AVALON — Eustace Mita beamed with pride when discussing his plans for the iconic Golden Inn near the borough’s border with Stone Harbor.
The hotel, renamed the Icona Golden Inn, is one of three luxury Icona resorts owned by Mita in Cape May County, including locations in Diamond Beach and Cape May. On Tuesday, three guests sat in the lobby eating lunch while Mita interviewed potential employees for the summer.
But not all the employees will be seasonal, because there is no off season for the Icona hotels, Mita said. Instead, the owner prefers to call the non-summer months the “cozy season,” when guests can still stay at the hotels and enjoy many of the same amenities offered in the summer. The attempt to create a year-round bond with guests is part of a larger effort to rehab hotels and create a destination in the county.
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“We are trying to do something that hasn’t been done yet in Cape May County,” Mita said. “That’s make it a cozy season or a winter destination.”
Mita, who is the CEO of Achristavest and of Icona Investment Group, both of Chester, Pennsylvania, has spent over a quarter billion dollars in Cape May County rehabbing The Grand at Diamond Beach and opening Icona hotels.
Icona Resorts bought the Golden Inn in December 2015 and completed most of the $15 million renovations in seven months. Mita said the building was stripped and completely redone. The studs were even taken out because they were rusty.
The construction workers toiled day and night and were allowed to sleep in the rooms so the construction could be completed faster, he said.
“The mayor called this the miracle on 79th Street because we got this done so fast,” Mita said.
Now, employees are being hired and given culture training, which they call “Aloha Training,” on how to act and treat the guests.
“I tell them that they can miss a meal, but don’t miss Aloha training,” Mita said.
Overall, Mita employees about 500 people at the hotels during the summer and 150 people during the “cozy season.”
Mita said the experience at the Icona hotels is unique because popular hospitality brands, such as Marriot and Hilton, don’t want to operate full-service hotels in seasonal areas such as Avalon and Diamond Beach.
“We’re going to create our own brand,” he said. “Our hotels are sacred places where we want our guests to have a heavenly experience.”