There might soon be an increase in smiling faces on paddle boards near the Kirkland shores of Lake Washington, and maybe electric boats zipping around, thanks to the new idea-filled general manager of the , John Murphy.
“I’m a water baby. Water grounds me,” says Murphy of what drew him to the Woodmark.
Bellevue, Kirkland and even Seattle are practically in the Woodmark's backyard, but it is the front yard that entices guests -- a beautiful waterfront vista. Shockingly, the Woodmark is the only hotel on Lake Washington.
And Murphy is full of ideas on how to take full advantage of the location. Beyond the paddle boards and electric boats, Murphy is thinking of a golf game involving the lake using biodegradeable balls, yoga on the lawn and more in an effort to attract family visitors.
Murphy’s career path has been all about the hospitality industry. Originally a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY), Murphy then earned a B.S. in hospitality at Florida International University.
He spent a large portion of his career specializing in conference centers on the East Coast until Microsoft lured him and his family to the Promised Land. He and his wife, Marti - who is currently a Microsoftie - and their two children have called Sammamish home for more than a decade.
On June 1, the Woodmark Hotel joined the extensive Destination Hotels network, which includes the Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum and the Skamania Lodge outside of Portland. Murphy is excited to add his professional touch to the Woodmark property. One of the first things he did was invite a designer to come help him carve out a space in the lobby.
“The GM should be in the lobby to welcome guests, talk to clients and build relationships,” says Murphy, gesturing confindently with his large hands.
Though the Woodmark sees a lot of weekday traffic due to business travelers and Microsoft meetings, the hotel would like to increase weekend stays.
“The great thing about the Woodmark is that we’re here, but away,” says Murphy.
If you’ve ever stepped through the front doors, you have likely met Woody, the hotel's 1-year-old Labradoodle. This true hotel dog makes the climate more relaxed than the elegant hotel might be otherwise. Dog-owners might already know about Yappier Hour, the summertime canine-friendly happy hour on the patio of the hotel's .
A family man himself, Murphy’s children have offered their own ideas on what might improve the hotel. His daughter, who recently graduated from high school, insists that a lakeside pool is a must.
“But pools take time,” says Murphy, who is looking for more immediately implementable ideas.
His son, a designer of mountain bike trails, might have some ideas up his sleeve, too, though Murphy didn’t share any.
With his culinary training, Murphy has a keen interest in the food side of the hotel, including hotel catering and also the Woodmark’s two restaurants: Beach Cafe and . He just hired a new executive chef from Arizona, Brian Cooper, to oversee everything. Cooper will likely be excited by Murphy’s brain-child involving adding honeybee hives to the rooftop. The honey can be used in all the kitchens and possibly at the hotel’s spa.
Murphy’s energy and ideas might well help revitalize the Woodmark’s reputation as the “urban resort on the lake.” Kid- and dog-friendly places score points in this area. Murphy’s casually elegant manner engages visitors in a way that might just have them signing up for a night overlooking the lake -- even if it’s not their per diem hotel - no doubt a talent that landed him the job in the first place.