Tammy Bork promised herself she would not cry when Anthony Melchiorri, host of the Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible,came to her Beachfront Inn in Baileys Harbor from May 31 to June 3 for a little reality TV tough love.
But she couldn’t help herself.
“I think I’m going to be his most emotional owner,” she said.
That’s because Melchiorri, in his typical no-nonsense fashion, cut to the core and hit on a problem that Tammy had not revealed.
“There was one thing that I didn’t tell anybody that I was hoping he could help us with, and he caught that the first day,” she said, tearing up as she starts to talk about it. “He made it happen for me. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it, but I’ll be crying on the show, you’ll see. But it’s something I never said to anybody.”
In case you haven’t seen it before, Hotel Impossible features veteran hotelier Melchiorri sweeping into a troubled hotel for four days with a design team and a local construction crew in an effort to set the owners on a path to prosperity. The show returns for a third season on Aug. 12, and the Beachfront Inn episode is slated for the seventh episode in this series, so it should air the night of Sept. 23.
“He’s good at what he does,” Tammy said of Melchiorri. “He makes you look at not just the business itself, but us in general. He makes you re-evaluate life. I didn’t think it would be as tough on me as it has been. It’s draining. He’s making old stuff come out of me that’s been inside.”
Tammy and her husband Terry have owned the Beachfront Inn for nine years. Neither had experience running a hotel. Terry has driven semi-trucks for more than three decades and Tammy worked for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
“We had no experience before getting into the business,” Tammy said. “You think you’re doing the right thing. This kind of confirms what we were doing wrong. And what we’re doing right.”
“We’ve learned a lot from Anthony, different things we’ve overlooked,” Terry said. “That’s going to help us tremendously. He really knows his stuff. He’s taught us so much about our finances to make us more successful. It’s a whole new start.”
Terry even decided to take the summer off from driving trucks to help focus on the elements Melchiorri brought to their attention.
Tammy decided to contact the Hotel Impossible team for help after seeing an episode in spring 2012. The show included an e-mail address for hoteliers with problems to send in a request for help.
“Which I did,” Tammy said. “About a month later I received a questionnaire to fill out.”
Once she filled that in and returned it, she got a telephone call and then an e-mail saying a location release was needed.
“I thought, ‘Omigod, maybe we’ve got it.’ But we never had a real commitment from them until December or January when they said they were coming.”
So, now she knows they’ve made the cut for the show. How did she mentally prepare for the probable raking over the coals?
“I don’t think I did a good job of mentally preparing for it,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew it was something we needed. The whole group here has seen the good and the bad of me.”
Tammy had seen the show, of course, and knew that Melchiorri doesn’t pull his punches with the hotel owners he visits. But she did think her force could withstand his.
“I did this thinking I was going to convince them to do the things I felt needed to be done,” she said. “Those are the things that are going to help me. None of those things are being done as far as I can see.”
But she is not complaining.
“They come in and look at the whole situation, the financial situation, and they figure it out. I’m just really impressed by the things I have learned,” she said. “There is a little bit of tough love at first. But then he just really gets down. He can read people really well. You sit down and talk with him for a while, then he goes back to think. He comes back to you and tells you what possibilities he can see.”
“Tammy is a tough cookie,” Melchiorri said during a break just before he brought the Borks into their lobby for the big reveal (which we promised the Travel Channel we would not reveal here). “Her husband said she met her match when she met me. I don’t think that’s the case. I think she’s a little tougher than me. But when it comes to the hotel business, I’m tougher than she is.”
While he speaks affectionately of the couple after immersing himself in their business, Melchiorri reveals that he almost passed on the Borks and their Beachfront Inn.
“I didn’t want to come to do this hotel,” he said. “The preliminary work I did says they’re doing good with rates. Their TripAdvisor scores are pretty good. I didn’t see the need to help them and there are so many people in the country who need help. Then they said they were having trouble with their mortgage. That’s about as much as I can go into.”
But it was enough for him, and getting to know the Borks has only confirmed his belief that he made the right decision.
