Danielle Conklin is a natural at her chosen profession.
She loves the daily interactions she has with people who are happy to be in town and she knows from check-in to check-out what it takes to make their stay a pleasant one.
Conklin is general manager of the Holiday Inn at Clarkston across from Walmart and has overseen the recent transition to Holiday Inn from the former Quality Inn. She started there 18 years ago while majoring in hotel and restaurant management at Lewis-Clark State College.
“I was very lucky. I got one year of schooling under my belt and I got hired on here at the front desk, and so that was perfect,” she said. “I was able to go to school and come to work and apply what I just learned.”
Craig Clohessy: You’ve been with the Quality Inn, now the Holiday Inn, for going on two decades. What drew your interest to the hospitality industry and what keeps you interested today?
Danielle Conklin: The customer service aspect of my job is definitely what drew me to wanting to go into hospitality work. I really enjoy working with the public and getting to help people on a daily basis. I always get to meet and work with new and different people every single day. Most people that are coming to the hotel are normally on vacation and here for pleasure, so it’s always fun and entertaining to get to know the guests and learn their stories.
CC: The hotel officially converted to a Holiday Inn last Friday. How challenging was the switch and what all was involved?
DC: The switch was very challenging. The largest part of it was the renovation that we have been undergoing for approximately the last two years. I mean, we’ve changed everything from the outside of the building to the roof, to all furniture and fixtures in all of the guest rooms. The lobby has been completely redone and remodeled, and our banquet rooms have been redone. That was by far the most challenging part of it, was working with that, as well as still being open for business.
And then (there was) the behind-the-scenes stuff, all of the stuff that you have to learn. Working for Choice Hotels with Quality Inn for as long as I did, I knew it inside out. I’m learning it all over again. A lot of it is very similar, but Holiday Inns ... they’re very on top of everything. They’re very detailed with all of their policies and procedures, and it’s awesome.
CC: During this time of the coronavirus pandemic, what all do you and your crew do to keep guests and staff safe?
DC: All of the staff is obviously required to wear masks on a daily basis. Anytime that we are interacting with guest stuff, so whether it’s in the guest room, housekeeping or at the front desk, we’re supposed to wear gloves as well. And then we also take the staff’s temperatures at check-in and ask them those little questionnaires that you know I’m sure most people are asking their staff right now. From a guest standpoint, the biggest thing that we’ve changed on that end is we’re not servicing stayovers. So if a guest is here for multiple days, unless they request service from housekeeping, we’re just not going into the guest rooms to try and keep both the guest and the staff safe as possible.
CC: On a personal note, you’ve been undergoing treatments for cancer. How are you doing and how are you balancing that with this obviously challenging career?
DC: I’m actually doing outstanding. I just found out this last week I have no more cancer cells in my body. I still have to undergo treatment through approximately October-ish. I go down to the cancer center for infusions for four weeks on and then four weeks off. This is my first week off.
That was probably one of the most difficult parts of the whole conversion was the fact that I couldn’t put in full days at the hotel either. But yeah, I’m doing great. I mean, since March it’s definitely been a whirlwind of everything since the time I was diagnosed to now. But I’m very, very lucky. I hit the cancer lottery, as my doctor tells me.
Clohessy is managing editor of the Lewiston Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2251.