Iskalo Development Corp. will bring back a century-old vaudeville tradition as it completely renovates the old Lord Amherst Motor Lodge. Rebranded the Reikart House, the new boutique hotel will be named after Amherst’s “first family of hospitality.”
More than a century after Frank and Dolly Reikart entertained visitors with music and their Capuchin monkey, the Williamsville-based developer has selected the Reikart name as the long-awaited new brand of the revamped former Lord Amherst. The developer, which unveiled the new name Monday, hopes its will symbolize the warm and unique welcome it wants to provide hotel guests.
“With the ongoing evolution of Main Street into a premier destination for high-end shopping, dining and spa services, we believe Reikart House will be an extremely welcome addition to the market and will quickly make its mark on the regional hospitality scene,” said Paul B. Iskalo, the developer’s founder, president and CEO.
Iskalo is completely rebuilding the interior of the hotel, which was originally designed by Duane Lyman, the "Dean of Western New York architecture." Work on the $19.9 million project has been underway for more than a year. The new hotel is slated to reopen in the spring under its new name.
Coupled with the six-story Hyatt Place Hotel behind it, the new Reikart will complete a "hospitality campus" that Iskalo has envisioned for the site since buying the sprawling property five years ago.
Upon completion, the 93-room boutique hotel at 5000 Main St., at the exit from the Youngmann Expressway, will feature 12 suites, a boardroom, a fitness room and spa treatment rooms.
The hotel's interior has been redesigned to mix "period, traditional and modern elements," using an architectural style that will reflect the original colonial revival of Lyman's design, according to the developer. The lobby has been rebuilt as a two-story "great room" space with a dining area.
The large boutique guest rooms will be filled with upscale furnishings. Through a partnership with the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Museum, each of the 12 suites will be themed around local individuals and landmarks that are significant to Amherst's history.
"Our goal in designing Reikart house is to provide a place that feels like home or 'home as you would like it to be,'" said Iskalo Executive Vice President David Chiazza.
Reikart House will be operated by Colorado-based Greenwood Hospitality Group, an experienced hotel management firm that has managed, acquired or advised over 500 hotels in 40 states, including both branded and boutique hotels.
The separate restaurant building, formerly home to Sonoma Grille, is still under development, including the theme, design and menu.
"Reikart House will be the Town of Amherst's first and only full-service, upscale boutique hotel," Iskalo said. "With interior design, branding and furnishings that embody Frank and Dolly Reikart, their pet Capuchin monkey Jacko, and historic vaudeville features, our guests will be delighted by the expected as well as the unexpected."
In the early 1900s, the Reikarts gained a reputation as a welcome-wagon for Amherst, operating a small food tent and barbershop catering to visitors entering the town from Transit Road. They served "red hots" and ice cream cones, took photos in their studio and entertained visitors on the guitar, banjo, violin or one of the musical instruments they invented, like the Jazzboline. They also performed locally at events and gatherings throughout the town, capitalizing on their previous vaudeville musical experience.
The unveiling of the new name - with Jacko as the logo - came as Iskalo sought to showcase construction progress on the 54-year-old facility. The Lord Amherst was built in 1962 and operated for more than five decades under the Genrich family.
Iskalo bought it in 2011. The developer subsequently announced plans for its separate 137-room Hyatt Place, which spurred significant controversy in the community, and particularly among neighbors in a nearby subdivision. After winning town approvals and beating back legal challenges, however, the developer completed and opened the hotel in August 2015 before turning its attention to the Lord Amherst.
The combined campus will now offer 230 guest rooms, a new restaurant, and meeting and event space.