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‘Hotel Impossible’ takes on The Holbrooke

Grass Valley’s historic Gold Rush-era hotel gets renovated
By: Amy Lobenberg, Journal Correspondent
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The historic Holbrooke Hotel in downtown Grass Valley will be made even more famous after being featured on an episode of “Hotel Impossible,” which airs at 10 p.m. Monday night on the Travel Channel.

According to owner Ian Garfinkle, the establishment underwent several changes while still maintaining its Gold Rush-era charm.

The premise of the show is that host Anthony Melchiorri, a veteran hotelier and consultant, finds a struggling hotel and gives it a makeover – from reviewing the books to refitting the beds. His no-nonsense, but well-meaning style is part of the show’s appeal.

“Being a hotel owner, I watch the show all the time, and when I got picked, it felt like I had won the hotel lottery,” said Garfinkle. “They really renovated our historic banquet room (the Arletta Douglas room) and completely redid all of the furnishings. They added new carpet, new paint, new lighting, new window treatments, and millwork. They supplied all of the rooms with new linens and towels and restored some antique claw-feet tubs. They also put up plaques with all of the previous owners’ pictures, starting in 1851. They also redesigned the lobby, library and patio. They used all of our artwork, but decluttered everything. It feels a lot more elegant now.”

According to Garfinkle, most – but not all — of the renovations were successful.

 “Some of the patio furniture had to be replaced after the show because it was too hard to maintain and clean,” said Garfinkle. “They originally used wood, but we had to replace it with metal.”

As far as working with the show’s host, Anthony Melchiorri, who has a reputation for tough love, Garfinkle said that he learned a lot that will help The Holbrooke in the long run.

“He (Melchiorri) basically said I did not know what I was doing, that I didn’t have a clue.” said Garfinkle.

“I come from a restaurant background and am a musician; hotel management is a new thing for me. It’s a tricky business, but I feel like I am finally getting it. The biggest thing that he did for me was go through my revenue streams and cut some of the overhead, in smart ways and without compromising quality.”

According to Garfinkle, “Hotel Impossible” used sponsors, which they promote in the credits and mention during the show, to donate items and assist with the renovation. They also used local contactors, one of whom is a painter from Grass Valley. Greg Hayes does regular maintenance on the hotel and was eager to help “Hotel Impossible” with the renovations.

“It was quite an experience,” said Hayes. “They worked for four days, and I was there every day. One day I played guitar. One day I pressure-washed the patio. One day I scrapped paint off of the building, and the last day we did an employee interview. They filmed me and Ian playing guitar — we both play there sometimes — and used it for their commercial for the show. The Holbrooke hosts live music five times a week and was voted No. 1 night spot in Nevada County. It’s definitely worth saving.”

Garfinkle will be hosting a viewing party in the banquet room tonight and will be offering free hors d’oeuvres.

“This summer has been our best since I took over,” said Garfinkle. “I gave myself five years to turn this place around. The show should give us a pretty big boost in business. We have been getting good comments and reviews, and it feels really good.”