By TONY BROWN Staff writer
Maryville Daily Forum
As the April 1 opening date nears for the new Boulders Inn & Suites Maryville hotel at Mozingo Lake Recreation Park, newly hired General Manager Sharlet Dumke is busy preparing for the lakeside lodge’s first season as electricians, painters, carpenters, and other workers put the finishing touches on interior construction, finishing, and furnishing.
Dumke is no stranger to Maryville, nor is she a hospitality industry novice. After completing a degree in food and beverage management at Northwest Missouri State University in 1999, the Iowa native immediately went to work for Aramark Corp., which served then — and still serves — as the campus’ food-service vendor.
After breaking into the business as the catering director for another Aramark client, Michigan State University in Lansing, Dumke returned to Maryville in the early 2000s, filling a similar position at Northwest.
But when Denison, Iowa-based Boulders Inn & Suites, which is developing the Maryville lodge in conjunction with a group of local investors, started looking for someone to assume responsibility for hotel operations here, Dumke decided the time had come for a change.
On the job since January, she has spent the past month and a half hiring staff and working with a growing list of clients who have been queueing up to reserve rooms for a variety of special events and gatherings.
So far, inquiries and advance bookings have come in from customers seeking lodging for weddings, school and family reunions, anniversaries, golf tournaments, football games, homecomings, and corporate retreats.
Dumke said the “resort” nature of the hotel’s business model is one of the things that attracted her to the job as opposed to managing a typical business-class hotel located on a retail strip or along the side of a highway.
“We’re a little off the main drag,” she said. “So it’s more event based — more than people just looking for a place to stay.”
As the catering director at Northwest, Dumke is used to helping organize large functions and creating an atmosphere in which people can relax and enjoy each other’s company.
“That was one of the big draws for me,” she said. “I still get to be a part of everybody’s special occasion.”
The other reason Dumke decided to go after the Boulder’s job has to do with her affection for her adopted hometown, which she has no intention of leaving.
“We’re going to stay in Maryville,” she said, “and I like the opportunity here (at the Boulders lodge) and the connections I will continue to have with both the university and the town.”
She added that since many of the golf tournaments, reunions, and other events expected to center around the hotel will have at least some connection with Northwest, a lot of her future customers will be people she has worked with before.
Another plus, Dumke said, is the chance to create synergy with a neighboring conference center and golf course clubhouse being built by the City of Maryville that is expected to open early next year.
Among other amenities, the conference center is to include a large banquet hall and a privately operated restaurant, operations that Dumke said dovetail with her food service experience.
“I’m excited about the conference center,” she said, noting that she is looking forward to working with center staff to provide guests with a multi-faceted experience that combines lodging, food, golf, and opportunities for social and business gatherings along with access to fishing, boating, horseback riding, hunting, and other outdoor activities.
Dumke said she first became aware of Mozingo’s possibilities as a recreation, vacation, and event site through her husband, Howard Dumke, who teaches third grade at Eugene Field Elementary School and works security at the lake during the summer.
Talking about Mozingo with Howard, she said, made her more aware of the park’s existing role as well as its potential.
As the hotel’s general manager, Dumke said she will often be responsible for providing the initial round of information to those seeking to find out exactly what the lake and surrounding 3,000-acre park have to offer.
“It’s the whole experience,” she said. “But people tend to book their rooms first and then start planning other activities. So I’m the starting point, and I’ll be able to help guide them to all those other places.”
As for the hotel itself, the facility will offer 40 units with king- or queen-sized beds. The room mix includes four suites as well as two handicap-compliant rooms on the ground floor. At maximum occupancy, the lodge will be able to accommodate about 146 guests.
Other features embrace a large breakfast area equipped with café tables and a sofa and easy chairs arranged in front of a large, stone-faced fireplace.
Besides a complimentary hot breakfast, the hotel will offer patrons a pantry market selling snacks and convenience items, a small fitness center with aerobic machines and free weights, Simmons pillow top mattresses, in-room 43-inch flat-screen televisions, wifi access, and a business center.
So far, Dumke has hired 10 part-time staff to fill housekeeping, front-desk, and other roles. Final staffing numbers, she said, will depend on occupancy rates. The lodge will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
On other fronts, Boulders Inn & Suites Project Manager Nate Houston said efforts are moving forward to market the hotel and erect various kinds of signage, including a couple of billboards and a “monument” sign somewhere near the main park entrance at Highway 136 and Liberty Road.
Houston said the lodge will be the 13th hotel opened by Boulders Inn & Suites and the first outside of Iowa. He said a grand-opening is planned for sometime in late April.