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Community Spotlight: Checking in with the hotel man

Chris Koebelin - Photo by Rachel Brant
Chris Koebelin
— image credit: Photo by Rachel Brant

By RACHEL BRANT

Staff writer

Chris Koebelin has only been at the helm of the Silverdale Beach Hotel for a couple of years.

But he brings years of experience to the seasoned Silverdale establishment.

As general manager of the hotel and an active member of Rotary of Silverdale and the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce, Koebelin keeps quite busy. Aside from the long hours he puts in at the hotel and the community activities, he still finds time to play lots of basketball and spend time with his wife, Pam, and 3-year-old daughter, Ella.

We recently stopped by the Silverdale Beach Hotel and chatted with Koebelin about his life and the hotel business.

Question: What is your favorite part of Silverdale?

Answer: I love Silverdale where I’m at, based on its proximity to the water. I like being able to look out the window and see the beautiful scenery.

Q: How did you get started in the hotel business?

A: In 1996 I took a job at a hotel as a front desk agent while I was at the University of Washington. That was kind of the beginning of a decently long career so far. I also worked at a Best Western Executive Inn in Seattle and a Best Western in Puyallap. I came to the Silverdale Beach Hotel in September 2005.

Q: Do you have a favorite meal?

A: I’ll say my favorite food is our very own rib eye steak here at the hotel.

Q: Do you have a favorite hobby?

A: Playing basketball. I put together the first basketball tournament here at the hotel. It was in August and we had about 40 teams. I’m looking forward to doing it again.

Q: How would you describe a typical day as general manager of a hotel?

A: Usually when you come in you make your rounds, check in with the staff and departments, review the prior night’s business and talk to customers and help out in areas where needed. Hotel life is 365 days, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If I’m not here I’m usually on the phone with someone who is here.

Q: What’s the best way to get started in the hotel business?

A: The nice thing about the hotel industry is that it’s becoming a little more educational. West Sound Tech has classes and Washington State University is one of the top schools in the country for hotel management. The other nice thing about the industry is that education does not dictate how far you will go in the hotel business. You learn as you go as long as there is a willing leader to help you.

Q: What is your first memory of Silverdale?

A: I moved here in April 2006 and I love it. Prior to working here I’d never been over to this area. The Silverdale community openly embraced me and that made it easy for me to feel welcomed. It was the best welcoming ever. I’ve made very long-lasting loyalties here.

Q: What is the biggest change you’ve seen since you’ve been at the Silverdale Beach Hotel?

A: The physical renovation of the hotel. I’ve seen a huge change and lots of community support. We have a lot of support for what we are doing. The locals really enjoy the restaurant and bar.

Q: Who would play you in a movie of your life and why?

A: Who I would want to play me is Tom Cruise because he’s my favorite actor. But if I could be funny I would say Bud Bundy (actor David Faustino) from “Married With Children.”

Q: What do you like the most about your job? The least?

A: Truly the most important thing to me here is that I have the undying trust and support from the owner as well as the support and trust I’ve gained from my staff. I enjoy being able to come in and do what I do. I have a unique ability to do what I see fit. The least ... when we don’t deliver the level of service that is expected and having to discuss that with the customers and with the employee.

Q: Are you for or against Silverdale incorporation?

A: Absolutely 100 percent for it. The biggest reason we need incorporation is because we are not a business friendly community and we never will be unless we incorporate. There’s a lot of people who want to come here but don’t stay because of lack of city help.

Q: In your opinion, what makes the Silverdale Beach Hotel stand out?

A: The obvious reason is that we are the only full service hotel in Silverdale meaning we have a bar, restaurant and banquet room. We’ve really shown the community that we want to stay here for a long time. We cater to both locals and travelers and know or recognize many of the people who come in here. I don’t think that same feeling is felt at other properties.

Q: What has been your most memorable vacation spot?

A: If I had to pick one place I’d say Disneyland. I grew up in California. I’m taking my daughter there for the first time tomorrow (Dec. 27). It’s the happiest place on Earth.

Q: What is one thing you want to try in your lifetime?

A: I have a list that I started probably 20 years ago of more than 100 things I want to accomplish. I’ve achieved 17 so far. On the business side, I want to open my own hotel. I also want to play in an official NBA game, race in a stock car at Daytona, go to the Philippines, jump out of a plane (parachute). I grew up with my mom, a single parent, and she told me to always strive to fulfill my dreams. So when I was 10 or 11 years old I saw something on TV and started the list. I have the original list and you can’t read the first few items because I was 10 or 11 and my handwriting was bad. I’ve added stuff to it each year. I’ve only done 17 in the past 31 years of life, so I guess I have to work quicker over the next 50 or so years.

Q: If you could change one thing about the hotel what would it be and why?

A: One thing I’d like to change about the hotel is its physical structure which would take millions and millions of dollars. It was built as a structure that was the norm then, but now it prevents us from doing a lot of things to help people.

Q: What different countries have hotel visitors traveled from?

A: This past summer we had guests from Saskatchewan (Canada). We get a lot of people here from Hong Kong, the Philippines. Actress Elizabeth Mitchell from the TV show “Lost” stayed here last December. Her husband is from Bainbridge Island. I had the chef create a cheesecake and write “Lost” on top with the sauce. I’m a huge “Lost” fan and she signed an autograph for me and we talked for a bit.

Q: If you could have any magical power what would it be?

A: I would like to be able to know what people are thinking before they say it. If you could know what was in people’s minds you could prevent bad things from happening.

Q: How many organizations are you involved with?

A: I am a board member of Rotary of Silverdale, treasurer for the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce and I’m a new board member for the Central Kitsap Food Bank.

Q: What’s the strangest guest antic you’ve seen in the hotel business?

A: I could write a book about hotels. There’s so much weirdness. At one hotel, not this one, an elderly couple checked in and it turned out the husband was dying and she brought him there to die because it was his favorite hotel. There were no elevators, so the medics had to carry him down the stairs and through the main lobby.

Q: What’s your favorite holiday and why?

A: Christmas, hands down. I pretty much love the entire month of December. People are more cordial to each other and I love how excited my daughter gets counting down the days to Christmas. It’s awesome.

Q: What’s your most embarrassing moment?

A: For those that know me, I drink a lot of coffee. Around 4 p.m. every day the front of my shirt is stained with coffee. No matter what kind of lid I spill coffee and I’ve ruined about 10 shirts because of it. It’s a problem I can’t seem to fix and I swear I have a hole in my lip or something.

Q: Have you seen any competition from Oxford Suites?

A: I completely embrace all competition. They will help us bring in more tourists and people to the area. With another hotel that is physically better and newer than us, it will help draw in more people. I think they’ll help our community to bring in a lot of different groups of people.

Q: What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

A: They’ve all been good, I’ve learned from all of them. I worked at Arby’s for three weeks when I was 16 years old making roast beef sandwiches and it sucked. I couldn’t stand it.

Q: What one person made the biggest impression on your life?

A: People have their heroes or their moral champs, but I’d say my mom. She was a single parent to me and she’s where I got all my morals and values from. She’s the reason I am where I’m at now. My wife also has been fantastic.

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