FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Just a flick of a switch and a Fairfield landmark glowed again, as the new owners of the Hotel Hi-Ho officially reopened for business Tuesday night under its iconic neon sign.
“It’s a landmark reborn,” said Ed Gormbley, who co-owns the property along the Merritt Parkway with his business partner Clay Fowler. “I would see that sign coming home from my cousin’s house as a kid, and now it’s going to be there again.”
Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau and Chamber of Commerce President Beverly Balaz were among the dozens of local dignitaries and friends welcoming the changes to the Black Rock Turnpike hotel. Opened in 1955 by Bridgeport’s Daddario family, the hotel had been in a slow decline over the past several years, said Ed Percell, who has been the general manager for 45 years.
“The stairs, the concrete was a mess and there were cracks out here,” he said, pointing to the newly repaired and painted front steps. “Occupancy was very low.”
The hotel had to turn off the Hi-Ho sign, a beacon shining over the Merritt Parkway for decades, when a bird flew into it and caught fire eight years ago.
“The Chamber is very happy to have this property opened again,” said Balaz. “It’s looking just beautiful.”
The new Hi-Ho boasts 40 freshly painted and refurbished rooms, better lighting and walkways and a guest lounge with a breakfast area. The owners aimed for a “country chic” look with both rawhide chairs and cow-patterned throw pillows and sleek flatscreen TVs, espresso machines and prints bearing Andy Warhol’s likeness in each room.
Guests can order room service from Barcelona, the restaurant connected to the hotel at no service fee, said Fritz Chery, director of sales and marketing. Future plans include a concierge service, dinner/theater packages, a whirlpool and other spaces for outdoor relaxing, he said.
“We like to say ‘it’s not your father’s Hi-Ho,’” Gormbley said.
This is the second Fairfield hotel to get a makeover á la Gormbley and Fowler in recent months. The partners unveiled a remodeled Fairfield Circle Inn, formerly Fairfield Motor Inn, on the Post Road in July.
“This is the kind of real estate we like to do,” Gormbley said. “We find problems and we fix them.”
Read about the reopening of the Fairfield Circle Inn here at the Daily Voice.
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