The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn, New York on September 6, 1925 · Page 83
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The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn, New York · Page 83

Brooklyn, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 6, 1925
Page 83
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RELEASE SEPTEMBER 6 It. Just Couldn't Be Done But She Did It; Miss Randall Tells How Her Plan Worked viEaA YCJg Practical Men Told Her Her Project for Woman's Low Price Hotel Was Doomed, but She Has Enabled It to Make Money Miss Lilian Randall By Esther A. Coster 'f It AKE modern American-plan hotel in the heart Vl of New York Gty pay weekly Paymen,s of AVI from 8.50 to $13? Abolutely impossible." This is the verdict of experienced New York hotel men. But Miss Lilian Randall, as manager of such an establishment, is doing just that thing. "We are doing it and have money in the bank." "Ho do you do it?" that involuntary question after a tour of the thirteen-story building, a few blocks from Herald Square, with its accommodations for 400 guests, brought this recipe: "Business and home economics training, common sense and a loyal organization." Miss Randall has brought to the job which she has carried on so successfully for more than two years a more varied experience than falls to the lot of most women and declares that each previous experience has teen a cog in the preparation for her present job, which she calls the biggest and most interesting one of her life. She is one of those women who absolutely defy the average ability to guess age. Her hair is turning white but her face is young in contour, free from lines and has that fresh, clear complexion that bespeaks perfect health and does rot come out cf a beauty parlor. She has the sort of smile that lights up her whole countenance and takes off another ten years. You know that no woman could have had her experience of life without accumulating years at the same time, but let's put her down as "over thirty" and let it go at that. "I never look back," she said as she reminisced for the benefit of the visitor. "These things that I am telling you now have not entered my consciousness for years. 1 believe in living for today and looking forward to tomorrow. The past is gone, we have already gained all it can give us, so fo'get it and go happily on to the future." The Webster Apartments, where Miss Randall presides, is a bit difficult to classify. It is a hotel in every -tiing but name, with all the privileges and freedom of be regulation commercial house. But back of it is the security of a corporation which provided the million-lii liar building and to which the hotel pays an annual surplus, to be held in trust for expansion or new building il the 1 cation ceases to be desirable. "Yi'e have just ore restriction on our guest?." said Mi;s Randall. "We require weekly payments in advance. OiTtsiJe of that e have r.o concern with the family history or private affairs cf our guests and do not wish to be troubled with them. My own position is to make the i:fs a- comfortable as possible as a business obligation. If li.ey are in trouble and desire to come to me I want them to feel that 1 am a friend. But otherwise 1 have no concern with their comings and goings unless 11. ty, by their own actions, become undesirable. Then we Bs4 them to leaxt," .... Miss Randall explained that the Webster Apartments was not called a hotel, for as such it would technically be obliged to accept any guests who applied, whereas, under its plan, it selects its guests. A. hearty laugh fol-. lowed the question, "Have you a . waiting list?" "Heavens, yes," she replied. "Last fall the applications came in so fast we had not time to count them up. When we did we found we had 900. So we threw up both hands and decided to forget that waiting list. Selecting guests from a list like that is a serious proposition, but we keep our 400 rooms filled all the time. If nm AA iint u' rnulH not makp "ffcT it pay." Miss Randall began her connection with the corporation six months before the house opened. "The corporation, of which Josiah Webster, brother of the founder, is president, furnished the money and I furnished the atmosphere. They gave me a free hand and I tried to make it what women would enjoy. My guests tell me I have succeeded. The first three months I was a bit worried, for we had to borrow money for expenses, but since then we have not only paid back what we borrowed and paid our way, but turned back a substantial surplus to the corporation. Charles B. Webster, senior partner, for many years of R. H. Macy & Co., who died in 1916, conceived this plan from his close association with working women of moderate salaries. In his will he gave a large part of his estate for this building, which is a million-dollar proposition. We do a business of more than $200,000 a year in spite of our low prices." Miss Randall has been a teacher of English in Porto Rico, where she learned Spanish and so was prepared to help in the World War in the campaign for food conservation. She was sent to New Mexico as a State representative to train the women, most of whom spoke Spanish, in home economics. "I never want to see a pinto bean again," she said. "We taught those women every possible way to use their most prolific vegetable. We made it into soup, used it as a vegetable, we baked it. boiled it and made it into flour for bread and cake. It was fascinating work, although very strenuous." Miss Randall received her home economics training in St. Lawrence University and later taught the subject in the University of Maine. Then she put her knowledge to another practical use by being assistant manager (without the title) of the