General Manager Paul Ratchford welcomed former employees, and special guests to a June 12 reception, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Fish Camp’s Tenaya Lodge.
Guests of honor were three Tenaya employees, Grace (Murray) Dolence, Sandy Stanphill, and Candi Wilson, who have been at the Four Diamond resort just outside the southern entrance to Yosemite since the doors first opened a quarter century ago.
The lodge has provided jobs to about 15,000 people over the past 25 years, and Ratchford said it’s employees like Dolence, Stanphill, and Wilson, along with others, that have made Tenaya an industry leader in customer service for 25 years.
“We are very proud of the relationships we have formed over the past 25 years with the surrounding communities and our business partners,” Ratchford said.
Dolence has been a food and beverage server at Tenaya for half her life.
“Working at Tenaya has been like working with family,” Dolence said. “Tenaya has provided me a beautiful place to work, and the ability to raise my daughter.”
Stanphill, who has been a member of the sales team since opening day, and has served as the senior sales manager the past 10 years, said the entire staff at Tenaya is well-trained and really cares about creating a memorable experience for guests.
“I’m proud of the fact that it has always been a priority for us to listen to our customers’ needs and make positive changes to accommodate those needs such as adding additional indoor and outdoor meeting space, the full-service Ascent Spa, expanding our outdoor pool area to accommodate families, adults, and the physically challenged, and offering pet friendly guestrooms,” Stanphill said. “We just keep getting better and better at serving our guests, and they appreciate those efforts.”
Wilson said her career at Tenaya started with a Sierra Star ‘help wanted’ ad in February, 1990.
“The ad was for front desk, reservations and PBX operators,” Wilson said. “I had no idea what the last one was.”
Wilson was hired for the front desk and went to work on May 4, 1990, two months before the June 1 opening.
“I had a lot to learn before we opened on June 1,” Wilson said. “In 1995 I transferred to the reservations department and have been a group rooms coordinator for 16 years. I’ve learned so much over the years and I’m still learning everyday. We have a great group of people to learn from and I am thankful for all the wonderful people I’ve met, worked with, and become friends with over the years.”
Ratchford also recognized other long-time employees including Director of Finance/Controller Ron Burnheimer (19 years), Banquet Supervisor Rober Szymkowiak (21 years), Assosicte Director of Sales Pam Rudd (16 years), Engineer Mike Mellana (16 years), Executive Chef Fredrick Clabaugh (18 years), and Assistant GM Sean Mangold (17 years) who started his hospitality career as a dishwasher at Tenaya.
Also in attendance was Bob and Paula Boykin (Boykin Management), who were the original owners of the then 242-room Marriott property.
Three off-property businesses have worked closely with Tenaya as ‘partners,’ the past 25 years, and Ratchford said all three have provided adventures that compliment the activities the lodge offers, adding to the great experiences of Tenaya guests. He applauded Max Stauffer (Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad), Larry and Nishma Knapp (Yosemite Trials Saddle and Sleigh), and Dee Ann Smith (Discover Yosemite) for the great service they provide Tenaya guests.
The lodge was originally slated to be a 100-unit motel, rather than the full-service resort it is today. Original plans were updated to increase the lodge to 160 units after a land acquisition, then again updated to include 242 rooms for the grand opening in 1990. Plans also called for a small, 125-seat cocktail lounge and an upscale eatery, which have since transitioned to The Parkside Deli, Sierra Restaurant, The Lobby Bar and Jackalope’s Bar & Grill.
In 2001, Yosemite concessionaire Delaware North saw the opportunity to create a luxurious, yet rustic park lodging experience in addition to the world famous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley – in this case, just outside the park – and purchased Tenaya.
Future plans call for additional lodging and recreational activities.
Sunset magazine travel award
Tenaya Lodge was recently declared the Best Resort for Pets by Sunset magazine - one of 30 winners of the first-ever Sunset Travel Awards. Along with all the winners of the 2015 Sunset Travel Awards, Tenaya is currently featured in the June issue of Sunset magazine and on Sunset.com. The complete list of winners can be found online at sunset.com/travelawards.
Tenaya has designated guest rooms that welcome dogs, as well as an onsite kennel. Available year-round, the special pet package includes a one-night stay, a dog toy, water bowl and plush dog bed for use during stay, treats, disposable mitts, concierge sheet with tips for navigating the area with pets, two hours of pet sitting service and a gourmet dog biscuit baked by Tenaya’s chefs with a take-home recipe.
Other Sunset Travel Awards went to the cities of Hood River, Or. (best adventure town), Portland, Or. (best food), Santa Barbara (best beach town), Pasadena (best arts), Resort at Paws Up, Greenbough, Mt. (beast small hotel/rersort), Aulani, a Disney Resort & spa, Ko-Olina, Hi. (best large resort), Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyard, Livermore (best tasting room), and Halter Ranch Vineyard, Paso Robles (best vineyard/brewery experience).
“This destination represents an unparalleled experience for any Western traveler,” comments the magazine’s editorial team. “To be a finalist for a Sunset Travel Award puts you in extremely good company ... to be a winner puts you among a group of elite A-list destinations and experiences.”