-of-the-mill hotel: The Holiday Inn Express & Suites St. Petersburg – Madeira Beach is a family-owned and run business.
“I’ve been in the industry for years. The fact that we work for owners that we can get on the phone is just amazing and unique,” Eileen Danelli-Rutz, Director of Sales, says. “We really are family here. We don’t have any of that corporate nonsense going on. We are flying the flag of Holiday Inn, but we are not like any Holiday Inn Expressthat you have stayed at.”
The property was built brand-new and is owned by local management company MPH Hotels. The company, which is run by owner Mike P. Holtz and his son, relocated to St. Pete from Chicago. They specialize in developing limited service hotels with 75-150 rooms. Their business model is to build brand-new hotels in secondary markets from the ground up and manage them to their full potential.
“They are the nicest, kindest people I have met in my life,” says General Manager Molly Murphy. “They are very hands-on, family-run and family-oriented. We opened this hotel in April 2017 and business has been booming since.”
The hotel is located at 4816 100th Way, just off of Bay Pines Boulevard and 48th Avenue North, near Walmart and the VA. It’s a unique location right at the intersection of St. Pete, Seminole and Madeira Beach. “We are only a mile from the beach and have a complimentary shuttle, perfect for getting people out there so they don’t have to pay for beach parking and fight the crowds. We can take people to John’s Pass and out to dinner. We are so close to the beach that you can see the water from our two top floors.”
The complimentary shuttle goes within five miles of the hotel, sufficient to visit the beach, Tyrone Square Mall, Seminole City Center, local restaurants and many local businesses like Raytheon.
The hotel features a complimentary breakfast seven days a week, a large heated saltwater swimming pool, hot tub, two hammocks, a barbecue area and a lighted patio with a large fire pit table. Each room has a 50-inch screen TV, Keurig coffee maker, microwave and refrigerator. Complimentary wifi and parking are offered. There is a meeting room the hotel regularly books for birthday parties and weddings.
“And it’s often been said we have the best beds in town,” Murphy says. “Probably the most common question I get emailed when people check out is, ‘Where did you get your bed?’
As the hotel gears up for its busiest season of the year, they are willing to do whatever it takes to be sure all guests, the LGBTQ community included, feel comfortable here.
“We are not afraid to think outside the box. One of the mottos we live by is underpromise and overdeliver,” Murphy says. “There have been times when we have had people ask us astronomical requests as to where I think some hotels would say, ‘Oh no we don’t have that,’ and I’d say, ‘Why not? Go out and get it.’ We try to say why not instead of why. It doesn’t cost us that much money and makes somebody’s day. Not just the LGBT community but everyone—we’ll go out of our way for anybody.”
Murphy adds, “We have been number one on TripAdvisor for months because we try to create an inclusive atmosphere and we want everyone to feel welcome.”
As the hotel enters its busiest season of the year, it wants to encourage guests to look forward to discounted specials that will be offered during Pride Week, including up to 15% off and a free shuttle to the festivities Downtown St. Pete. There will also be couples romance packages for Valentine’s Day, and even after Pride, summer specials for that much-needed getaway.
“We have different flags for all different people that we fly to make everyone feel welcome,” Danelli-Rutz says. “We want to make sure everyone feels included.”
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Written by Aaron Drake
Aaron Drake contributes to a variety of publications, including Creative Loafing, Watermark, Amtrak, The Advocate and South Florida Gay News, and is former editor of Gaycation Magazine and Frontiers Magazine in Los Angeles. He currently lives in St. Pete with his playful German Shepherd Delilah.
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