Government hotels for women employees at Washington. "That gave me direct training for the work I am doing here," she said. "Nothing we ever do is lost and any big job is dependent for its success upon the previous experiences that give us a background. I had good business training for five years with the General Chemical Company which has been invaluable to me here." Miss Randall employs men chefs, engineers, dishwashers and porters, but gives preference to women for other positions. She finds waitresses the worst problem,' for she calls them "the restless sex." Otherwise she has many of the same people who started with her. She lays her financial success to strict compliance with that much-maligned "budget." She laid it out before the house was opened and holds everybody to it. "It is wonderful how my assistants work with me to prevent waste." she said. "I could not do it alone. A harmonious organization is the one great essential to a business like this. I know that it would be easily possible for a manager to come in here and, with the best intentions in the world, run us into debt within a week." As you step through the entrance the big foyer, office desk and clerk, mail boxes and other paraphernalia of a hotel give not the slightest inkling that this is a woman's hotel and only when you see the guests return after business hours do you realize what it really is. Then you can readily believe that more than forty occupations are represented, that the girls and women are "self-respecting" and that all types except the extreme flapper painted doll are enjoying the comforts of this unique establishment. Common sense is Miss Randall's solution for most of her problems. "You can't lay down rules for everything," she said. "You have to deal with each question as it comes up. Common sense will always find a way out no matter what the rules may be." Miss Randall exploded the generally accepted theory that older women who live alone are more fussy than young girls. "It is the young girls who are most fussy," she said, "and who expect the most. They have had no experience of real life, whereas the older women have tried many things and appreciate our efforts to make them comfortable." Just a word as to the special features Miss Randall has installed for the convenience of her guests. Full-length mirrors in every hall near the elevators for a parting peep at the "tout ensemble." Six baths on every floor. Single rooms attractively furnished with modern . metal furniture, cretonne curtains and bed coverings. Large closets with shelves and hot and cold water in every room. A roof garden for guests only, with steamer chairs, lounging rockers, plants, a gorgeous view of the North River and cool breezes on the hottest night. A fully equipped laundry on every floor for use of guests at a nominal charge of ten cents per week. A group of "beau parlors," with wicker table and four easy chairs, curtained off from the foyer, for private entertaining. A huge reception room, with grand piano, an ideal place for a wedding, only nobody has asked to be married there yet. A big lounge with plenty of cushions. A big, well-equipped library. Permission to invite men or other guests to dinner or for parties on the main floor. Doesn't it sound attractive? To complete my education in the management of a hotel for women Miss Randall extended an invitation to dinner. This is what we had and, believe me, it was good. Just the kind of home cooking we dream of but seldom get in these days of cafeterias, delicatessen and table d'hotes: Delicious cream soup, genuine home-made veal pot pie with crispy biscuit dumplings, tender green corn, mashed potatoes, combination salad, rolls, pineapple ice, cake and a choice of beverages. Breakfast is served cafeteria style and includes fruit, dry cereal, rolls or muffins, eggs and a beverage. Everybody except the hotel staff buys luncheon outside. Miss Randall "organizes" almost unconsciously. When she sees a loose end somewhere or finds the slightest confusion she immediately tries some other system that works more smoothly. She did this with the dining room service and has evolved a system that might be a model for other large dining rooms of this character. By her arrangement everybody is comfortably and systematically seated and the waitresses have time to reset the tables for the second group of diners, so that nobody has to sit down to a mussy or partly cleared table. The dining room seats only half the guests at one time and sometimes as many as fifty extra guests are included. This worker of miracles is a stickler for appearances. The waitresses are in spick and span regulation uniforms and the dietitian, who is very pretty and looks too young to be so efficient, presides over the dining room in an immaculate white uniform minus, of course, the cap. The house is as free from intensive housekeeping as any hotel in New YorHr City. You know that the wheels of the machinery are working steadily but you do not hear them squeak. The head of the whole organization moves about her job unhurried, apparently free from care and, like a good executive, has ber desk clear. "But everybody knows I am on the job," she said. The modesty of the truly successful showed in my hostess parting words. "It is my work and not myself that is interesting and worthwhile," she said. "Do not forget that when you write the story." But I leave the reader to judge if it is not Miss Randal herself who has made the work a success, due to her own personality and ability. At any rate her house director (she don't call her a house mother, thank goodness) says that without Miss Randall the whole thing would go to pot. I believe that is true.

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