“She has worked her butt off,” Melchiorri said of Tammy. “That’s what I want to make sure everybody understands. That woman shows up every single day and busts her butt to make this place successful.
“So does Terry. For the last 32 years he’s been driving a truck. Never had a ticket or an accident. And gets up every single day and drives that truck to support the family. To bring them together and to show them their number one priority is them, their happiness, then that will make this worth it. Because if they save the hotel and they’re miserable, what’s the purpose?”
Melchiorri explains that the initial feeling he had about the Beachfront not really needing his help is not uncommon for him.
“For me, about 40 percent of the hotels I don’t think I can help them. Then when I’m actually here…” he stops and decides to bring it home. “Two nights ago, I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t figure this one out. The director comes to me in one of the moments when I was pretty intense and probably using foul language off camera, and said, ‘You’re going to come to me and say, Hey, Director Boy, pick up the cameras. I’ve figured out the hotel.’ And not an hour later I said, ‘Director Boy, pick up the cameras. I figured out the hotel.’ And I figured it out.”
He says there are many elements to the show, but getting to that revelatory moment has a price, he says.
“The two minutes where I am giving them a lesson to change the hotel to make it profitable and keep it away from the bank, those two minutes give me days and hours of aggravation and literally have aged me. This is no joke. When I started this show, I probably looked like I was in my late 30s. Now I look like my age, in my late 40s.”
Still, he says, that is what it’s all about.
“When someone says I’ve helped, that’s what pays the rent in my heart. When it becomes I want to be famous or I want to get bigger ratings, I will be so done with this show it will make your head spin. I just hope we give them something at the end they’re happy with.”
And since Tammy Bork did not get the last word with Anthony, we thought we’d let her have it here.
“It’s not just for us. Yes, they’re going to do something to help us and improve us,” she said. “But people nationwide are going to see our location and they’re going to see us here at Baileys Harbor, right on the beach. This is something I wanted for us and for the town. I feel that Baileys Harbor doesn’t get much recognition. People sometimes forget about us, not always intentionally. I feel this is something no one else has got.”
Local Crew Makes Hotel Impossible Dreams Happen
On site the final day of shooting, Eric Peil of Peil Construction, Baileys Harbor, said he learned he was the contractor for the Beachfront Inn project only a week and a half before the Hotel Impossible crew showed up in Baileys Harbor.
“I interviewed for it about a month ago, on site with the designer, Casey [Noble],” Peil said. “She came up here. She must have spent a day or two on site, checking things out. She interviewed four contractors. I was the first contractor. She said she liked me a lot. We had a good conversation. She had a quick overview of what she wanted to do. She’s a designer. I’m a builder, so she had some things she wanted to do that kind of raised a few questions for me…I think that helped her put the project together a little better.”
Peil said he was happy that crew-hiring decisions were left to him.
“Besides the six guys that work with me, we pulled from every local contractor that I could. I wanted to keep it as local-local as I could. There was only one subcontractor that was from out of town, but there was nobody else in Baileys Harbor who does his kind of work.”
“It was nice to have the project in Baileys Harbor and have a Baileys Harbor crew. I’m a Door County guy and I want to keep it that way. It’s not just like the contractors just sent their workers here. Every company that was here, the owner was here working. That says a lot.”
That included Mike LeClair of Baylake Electric, Paul Kordon of Summit Plumbing, Scott Williams of Nor-Door Flooring, Dave Merkle of Dave’s Mowing & More, and Travis Price of Brussels, plastering and masonry.
“That’s usually the crew I use when working on projects,” Peil said.
“It seems like a very tight-knit community,” said Hotel Impossible host Anthony Melchiorri. “I’ll tell ya, Eric is the best contractor we’ve ever worked with in 33 shows. Period. His temperament is beautiful. His work is excellent. He’s funny. He’s intense. He’s a good family man. I tear up telling you. He is the best contractor I’ve worked with. He’s a pleasure. If we could go on the road with him, it would be great.”
