There are lots of changes going on at Denver’s largest hotel, the Sheraton Denver Downtown; and the General Manager of this Starwood Hotels & Resorts property, Mike Ehmann, can’t help but show his excitement when he talks about what this means for Denver. The Starwood Hotels and Resorts group has spend more than $238 million to renovate, re-brand and reposition the five former Adam's Mark hotels in Denver, Dallas, Indianapolis, Buffalo and St. Louis over the next year. Completion of the Denver hotel on the 16th Street Mall is scheduled for the fall of 2009.
According to Mr. Ehmann and Susan Stiff, Denver Area Director of Public Relations, the Sheraton Denver Downtown is coming along nicely with many new dramatic changes including: 1,250 comfortable guestrooms, 92 beautiful suites, a new modern ballroom, over 130,000 feet of meeting space, the recently opened - newly designed lobby, and new health and fitness programs. “You can really feel the change!” says Susan. “With the sky-bridge between the two buildings,” Ehmann says, “You don’t even need to go out in the elements.” The property boasts a new restaurant, Katie Mullen’s Irish Pub with seating for around 600; and the wood used for the bar and furniture imported straight from Ireland.
Mike Ehmann is a Denver area native with a genuine passion for helping the needy. Mike prefers to stay low-key about his own contributions and focus more on those who are down and out and need our help. Since becoming GM of the Sheraton Denver, Ehmann has hosted a Denver's Largest Ice Cream Social for “Denver's Road Home” as a “re-flagging” event and supports the "Father Woody Annual Holiday Party" for the homeless. In addition, Ehmann recently donated over 2,000 much needed pillows and blankets to organizations such as Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America, Denver's Road Home and Central City Opera historic properties.
Mr. Ehmann has served for over 25 years in various positions with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. He has held senior leadership positions in Dallas, Orlando, Houston, Phoenix, Tucson and many more cities. Ehmann served most recently in Atlanta as Area Managing Director for Starwood's Southeast Region. Now that he’s back home in Colorado, Ehmann currently serves on the Metro Denver Hotel Association Board and the Downtown Denver Partnership Tremont District planning committee.
The Ehmann family is glad to be back in Colorado where they feel very much at home. Mike says: “There’s nothing quite like being back in Colorado.”
Because of his proven track record and effective management skills, Mike Ehmann has been given a multitude of responsibilities as the General Manager of the Sheraton Downtown Denver. Ehmann says: “I’m looking forward to establishing long-term relationships with non-profits. We can really help them make their fundraising events a success by delivering great food and service – and even helping with auction items through our 900 different hotels.” With Mike Ehmann’s multi-tasking skills and a “can do” positive spirit, look for good things to happen at this outstanding Denver landmark hotel.
What upcoming charitable events are taking place at the Sheraton Denver Downtown? An event with Historic Denver, the Pink Tie Affair for Susan G. Komen, The Bridge Project, and many others in the works.
How important is it for a large hotel like the Sheraton to be involved in the community? It’s extremely important. We want to be part of and give back to the community by being involved in partnerships like the one we have with Father Woody. It’s the right think to do. Our associates/employees are involved in many non-profits in the community. We plan on becoming more and more a part of what’s happening in Denver.
How has Denver changed over the last 25 years? Being a 3rd generation Coloradoan, just the population growth, seeing downtown become a genuine downtown with a LoDo, living spaces, restaurants, Larimer Square, the performing arts, and the new museums. At the same time, things haven’t changed in other ways. The people are still good people. Historic preservation has been terrific.
Originally being a native, what do you miss the most that is no longer here?
We were a close Colorado family. The old Celebrity Lanes on Colorado Blvd. where you had lots of choices of what you could do like bowl, swim, etc., is what comes to mind.
Aside from it being your hometown, what makes Denver special?
Mostly the people. Sometimes you have to leave something to really appreciate it, that’s been the case for me. Also, when you are away from the mountains, you realize how special they are.
You have worked in many other cities; which one was the hardest to leave behind?
That’s tough. You make the most out of where you are at. Leaving Dallas was difficult. We had really great friends there and a good support base. Orlando was nice too, and it was great having Disney World there for our daughter as she was growing up.
What is your favorite country to visit? I haven’t been there yet, but I’d love to go to Ireland. I have family there.
What is the biggest upside to being in the hotel and hospitality industry? As the saying goes, “Find something that you love, and it’s never like going to work.” That’s true for me, I just love the interaction with the various people we have in this industry. Having been able to see the different parts of the U.S. like Texas, Arizona, Florida, and Georgia. Also if you work hard, learn a lot about the industry, there’s great career advancement, and every day is different!
How do we get more young people involved in charitable giving and volunteering?
There is a great spirit out there already with our young people. We saw it with the election. At Father Woody’s event, we had so many volunteers here like parents with their children, and quite a few young adult volunteers. We need to lead by example whether we are parents, grandparents or aunts or uncles. I’m pretty impressed with this younger generation that’s out there. They do community service while they are in school, and join groups in college that are involved with philanthropy. I think we are in good shape here.
What would you still like to learn how to do? Learn how to fly-fish.
Besides eating at all the new restaurants in the Sheraton Denver Downtown, what are some of your other favorite Denver restaurants?
Denver Chop House, Oceanaire Seafood Restaurant, Osteria Marco in Larimer Square, the Blue Parrot in Louisville – to name a few.
Out of all the celebrities and famous people you have probably met at events, which impressed you the most? Former President, Bill Clinton. He looks you in the eye, and makes you feel like someone you’d like to go out and have a beer with. I was very impressed with the way he was, and what he would do for people. Although he was only supposed to spend a few minutes with them, he spent over 30 minutes just thanking the volunteers and staff for all they did.
Do you have a saying or motto that has helped guide you through life?
“Do the right thing…”
What qualities should a good leader have? Ability to listen, able to create a vision, and has conviction in their own beliefs. Also important: In order to be successful, surround yourself with good people.
What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment? Family is important to me. Staying married to the same woman for over 20 years; having a daughter who got all the way through college and has a good head on her shoulders - and is a good kid. Obviously she got those strengths from her mother….
What’s in the future for Mike Ehmann? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Right now I’m so focused on getting the hotel completely renovated, and repositioned from a professional side. Short term goal, just to enjoy Denver, selling my house in Atlanta (I still have a house there); and just doing all I can do right now. Maybe going on an upcoming vacation and sipping a corona and enjoying the water.
What changes do you predict for the hotel industry in the next 10 years?
I think the technology component will continue to become more and more a part of the industry - it is a big part of it now! I believe the industry will stay vibrant because of the need to still have that face-to-face contact. People still get more “jazzed” about a new product roll out or a seminar when they can interact in person as opposed to a conference call. More people will continue to travel. Changes will take place quickly so it’s important to give your customers what they are looking for. Lifestyle branding will also continue in the hotel industry.
How do you want to be remembered by future generations? That’s a tough one. How I’ve lived my life on both a personal and business side. The relationships and friendships that I’ve developed throughout the years; being known as someone who cares and that you can count on. A person with a good sense of family and community pride. A good son, good father, good husband.