Some exciting things have been happening in Wheeling. If you live anywhere near Carmel road in Woodsdale, you may be seeing some activity at the historic Mt. Carmel Monastery.
In July, Weelunk covered the recent rehabilitation developments at the Monastery led by the folks at Roxby Development – a new local real estate and construction company.
The Monastery itself is a sight to be seen, but Jeffery Morris, president of Roxby Development, has bigger plans than to just repair the stucco – which he tells me is a welcome challenge.
Morris plans for the Monastery to entertain an upscale boutique hotel replete with many restored elements of the original structure and some inspired ones as well. With 18 rooms and multiple indoor and outdoor event spaces, which will be utilized for extensive community programming, Morris also plans for a new hospitality school collaboration to take shape.
“Before we closed on the Monastery, I had already been having discussions about working with a potential hospitality school and I loved that concept.”
While Morris initially considered building out a full food and beverage restaurant in the Monastery, he and his team reevaluated how they could best serve their community.
“We didn’t want to be competitors,” Morris explains.
“We came to the realization that we have 80% of our income and future growth in an area completely unassociated with food and beverage and its being sustained by maybe 10% of our actual efforts.”
Morris’s insight and penchant for big ideas, led to the development of a new school in Wheeling – Saira Hospitality.
Saira Hospitality is a 501c3 nonprofit that describes itself as a “Luxury Hospitality Training Program”, offering students a 10-week intensive program focused on topics ranging from hands-on service skill-building to enhanced interpersonal intelligence training.
In the first year, three programs for up to 36 students each will be offered; with every graduating student receiving a certificate from Cornell University’s online learning platform, eCornell. This will be Saira’s first permanent hospitality school in the country.
Harsha L’Acqua, CEO and founder of Saira Hospitality, describes how important a development like this is for the city of Wheeling and the region more broadly.
“Beyond offering transformative hospitality and life skills training and sustainable job opportunities, we are looking forward to seeing the ripple effect of the school enhancing the wealth and community spirit of the area. We are so proud to be bringing this to Wheeling and partnering with Roxby Development to help them realise their vision of creating a unique offering which is unfailingly authentic to the destination, where guests, staff and community members alike are invited in to explore and expand their horizons.”
Encouraging new folks to visit the area is critically important to our overall economy. In 2018, West Virginia’s tourism sector grew at an unprecedented rate, revealing traveler spending grew at a rate of 6.5 percent, totaling $4.55 billion in total.
While the world today looks a little different than it did in 2018, with a global pandemic dramatically changing the way hospitality industries function, Harsha believes, even in this environment, the school can thrive.
“Coming up against the challenge of opening our first school during a global pandemic was not top of our goals list, but we are passionate about the work we are doing and the impact we can have, our drive to provide opportunities to those who are often overlooked feels more important than ever during these uncertain times.” L’Acqua says.
“Of course our utmost priority is the health and safety of our students and lecturers – we will remain fully dedicated to operating at the highest levels of health and safety vigilance in accordance with guidelines issued by the US Government to support their wellbeing.”
Quality food service is a critical component to any community and Saira Hospitality hopes to complement the existing service industry landscape while attracting new folks to the city.
“We feel that West Virginia is perfectly positioned to attract both students and guests looking to drive to their next adventure whether that be for education or exploration. Ourselves and our partner Roxby Development could not be more passionate about spearheading new sustainable job opportunities within hospitality, welcoming the tourism dollar and in doing so revitalizing Wheeling and West Virginia as a whole, bringing a taste of luxury and lifestyle hospitality to the community and inviting them in.”
Whether you’re interested in a career in hospitality, enjoy an elevated dining experience, or both, these new collaborative developments in Wheeling are exciting to see.
Saira Hospitality looks forward to welcoming it’s first guests to the restored Monastery hotel in Spring 2021.
For more information about the Saira Hospitality or the Monastery Hotel please reach out to Jeffery Morris at (800-921-4163)
• Rosemary Ketchum is a member of the Wheeling City Council representing Ward 3. Rosemary is associate director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Wheeling Drop-in Center and on the boards of several organizations including the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. She has served as a guest on MSNBC and has been profiled by several publications including Time Magazine, CBS and CNN for her work in community organizing and politics.