Sarah Blivaiss, general manager of the Chauncey Conference Center, on the campus of ETS in Princeton, knew she wanted to work in hotels from the age of 10. “In college I developed a 10-year plan to become a general manager, working my way up through the rooms division. My mentor encouraged me to start in housekeeping, to learn how to manage a diverse team in the heart of the hotel. This was the best experience I could have had to start my career in hospitality,” she says.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a degree in hotel, restaurant, and travel administration in 1994, she worked for Hilton for nine years, the Doubletree, then the Carolina Inn, a four-diamond hotel. In 2003, she moved to Princeton to join Chauncey.
Like most working moms — she has a two-year-old and a six-year-old — she has to juggle family and work. She credits her 75 team members with enabling her to have a flexible schedule.
Denise Bonder, general manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott, also knew from an early age that working in the hospitality industry “was my chosen path and soon to be my passion.” Armed with a degree in hotel and restaurant management from East Stroudsburg University, she has worked her way up from sales and catering to guest services and executive management at various hotel brands, including Marriott International, Wyndham International, and Intercontinental Hotel Group.
She says her most rewarding experiences have been “promoting my employees to management roles and when previous hotel guests return to the hotel just for a ‘hi,’ as the relationship between them and us becomes that of a family.”
She says she enjoys the corporate Route 1 corridor, “while mixing in all that the community of downtown Princeton has to offer.”
The February 23, 2011, issue of U.S. 1 announced the appointment of Maryann White, a 30-year veteran of the industry, with a bachelor’s from Florida State University, to general manager of the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick.
Other area female GMs include: Gina Renaldo, Doubletree Princeton; Debbie Mehta, Colonial and Windsor Motels, Windsor; Elizabeth Habib, Residence Inn by Marriott, Cranbury; and Gina Bhagia, Holiday Inn Express, New Brunswick.