BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The wait is finally over, Embassy Suites by Hilton Berkeley Heights opened its doors with an official ribbon cutting on Tuesday.
The hotel actually had a soft opening last week, but on Tuesday, May 1, Mayor Bob Woodruff wielded a huge pair of scissors and cut through the big red ribbon in front of the hotel’s main entrance, alongside Shane Connell, Executive Vice President of The Connell Company, which owns the hotel.
Watching and supporting the festivities were Connell Corporation officials, Berkeley Heights Township Council Members Jeanne Kingsley, Peter Bavoso, Michael D’Aquila, Township Administrator John Bussiculo, Suburban Chamber of Commerce board members and officials from Davidson Hotels and Resorts, the hotel’s management company.
Shane Connell thanked the “Mayor, Township Committee, and Township of Berkeley Heights for supporting us. Without their support this never would have happened. Without their support Connell would not have been able to evolve.”
He said the opening of the hotel is the “first part of re-branding the park.” Lifetime Fitness was the first non-corporate office space added to the office park. Then came the public park, and the public space, complete with wi-fi, where people can sit outdoors and work. The hotel, with Starbucks on one side of the building and the Connell’s signature Grain and Cane restaurant on the other, are the next part.
“As long-term owners,” the Connell family looks forward to seeing the evolution of the property in the coming years, he said.
Woodruff thanked Connell and his family for choosing Berkeley Heights as the home for the Connell Corporation. “The Connell family has been a tremendous asset for Berkeley Heights,” he said. He pointed out the Connell Corporation has been a strong supporter of town events since locating in Berkeley Heights and made it clear, from the very start, that the family wanted to establish a relationship with the township and "This cements it,” he said.
Woodruff said he has come to believe the Connell family is a “picture of America and what can be done with a little sugar and rice,” referring to the family’s origins as “Connell Rice and Sugar.”
The hotel will help to turn Connell Park, and by extensions Berkeley Heights, into a destination – and is a project that is “good for Berkeley Heights,” because it will “provide employment, allow us to bring people to Berkeley Heights and showcase the downtown,” the mayor concluded.
Connell later said the best part of having the ribbon cutting under his belt is “We are now running a hotel, not building one … When I grew up we never owned a hotel and never owned a restaurant.”
Starbucks opened in April and he said “the public’s reaction to Starbucks is rewarding.” At the time he spoke to TAPinto, Grain and Cane was getting ready for its first dinner service that evening. The name Grain and Cane incorporates his grandfather Grover’s initials, G.C. – the man who started the family business and who just celebrated his 100th birthday. The menu “features a number of items he likes,” said Connell, who said he would “definitely have lunch here.”
The décor in the restaurant and many details in the hotel harken back to the original days of Connell Rice and Sugar. Check the wall above the bar – there’s a replica of the commodity exchange price board – similar to an airline arrival and departure board, complete with flipping letters. On Tuesday there was a sign on the board that said “Cheer up things could be worse – So the man cheered up and it got worse” or words to that effect. The sign changes from time to time, just as prices changed in the commodity market.
After the opening remarks, various groups gathered for photographs, then entered the Grain and Cane for a reception with passed hors d’oeuvres and beverages. Davidson representatives led tours of the hotel. The eight-story all-suite hotel contains 176 rooms. Some are studios, with a separate bedroom, others have one bedroom, and a third type have both a bedroom and conference area. There are conference rooms, meeting rooms, a ballroom, two different well-appointed lobbies, terraces, a fitness center and an indoor salt water swimming pool, just to name some of the amenities.
The grand opening of Embassy Suites, at 250 Connell Drive, in the heart of the Connell Park, was expected during a hard hat tour almost a year ago. Some setbacks delayed the opening, but now that the hotel is open, it is ready to serve travelers, community organizations and residents, along with corporate employees.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Berkeley Heights is currently taking reservations for rooms, meetings, events and conferences. Visit its website or call 1-908-897-1970 for more information.