Few hotels in Canada can lay claim to being more than 100 years old, but the 92-room Walper Hotel in Kitchener, Ont., is one of them. At 124 years of age, the property is steeped in history. Retaining the history of the architectural gem was pivotal in the hotel’s recent $10-million renovation. “To know the hotel is to know what makes each room special,” says Domini Baldasaro, chief in charge.
“Through the renovation, we endeavored to optimize the functionality of each guest space, through details such as exposed architectural beams, framed-outarched windows and an assortment of wallpapers and colour schemes in each room.”
Though Baldasaro graduated from the University of Waterloo with an English degree, she landed at the hotel six years ago, heeding the advice of one of her mentors to learn the hotel industry from the ground up.
“As a smaller, independent property in a tech hub, [the importance of] anticipating the needs of our savvy guests keeps us on our toes,” she says. “With 92 guestrooms, we have the opportunity to get to know our guests personally over the course of their stay. They help me keep my finger on the pulse of the hotel, give me clues to the state of the team’s morale and help me anticipate opportunities for improvement in our service,” she explains. Located in a growing region, The Walper plays host to business travellers during the week. “Our weekends keep us busy with out-of-town guests attending weddings in our Crystal Ballroom; with leisure travellers exploring our region; and with staycationers from within our city.”
The 29-year old hotelier oversees a management team of nine and a line-staff team of 40. “No department can be a silo in a small property, so we have embraced opportunities for shadowing and task sharing. I’m never too busy to help my team and, in exchange, I expect them never to be too busy to help our guests.”
Though the renovation has produced a refreshed property, Baldasaro isn’t content to rest on the hotel’s laurels. “We recently adopted a pour-over coffee program in our guestrooms. We partnered with a local roaster and provide fresh-ground coffee daily to our guests. This initiative was spurred by our team’s love of coffee and matched by our commitment to upholding green practices throughout the hotel. The coffee and filters are biodegradable and the packaging is entirely recyclable, which allows us to pair a great cup of coffee with a low environmental impact.” Next up is the launch of the hotel’s lobby bar.
Though stress may be a byproduct of the 24-7 hotel environment, the affable hotelier finds the most stressful days are also the most exciting. At the end of the day, “Authenticity resonates,” she says, adding it’s important to “define your brand identity and refuse to waiver. You cannot be everything to everyone.”