Rittenhouse takes pride in its independence

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The Rittenhouse is a classy hotel in a classy Philadelphia neighborhood. The 98-room property, an angular, concrete and glass high rise fronting Rittenhouse Square, has all the predictable attributes of a top-drawer retreat.

Guests rooms are large and handsomely decorated, with elegant amenities such as pillowtop mattresses, 310-thread-count sheets and aromatherapy toiletries; free wireless Internet; CD players; flat-screen TVs; bathroom TVs; separate vanities and dressing areas; and sitting alcoves.

In addition, the hotel features fine dining at Lacroix, its tiered, second-story restaurant offering panoramic views of Rittenhouse Square.

The property also is home to the Boathouse Row Bar and a Smith & Wollensky steakhouse, and offers high tea served in the Mary Cassatt Tearoom and Garden just off the elegant lobby.

Then there is the Adolf Biecker Spa/Salon and fitness club on the Rittenhouse's third floor, which boasts a Vichy shower room, massage rooms, a facial room, the Nail Sanctuary, Aveda products, an in-ground lap pool and services such as body treatments, hydrotherapy, massage and fitness programs.

A cut above

These virtues, and ones like them familiar to most all luxury lodgings, however, are not alone what elevates the Rittenhouse above its five-star competition in this city, according to the property's vice president and general manager, David Benton.

Benton, who has been associated with the hotel since its inception in 1989, said the Rittenhouse owes much of its success to its status as an independent entity free from the corporate restraints that can tie better-known, branded hotels in knots when it comes to catering to the unpredictable whims of demanding, well-heeled guests.

"We can change hotel procedures to suit our guests' requirements without having to confer with a corporate officer or refer to a standard-operating-procedures manual," said Benton, a graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and a 35-year veteran of the hospitality industry.

"This allows us to take advantage of and participate in public relations and marketing opportunities that are suddenly presented to us. If we had to wait for a committee to meet, we could lose significant opportunities.

"For example, it took us five minutes to agree to participate in a promotional TV show dealing with seniors," he added. "We can also deal with vendors and other providers to negotiate our own terms and better pricing. Often chains are locked into corporate decisions."

The hotel has leveraged its flexibility to satisfy the demands of countless celebrities who have used the Rittenhouse when on location or in performance in Philadelphia.

"Bruce Willis arrived here to star in the movie 'Twelve Monkeys,' Benton recalled. "He wanted to convert our standard shower into a steam shower, so we had an army of electricians, glaziers, plumbers and carpenters create one for him in 30 hours. Tom Hanks needed a four-bedroom suite for his retinue while filming 'Philadelphia.' We knocked down a wall in a three-room suite, installed connecting doors, and in 24 hours Hanks had what he wanted."

Do you have to be a celebrity to get celebrity treatment? Benton said no, citing an example.

"We had a chap from Mobile, Ala., whose travels took him to Philadelphia on a Saturday for medical treatments," he said. "He had not missed a University of Alabama football game in 35 years. We called Comcast, the cable TV provider, and they piped in the game signal to his suite alone."

Moreover, champagne and chocolate receptions are held on Fridays and Saturdays for guests, while arriving children are made to feel special with gifts from a goodies-filled treasure chest located adjacent to the check-in area.

To contact reporter Joe Rosen, send e-mail to [email protected].

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For more details on this article, see "Rittenhouse Square rife with culinary, cultural pursuits."

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