Vinoy verdict: exceptionally elegant


Times Photo --
Maurice Rivenbark
The refurbished Stouffer Vinoy Resort.


By BETTY JEAN MILLER,
staff writer
©St. Petersburg Times, published August 4, 1992

 

Editor's note: Betty Jean Miller, who was born and raised in St. Petersburg, attended many a party at the Vinoy Hotel from the late 1940s until its closing. She toured the new Stouffer Vinoy Resort for the first time when it opened.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Wow.

Maybe that says it best.

The new Stouffer Vinoy is even better than the elegant old Vinoy, whose loss has been mourned since it closed in 1975. It is dazzling, light, lively and done with an authenticity you rarely see in this faux show age.

The Stouffer Vinoy Resort opened its doors to the public for tours on Monday. Laurie Clawson, here from a Georgia Stouffer resort for the opening, was staffing the reservations desk for the continual tours. "I couldn't put the phone down this morning," she said, taking a brief break. "It would just ring and ring and ring. We're having tours every half-hour this week from 10 (a.m.) to 4 (p.m.) and every hour next week. We're booked through Friday." At the day's end, 413 had called, so a decision was made to book tours on weekends as well. Staffers try to keep the tours down to 15 people per group, "But there are so many walk-ins," said John Andruzzi, whose job with Florida Power and Light in Bradenton ended just in time for the Stouffer Vinoy job fair at the Bayfront Center. He was hired to conduct tours.

Kristen Kolnicki of Palm Harbor, who also had been hired through the job fair, was doing a big business in the pro shop. She was selling white robes and chaise-size bath towels with the handsome Vinoy emblem. Each sells for $50.

In the Marchand Dining Room, the hotel's main dining room, St. Petersburg residents were everywhere, checking it out to see that their hotel had been done right.

Betsy Pheil, whose family owned the Pheil Hotel in downtown St. Petersburg and who has been to many a dance and party at the Vinoy, was dazzled. She was even more impressed when her complimentary birthday dessert arrived with "Happy Birthday" drizzled on it in chocolate.

Eric Peterson, antiques collector and appraiser, had highest praise for the restoration work.

Genie Redd, a local caterer, said the food was "fabulous." "Exceptional," he said, "and it takes a lot to impress me. And what elegant presentation."

The hotel has been renovated beyond its once proud heritage. The magnificently restored ceiling beams are intact. The old "Augusta Block" bricks pave the front walk and several of the many interior patios and gardens on the grounds. But the elegant ballroom has a carpeted floor that will necessitate portable dance floors.

The old mezzanine, where New Year's Eve Dragon Club cocktail parties used to take place, is just as it was, circling and overlooking the main lobby, only beautifully carpeted and with newly painted railings. It is now called the promenade. The upstairs porch, which opens off the promenade, is now roofed and furnished with appropriate wicker.

The foyer, where debutantes used to gather for their pre-ball reception, is more open, lighter. Somehow, with the lighter colors, everything looks larger.

And from every angle, the magnificent waterfront is there, complete with four yachts moored at the new docking facilities.


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