Inn-side a Family Business -Fall 2019
by: Kevin Stanton
photography by: Barbara Clarke
Kevin Withrow has hotels in his blood. He learned to walk in New York’s famed Barbizon Hotel and played football with the bellboys in the lobby of The Royalton.
“I have very vague memories of New York City and the lights of Times Square,” Withrow said.
His father Ken, on the other hand, remembers his time in New York City well.
“When I worked at the United Nations Plaza Hotel Truman Capote used to come in and swim laps. He would have his yellow legal pad and his No. 2 pencils, swim a couple laps and take a break to work on whatever he was writing,” Ken said. “Back in those days they used to say in that area there were more spies per square foot there than any other place.”
Ken’s first hotel job was in 1974 as a desk attendant at the storied Algonquin Hotel. After being there for two years and seeing no way of moving up in the familyowned business, he left and took a job as the front-desk manager at the newly-built United Nations Plaza. He soon moved up to resident manager.
But it wasn’t until his time with hotelier Ian Schrager, who is credited with starting the trend toward boutique hotels, that his career began to click. The year was 1990. The hotel was The Royalton.
“Once the boutique movement began that was much more interesting to me. They were pieces of art. That was the beginning of the revolution. Up until then all hotels had their own in-house designers. Hotels were boring as hell,” Ken said.
At that time, Ken, his wife Deb, and their son Kevin were living in Cos Cob, Conn. On Thursdays Deb and Kevin would take the train into New York and stay at The Royalton with Ken. On Sundays, they would all head home together.
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