A new hotel opens during the pandemic: Stay at The Roundtree on Long Island

Amagansett, New York (CNN) – In the best of circumstances, opening a hotel is usually a stressful and financial endeavor for every owner, not to mention risky.

Opening a property in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic could, however, excite even the most trophy-winning entrepreneurs, throwing well-laid plans into a complete reversal.

Enter Sylvia Wong, who was preparing to open The Roundtree, her new, 15-room estate in the Tony town of Amagansett, New York, in May 2020.

Located in the heart of the Hamptons, the Roundtree was well located for instant success – a new design offering in one of the most expensive and common summer beach destinations.

“I was very worried about the opening during the pandemic, but there was no choice but to continue and revive my vision,” she says.

Owner Sylvia Wong on Roundtree land on Long Island.

Courtesy of The Roundtree Amagansett

Just do it

Wong’s decision to continue her debut is a particularly bold move given that this is her first hotel venture.

Originally from Hong Kong and now living in New York, she is a partner in investment firm WTI, which has long been involved in real estate. After decades of international travel for work and pleasure, she became increasingly interested in opening her own hotel, even though she was not located anywhere.

One day in the spring of 2019, she was browsing online real estate listings and reading about a hotel for sale in the Hamptons called Gansett Green Manor.

“The next thing I know, I took [Hampton] Small bus From town to Hampton, to see that property that week and I knew it was the place for me, “Wong says.” It was like a hidden gem in a beautiful area. “(The property was funded by WTI.)

Historical context

The Roundtree began receiving guests on June 1, the day New York was still officially in jail and a month after the original intent.

Situated on two acres of land, about a mile from the beach, the property has a rich history dating back to the 17th century. At this place was one of the families of the founders of Amagansetta, as well as a working farm.

The buildings represent the historical past of the area, with a cottage more than 250 years old and a main building that is close to 125 years old.

Wong completely renovated the hotel, keeping the original buildings intact and giving it a new name.

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Roundtree is the first hotel I’ve stayed at since February, and for the first time I’ve slept anywhere except my Manhattan apartment since early March, before the pandemic. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

My trip to the Hamptons coincided with a weekend when outdoor dinner was allowed under the jurisdiction of Suffolk County, and most hotels in the area were open and in full swing during the summer season.

In fact, by Sunday of the same weekend, Andrew Andrew Cuomo, after receiving thousands of complaints of violations of social distance in the Hamptons, had warned he would close a business that is not played by the rules.

I saw people outside as well, but most wore masks, and tables in restaurants were more than six feet apart.

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All 15 rooms are accessed from the outside.

Courtesy of The Roundtree Amagansett

Small differences

My question about going out on the weekend was: How much could my stay compare to hundreds of times before I stayed in hotels around the world?

Not so much, as it turned out. In a world where the phrase “new normal” had become ubiquitous, she almost felt like the old normal.

The staff wore masks and guests had to do the same when they were inside. The hostess took my temperature at check-in, a mandatory step for all guests.

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The keys are an example of paying attention to the details of The Roundtree

Courtesy of The Roundtree Amagansett

In addition, it was like staying in a top boutique hotel with excellent service and the ambiance of staying in the house of a dear friend who comes out with hospitality and fantastic taste.

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New protocols, home touches

Aesthetics is minimalist modern and incorporates an abundance of contemporary art from Wong’s global travels.

In addition, amenities such as a minibar, snacks, afternoon tea, evening S’mores, breakfast and beach linen are included in the room rate, and guests use free bicycles, beach chairs, parasols, beach toys and beach bags. beach and towels, Luxurious, yes, but in an understated way.

But for Wong and her employees, providing a high-touch service while adhering to protocol is not as simple as my visit was.

“I had to make a few changes to meet the new health standards and social distance constraints,” she says.

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The usual interiors are airy.

Courtesy of The Roundtree Amagansett

Business cost

Those changes meant more money: Wong won’t reveal how much she spent on rebuilding The Roundtree (the property alone cost $ 6.1 million), but says adjusting to the protocols cost 15% more than the initial investment.

For example, take breakfast. The morning meal was a buffet where guests could help themselves, but a self-service buffet increases the risk of a potentially sick person infecting food and thus other guests.

Now, Wong on the morning shift has additional staff bringing items to the tables. Instead of hiring a staff of eight, she had to hire 12. “We need more manpower to be able to do the extra work,” she says.

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You will find clean lines and lots of bright light in the rooms of The Roundtree Hotel.

Courtesy of The Roundtree Amagansett

Wash yourself and go

Other changes include removable upholstery on couches in guest rooms that are washed after each check-out. Guests also have access to a mini Upang sterilizer that disinfects items we all commonly use such as pens, computers, phones and books.

In addition, staff often disinfect surfaces in guest rooms and public areas. They also clean bicycles and beach equipment, including toys, umbrellas, chairs and bags after each guest use, which is exhausting.

Wong had planned to have a beach where guests would borrow and return these items, but now employees bring them on request.

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Spatial relations

There are several aspects of the opening that worked in Wong’s favor.

The floor plan of the property is a great boon for practicing social distancing, as 15 rooms are arranged in six buildings, and the entrance to each room is from the outside – guests never have to walk down the hall.

And since Wong’s staff wasn’t trained yet, she didn’t need to invest extra time and money to retrain them for hospitality after Covid-19. “They learned about hotel and health and safety protocols at the same time,” she says.

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Private spaces abound around the building.

Courtesy of The Roundtree Amagansett

If Wong doubted whether people would want to stay at the hotel after the locking restrictions were reduced, they would leave now. The facility is almost entirely booked until August, and several nights last two weeks or more.

“In a good way, it’s shocking how great a job it was,” Wong says. “My dream was to open a hotel that contains elements of all my favorite hotels around the world, and to see that become a reality during a pandemic is much more rewarding.”

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