Being a hotelier was never part of Paul Ielovcich’s game plan. The 33-year- old Calgary native originally aspired to be an engineer, but while at university he realized he didn’t enjoy some aspects of the program and decided to leave.
As luck would have it, he landed in the hospitality industry, becoming a part-time barista at the W Hotel in Montreal, which led him to enrol at l’institut de Tourisme et d’hôtellerie for a degree in International Hotel Management.
During his stint as a barista, and later as a barten-der, he came to understand the power of hospitality. “It was rewarding to put a smile on a guest’s face, whether having a favourite drink ready [for them] or by offering a compassionate ear to someone having a hard day.”
These days, Ielovcich is putting smiles on the faces of his guests at the chic two-year old Epik Hotel in Montreal. “Developing a new boutique brand and following through on its execution has been the greatest challenge and thrill of my career,” says the confirmed bachelor of his first venture involved in branding and renovating a hotel from the ground up.
He’s proud of the end result — an intimate 10-room hotel housed in a 200-year old building in Old Montreal that was once a warehouse and a bed-and-breakfast. The hotel boasts unique features such as stone walls and post-and-beam ceilings, yet emits both a modern vibe and old-world charm. It even showcases shower lighting that changes colour depending on the temperature of the water.
Ielovcich leads a team of 10 by example. “I prefer to work in the lobby to stay in contact with guests and make myself available to the team.” He wants to ensure “every client that walks through our doors leaves having had a memorable experience.” But he’s also quick to quip, “always keep a toilet plunger at the front desk.”
Though the hotel is only two years old, it’s already gone through a refurbishment of its cosy, 24-seat Italian restaurant. “The cool exposed brick and stone have been softened with rich colours and textures.” He’s looking forward to further changes planned for the lobby lounge. “The character of the space changes throughout the day and we’re looking to serve different purposes — from breakfast to a nightcap.”
With increasing competition, the young GM is quick to underline the importance of knowing what your hotel is all about. “A strong brand will attract a clientele that relates to the hotel’s personality. The second element is having staff who connect on a personal level with the guest. Then it’s no longer about the thread count or star rating — it’s about something more intimate and hard to emulate.”