Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
March 10, 2009 Issue
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Dan Hust | Democrat

THE BALLROOM AT the Villa Roma main hotel will be able to seat 650, and has its own unique chandeliers and custom paintings.

The Villa's opening soon (it's a promise)

By Dan Hust
CALLICOON — Villa Roma General Manager Rich Sandler knows the question’s coming.
“So when is the main building going to reopen?”
He’s heard it a thousand times. So have Vice President Paul Carlucci and owner Marty Passante.
They’ve wondered it themselves. When will they finally and fully recover from the 2006 fire that gutted their offices, dining room and central lobby?
Construction delays, said Sandler, have continued to push back every date. At one point, it was going to be Memorial Day. Then it became July 27 (or 26, depending on who you asked).
According to Sandler, the response now is, “We’re hoping in another two weeks.”
Stow your skepticism. Passante and crew haven’t spent $30 million for nothing. A sneak peek inside the 50,000-square-foot main building unequivocally confirms that.
The buzz of saws and drills, the clink of ladders, the steady shuffle of feet fill all three floors, where local contractors labor feverishly to finish intricate woodwork, lay colorful carpet and tile and install yet another unique (and gigantic) chandelier.
The names of the companies and men doing this work are often familiar: Bernas, Hughson, Wagner, Keller, Mike Popolillo’s American Electric, Mesko, Liberty Iron Works, Narrowsburg Lumber.
And their efforts are already admiringly evident, from the ornate fountain you can see just by driving past to the enormous kitchen facilities hidden deep within.
When it does open this August, the centerpiece of the Villa’s Callicoon complex will look quite different from its forebear.
The lobby will return, but it actually will be slightly smaller, with the rest of the space occupied by the reservations desk, various offices, an ice cream shop and a 160-seat cafe with a 2,500-pound fountain in the wall.
“It was like hanging up a Volkswagen,” joked Sandler.
Two elevators and a split staircase will take people to the second floor, where a lounge and coffee bar will provide relaxation, entertainment and, yes, the return of the only Starbucks outlet in all of Sullivan County.
Outdoor decks trimmed with white railing will give the caffeine-lovers an even more stimulating view of the Beechwoods, although many eyes may be trained on screens inside the OTB room (which also will offer an outdoor terrace).
Up on the third floor, the blue-and-gold ballroom is largely finished, with 650 chairs awaiting their tables and hand-painted artwork decorating any spaces not occupied by immense windows surveying the countryside.
The stainless steel of the ballroom’s equally immense kitchen gleams in the fluorescent lighting, and the freezers – capable of flash freezing items down to -100 degrees – have already been switched on.
On all three floors, half a million dollars’ worth of cabling and related computer and telephone systems have been installed – and a state-of-the-art smoke- and fire-detection system is, not surprisingly, plainly evident.
Clad in brown and white, the main building is a suitable counterpart to the outdoor pool area, where renovations began last year as insurance monies started pouring in.
Five pools sit right across the street from the building, the surrounding concrete replaced with brick and stone.
In between is the water fountain, to be lit in spectacular fashion every evening. Standing around its perimeter are four statues of Greek and Italian inspiration, representing the four seasons.
And while the Four Seasons moniker is already trademarked, Sandler and company plan to ensure the Villa continues to afford such an experience.
“Having this back up is really important,” said Sandler of the main building, especially eager to reopen the dining areas, with popular chef Tom Kutschera back to oversee operations.
Meanwhile, the 230 timeshare units, the hotel’s sports facilities and the Club at Villa Roma have remained open while all of the hotel’s 140 rooms are being remodeled into suites (many are already complete).
Close to 200 employees are being hired to staff the enlarged complex, as well.
“I give Marty credit,” Sandler remarked, grateful the Villa’s owner didn’t take a more expedient and lucrative route by simply pocketing the insurance payout. “He put every last dime – plus extra – back into this building.
“He really believes in the area,” Sandler added, gesturing at a hotel busy not just with construction workers but guests.
“Here we are, chugging along, putting money into the community. We’re the real deal.”

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