St. James deal complete

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

SELMA – It’s a done deal.

Gourmet Services Inc., signed a five-year lease agreement Thursday with the city of Selma to operate and manage the historic St. James Hotel.

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The restaurant and bar at the downtown anchor has been closed for five months since the previous management bowed out.

The Atlanta-based new management is planning a community meeting to hear from the public on what Selmians would like to see in the hotel, which is one of two in the state with the designation in Historic Hotels of America.

The Tutwiler Hotel in Birmingham is the other. There are 128 in the country.

Nathaniel Goldston, Gourmet Services chief executive, recently visited the St. James, along with Chef Marvin Woods, known by his trademark scarf from his cooking show.

The payments are the same as with the previous manage, a nominal $100 a month, city officials said.

Goldston said the St. James would be their first hotel venture, and they realized going in that the 42 rooms at the historic fixture “would not pay the bills.”

The new management has said they’re ordering new silverware and china patterns, along with uniforms for the staff.

Goldston said they plan to add concierge, valet services and wireless Internet access to the amenities now available. The hotel was renovated in 1996 at a cost of $6 million, is now in need of new carpet, painting, equipment and furnishings.

According to the lease agreement, which has three renewable five-year options, the new management is responsible for the upgrades.

“There is a clause in the lease that would offer Gourmet Services first right of refusal should the city decide the hotel is for sale,” said Charlotte Griffeth, city of Selma director of planning and development.

Goldston’s company, founded in 1979, now serves meals to an estimated 240,000 students, as well as catering for Turner South. With offices in the Sweet Auburn area, Gourmet Services employs 2,500 people with reported sales of $171 million last year.