Besides a storm on Saturday that knocked out power for three hours and drenched the workers and impossible deadlines, Peil’s crew worked three days straight to get the Beachfront ready for the big reconstruction reveal Hotel Impossible is known for.
“We put over 40 hours in over a weekend,” Peil said.
And they did it all under the constant watchful eyes of Hotel Impossible camera crews.
“All of us had to realize there is a camera every second of the day, trying to capture whatever you are doing,” Peil said.
Peil admitted there were a few surprises during the construction project, but nothing insurmountable.
“Whenever you’re dealing with a building more than 50 years old, you’re in for some surprises. We’ve worked with Tammy and Terry before, so we knew the building. They really work hard to make their place better. I’m glad that they were picked. It’s really awesome to see them get this kind of recognition. There are a lot of updates the show is doing outside of building to help move their business along. And there’s a very nice part of the reveal that I think they are going to be ecstatic about.”
Words of Wisdom from Hotel Impossible Host Anthony Melchiorri
ON BEING A SEASONAL PROPERTY
“Being a seasonal property, you have a very short window of opportunity for generating revenue. Then you have weather and all kinds of things that come into that.
“Most businesses have 365 days to be successful. You have here 122 days to be successful. Out of those 122 days, there are only 82 that people want to be here. Out of those 82 days, you have to suck every single penny out of people’s pocketbooks, but give them value and make them happy and make them want to come back.
Vacuum the pocketbook but make them say, my pocketbook’s empty and I’m the happiest guy in the world. That’s the secret. Take all their money but give them value for it.
“Being fiercely focused on generating every single penny and in generating every single penny, being fiercely focused on building loyalty with your guest. I never want a penny that doesn’t belong to me. That penny belongs to me after I make you happier than anyone else can make you in Baileys Harbor.”
ON BEING A DOG FRIENDLY INN
“There are a lot of hotels that are dog friendly. [Beachfront Inn] has done a good job in that area. I’d say half the people check in with dogs. You have to be careful and not overmarket that. If I know you’re seriously marketing to dogs, I’m not coming. So you have to market in a very subtle way but an effective way. If you overmarket it, you’re going to turn me off if I’m not a dog owner.”
ON GAINING TRUST
“One of the things I’m realizing through doing this show, almost 33 shows, it’s really not about the business. It’s definitely not about the production. It’s about listening to people and letting them know what you believe to be the truth. Not what you would rather tell them. Not what your heart says, you know, don’t be so rough on them, kind of soften the blow. When I come in people are desperate. They may think they don’t want all the truth, maybe they want a diluted version of the truth. What they want is to know the heart of the problem.
“I only have four days. I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and have coffee and let’s talk about the philosophy of being successful. I have a production schedule to deal with. I have camera angles to deal with. I have a director to deal with. I have budgets to deal with. I have a very short window of time. In the short time I’m talking to the owners, I’ve got to get out what I want to get out. I’m able to read people because I’m so in tune with every moment, every nuance of behavior, every tone in their voice. They try to play you. They don’t want to show you the truth. They don’t want to show when they get pissed. They don’t want to show they have marital problems or that they’ve made serious mistakes. So you have to pick those up in an instant. If you don’t pick them up, you’ve lost them and you go down the wrong road and by the time the show is over, you haven’t helped them.”
ON SUCCESS FOR THE BEACHFRONT INN
“They have 21 rooms. If they’re not trying to sell every one of those rooms every one of those nights, they’re doing something wrong. I never realized how bad it was until I started doing this. People have no clue how to sell a hotel room. That’s what I’ve learned. And that’s what I try to teach.
“You’ll see it on the show. They were a little surprised by my opinions. And what I know, there will be 100 percent success if they listen to me. You can come back to me in a year, I guarantee this hotel will be successful because they are hard-working people. They’ve leveraged themselves and put money back into the hotel. If they just do what I say, there’s no doubt in my mind they will be successful. This was difficult to get to the truth. It wasn’t difficult to give them a solution.”