John Paxton: An ambassador for Brattleboro
Here's an example. Every so often Paxton gets a call from the sister of one James Dunn, a 69-year-old man who lives in coastal Connecticut. Even though Dunn has cerebral palsy and needs a walker, he spends at least two weekends a year in Brattleboro, first for Strolling of the Heifers and second for Vermont's fall foliage and he has been making this visit since 2000. After making arrangements with Paxton as to his arrival time, his family gets him onto the northbound train in southern Connecticut. A couple hours later, the train pulls into the Brattleboro train station and Paxton is there to greet Mr. Dunn. He has a wheelchair ready and wheels Dunn up to the hotel and gets him situated in his room. Then Paxton and others see to his every need. Jonathan Jensen, hotel manager said "A nearby restaurant delivers a meal ordered by Mr. Dunn to the hotel. We plate it on china and take it up to him." A day or two later, they get him onto the southbound train home.
Part of the reason that Paxton is so outgoing, personable and ready to help may well have to do with the way he was brought up. He was born in Chelsea, Okla., in 1994, the son of Vicky and John Paxton. His father was and is a nuclear power contractor who writes procedurals — the sequence of work — to accomplish facets of building up or tearing down nuclear power plants, including Vermont Yankee. His work at any one site lasts two years or less, so the family moved 16 times or so during young Paxton's childhood: Oklahoma, Washington, Kansas, Arizona, Texas, New Hampshire, Vermont, Ohio, Kentucky, and Florida to note a few states. He grew up learning how to adapt, how to meet new people, how to make himself comfortable in new surroundings. His mother Vicky home-schooled both young Paxton as well as his older sister Nicole and younger sister Savanna.
At the age of 20, Paxton moved to Brattleboro, took part-time jobs and then Jonathan Jensen hired him in late 2015 first as a custodian and shortly thereafter to work the afternoon/evening role at the front desk checking in new guests. He works Monday through Wednesday afternoons and evenings and the same on Friday and Saturday (Karen Cribari covers Thursdays, Teo Radev covers Sundays.)
Paxton and the others do so much more than just check guests in or out. They are ambassadors for Brattleboro. When people phone in a reservation and then arrive at the front desk to check in, they have questions: "What restaurants? Art galleries? What can we do in Brattleboro? Where can we go? Can you get us a taxi?"
And guests, especially during the busy months between June and early November, are coming from farther and farther away, in part because of the new web site for The Latchis Hotel. Paxton told me "We're noticing a few guests are coming from Italy and Australia as well as the UK, Sweden, Poland and Iceland. Chinese people are coming as well, in part to visit the Tasha Tudor Museum in West Brattleboro. And as always, this fall we had people from North and South Carolina, Washington, D.C., New York and throughout New England and beyond.
"We sell out all thirty rooms about 75 nights of the year. People love to be in a downtown hotel and we're the only one. And it's only a five minute walk from the train station. We also offer four movie theaters in the same historic building. We have so many guests who put their slippers and bathrobes on and come down for a nine-o'clock movie.
"We also get a lot of parents staying here whose children attend The Putney School, Marlboro or Landmark Colleges as well as The Greenwood School. We see lots of undergrads from SIT. And we always sell out on the Strolling-of-the-Heifers weekend. Lots of guests come for performances at Yellow Barn, The Marlboro Music Festival, New England Center for Circus Arts, The Vermont Jazz Center as well as live performance on the main stage here in our own building. And then there's Rivers Edge Cycling, a New England based bike-touring group that books 20 rooms, three times a year. And the hotel is always booked solid for foliage season.
"One of the more extraordinary weekends when we're sold out is for what bodybuilders call Green Mountain Thaw. For around 32 hours, the entire hotel and main theater is filled with fully buffed-out and very scantily clad body builders who strut their stuff in competition on the main stage. This event is always on a Saturday through a Sunday and at the time of year when we're screening simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. The presence of these bodybuilders in the foyer as the opera audience arrives creates quite the scene."
told this writer that he also sometimes feels like he plays part of the role of a bartender. "People come down to the lobby late in the evening (I'm here until 11 p.m.) just to talk. I have to say I'm flattered. I've even been a shoulder to cry on."
Jon Potter, Executive Director of the Latchis, pointed out that "John has really grown in his time at the Latchis. He started as a custodian, and did that energetically and cheerfully, but we could tell that he had a natural gift with people. When a spot opened on our front desk staff, he took it, and has done well. In a short period of time, he has gone from being the new kid to being a mentor to new colleagues."
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