Harry Prott is one of Newark's most irrepressible and irreplaceable personalities.
"I love working with people. For me, it's all about relationships," said Prott, born and raised in the city's Ironbound neighborhood and who has worked in Newark for more than 30 years. "Everyone knows who I am. When you're good to people, it comes back to you 100 percent."
With his quick wit, salt-and-pepper beard, and constant bright smile, Prott positively lit up the gone, but not forgotten Newark Club for years. The club's Metropolitan Room, ringed by tall and wide windows, provided a panorama unique in the metropolitan area. Prott worked at the club from its inception in 1992 and served as its general manager until the club closed in February.
However, the now-closed club's pain is the nearby Robert Treat Hotel's gain. Prott has returned to being Brick City's host with the most, recently joining the more-than-century old historic hotel as its new director of catering sales. In his new role, Prott will now concentrate more on sales, as well as booking and running parties.
"It's still dealing with the same type of clientele, and now I don't have to do everything like I did at the Newark Club," Prott said, a wall sign from his old venue positioned behind his new desk. "It's going to be a little more fun, and I still have all of my relationships."
Prott was compelled to make the move by the continuing changes in downtown Newark. The Newark Club was a double victim of rising property values that made the location, 22 floors above downtown Newark atop One Newark Center, highly valuable as office space.
The club also suffered from a change in culture. Long a private club, the sought-after spot used to be the scene of long lunches, accompanied by perhaps a few cocktails, where local politicians, lawyers and judges networked in style. Now, the time of the warm handshake deal has diminished, beaten down by the cold time pressures of the digital age.
However, Prott's inimitable human touch will now live on at the Robert Treat. The hotel is owned by Miles Berger, the CEO of The Berger Organization, a privately owned diversified real estate company involved in the development and management of residential, commercial and hospitality properties throughout Newark, the rest of North Jersey, and New York City.
Prott is not the only Newark Club alum to make the transition to Robert Treat. Artie Wassif, another well-known fixture from the Newark Club, became Robert Treat's director of sales.
Prott's plan is that the former Newark Club clientele will now become current customers at the Robert Treat. The hotel's recently-refurbished Crystal Room will be the scene of most his events, as will the Tri-State Ballroom, which can hold more than 1,200 people.
"I have the old-timers and the up-and-comers ready to come over," Prott said. "Nobody is really supporting private lunch clubs anymore. But I think people are ready for a new beginning here. And I'm back in the business."
Prott's well-known skills as a professional photographer have been showcased in local galleries, and will soon be featured in a coffee table book sponsored by the Newark Downtown District.
Prott, who spent the last few months working behind a camera, made it clear about what makes a good photograph.
"All photography is about recording light," Prott said as he looked at the rays of sunshine streaming through the Robert Treat lobby windows. "Even color is how light reflects off of something."
Prott, undoubtedly one of Newark's most colorful characters, reflected on how his change in jobs is part of a rapidly reviving Newark.
"There's a lot happening down here right now," said Prott, pointing to all of the new businesses and new residents coming into New Jersey's largest city. "A tree grows in Brooklyn. But real growth is now happening here in Newark. We're already on the rise, and we're going to take it to the next level. We're going to be great."