Vail Village’s Sitzmark Lodge has a new owner for the first time since 1974
The Fritch family has owned the boutique hotel since 1974
First the bad news: The Fritch family no longer owns the Sitzmark Lodge in Vail Village. Now the good news: The new owners have pledged to maintain the spirit the Fritches built over nearly 50 years.
Jeanne Fritch, the youngest of Helen and Bob Fritch’s three daughters, had been running the Sitzmark for the past several years. Bob Fritch passed in 2018. Helen passed the following year.
“It just became time that I let it go,” Jeanne said in a recent interview, adding that she also has a life — and a life partner — on the Front Range.
One of Jeanne’s cousins is in the commercial real estate business. That connection soon led to a link-up with Steve Kisielica, a longtime veteran of the lodging business.
Kisielica said he’s been coming to the Vail Valley for a number of years, and moved his family to the valley several years ago.
The Sitzmark “has always been my favorite hotel in Vail,” Kisielica said. “I have friends stay there … there’s such a feeling of comfort and hospitality.”
Kisielica said during his first serious look at the business, it took only about 10 minutes to decide he had to have the Sitzmark. A deal was struck, and closed recently.
“I’m the dog who caught the car,” he said.
Can you keep a secret?
Kisielica said he’s long thought of the Sitzmark as Vail’s best-kept secret. He hopes the Sitzmark is soon the worst-kept secret.
Kisielica and his partners have a number of big luxury hotels, including the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
But the Sitzmark is a “passion project,” he said. He also hopes to build a family legacy of his own at the hotel.
Kisielica said his teenage son has shown an interest in the hospitality business. The Sitzmark is a great place for his son and daughter to learn just what the business is about.
While Kisielica said he’d never force his kids into the business, “they’re going to be integral to what we do … this is a legacy property. We want to carry on in the spirit Jeanne and her family have created.”
That spirit started with Bob and Helen, of course. The couple bought the lodge in 1974, and came from Chicago, where Bob was a mechanical engineer. Helen held a master’s degree in sociology, but at the time was busy raising daughters Nancy, Leslie and Jeanne, the youngest.
The couple had never before run a hotel. But, Jeanne recalled in a 2019 story, the couple had spent enough time in bad hotels that they could figure out what not to do.
Part of Vail’s fabric
The Fritch family quickly became part of the fabric of the still-young resort town. Besides raising a family and building a business, Bob and Helen were also instrumental in the creation of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
The Sitzmark has a strong core of loyal return guests. That’s something Kisielica wants to continue. Jeanne will be around to help with the transition for the next few months.
“She’s working harder than I expected her to,” Kisielica said. That’s what happens when the previous owner is so invested in a place.
As you’d expect with new owners, some changes are in the works, although plans are far from certain.
“We want to get our arms around everything,” Kisielica said. “But our plans are to elevate (the property) in a way that continues the boutique nature.”
Once Jeanne leaves, the hotel’s day-to-day operations will be in the hands of longtime employee Adam Cadenhead, who’s been promoted to general manager.
One of the changes is a planned conversion of the top-floor owner’s quarters — Jeanne and her sisters’ childhood home — into a luxury lodging space.
And, Kisielica added, he and his partners want to expand the Sitzmark’s community involvement.
As for Fritch, it’s uncertain what the future holds. But, she said, the Sitzmark is in good hands. It was critical that any buyer had to be dedicated to the Sitzmark’s tradition of hospitality.
With Kisielica and his partners in charge, the Sitzmark “will be in good hands,” she said.
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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