TV’s Hotel Impossible Does Makeover on Periwinkle Inn Cape May
Original content By Jack Fichter
CAPE MAY- The host and crew from Hotel Impossible, a television series on the Travel Channel, arrived at the Periwinkle Avenue for five days of taping the realty show and quickly got on the nerves of owner Claudia Gaitka.
Hotel Impossible host Anthony Melchiorri, who was described by Huffington Post blogger Robert J Elisberg as a “bulleted-headed New Yorker,” is a former Air Force protocol officer. Melchiorri has revamped hotels from the New York’s Algonquin to a 310- suite hotel in Times Square.
The official description of the episode from the Travel Channel: “Anthony heads to Cape May, NJ — America’s oldest seaside resort town — to help the Periwinkle Inn return to its pre-recession state. After angering the owner and bringing her daughter to tears, can Anthony make amends and salvage this Cape May mainstay?”
The motel did not need saving, it does just fie but it didn’t hurt to get national television coverage.
Gaitka said her daughter Jennifer sent an application to the show. The Travel Channel followed up with a questionnaire and phone calls. She said the New York based show seemed anxious to film an episode in Cape May.
Within three weeks, the crew arrived to tape the show which began airing on the Travel Channel Jan. 28. The taping lasted from Sunday to late Thursday night during the third week of October, said Gaitka.
She and her two children were not allowed to see any renovations until they were finished so it came as a surprise to the hotelier at the end of the episode.
“There was a lot of drama involved because he tore my lobby apart while I was still open and I got a little bit upset,” said Gaitka.
She said that is how the show begins with Melchiorri acting as the tough guy.
“And then he ends up being a real nice guy,” said Gaitka.
The renovations undertaken by the crew were not functional at the end of the taping. She said there was not enough time to connect a new toilet or hook up a new phone system, she said.
“They did a lot of stuff they could not finish,” said Gaitka. “I had to provide the labor because they didn’t have enough people.”
She spent her own money for laborers to install a tile floor.
“Their theory is when they do these hotels, they get people to do their work free and then they give them credit on the show,” said Gaitka.
The producers called a tile setter who walked off the job when he found out he was not going to be paid, she said.
Other than the episode providing a huge amount of free advertising for the Periwinkle Inn, she did not receive a penny of remuneration. Gaitka said the producers promised her motel would be mentioned twice during the show.
A producer who recently resigned from a reality show charged that much of what is seen on that type of program is scripted and not spontaneous but Gaitka said Hotel Impossible filmed the events exactly as they happened. She admits she was overprotective of the motel during the first three days of taping the show.
“I was so angry he destroyed my lobby with his hands” said Gaitka.
The design of the Periwinkle’s lobby became a sore spot for Gaitka and Melchiorri. He did not like the Victorian design of the hotel’s main desk and torn it apart by hand, she said.
The lobby and railings were designed by an artist, said Gaitka. She is in the process of undoing what Melchiorri and his crew suggested.
The motel room redone by the show was not functional because it did not have commercial-grade furniture that can stand up to life in a hotel, said Gaitka.
Melchiorri suggested the Periwinkle accept major credit cards. She said her profit margin too small to accept credit cards during the busy season.
Whether or not Gaitka agreed with Hotel Impossible’s renovation ideas, the show’s airing has brought an avalanche of calls, emails and reservations for the 50-room motel on Beach Avenue.
“The minute the show stopped airing last night, the phone lit up like a Christmas tree and didn’t stop all night long,” she said.
Peace was made at the end of the episode, said Gaitka. Melchiorri commented on the cleanliness of the motel.
“It was super positive for us,” said Gaitka.
“His heart is really to help these people succeed and really does go out of his way,” she continued.
She watched the premiere of the episode with two dozen friends.
Gaitka has owned the Periwinkle for 40 years. She grew up at her family’s motel, the Trylon in North Wildwood.
The episode will repeat Feb. 3 at 11 a.m. on the Travel Channel.