by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates
Anthony Beach beams with pride as he strolls around the lobby of Hyatt Place-South/University Medical Center. It's not just because he is general manager of a property that regularly boasts high ratings and high occupancy for its 131 rooms. It's not just because the hotel has helped draw more people to the 53rd Street corridor, boosting business for the shops and restaurants surrounding Harper Court. The underlying cause for Anthony's pride is that, as a Hyde Park High School graduate who grew up in the Englewood neighborhood, he takes particular pleasure in knowing that his work contributes to the economy in his local community.
Beach started in his position before the hotel opened in 2013 and played an integral part in its opening operations, including hiring employees, obtaining licenses, and implementing Hyatt processes and training and development. The hotel has 39 full- and part-time employees, and 69 percent of them are from nearby South Side neighborhoods.
“I was the first employee. I take pride in seeing the outcome of what we are and how it began,” Beach says of his role as general manager of Hyatt Place-South.
Noted for a casually chic ambience and a lobby filled with local art, Hyatt Place-South has grown over the past two years into a cornerstone of the neighborhood, attracting travelers and locals alike. But when Anthony was growing up in Englewood, his dreams had nothing to do with hotels. “I wanted to be a cop. I wanted to be in law enforcement,” recalls the 40-year-old Beach, who has lived on the South Side his whole life.
Inspired to make a difference in the struggling community around him, he signed up for the U.S. Army Reserve and worked in chemical warfare. Taking advantage of the GI bill, he enrolled at South Suburban College with an eye towards joining the police force. He graduated from South Suburban College with an associate’s degree, but by the time he finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Phoenix, he had also gained hotel experience at the Marriott in Oak Brook, Ill., and at the Inn of Chicago. When he landed at the legendary Palmer House hotel, he discovered that his talents might not lie in law enforcement.
“I was promoted quickly, from front desk manager to supervisor. I was progressing so quickly that I realized that I was making more and doing more than I would as a police officer,” he recalls of his 10-year career there.
Not that he gave up on helping his community. “We've partnered with Kenwood Academy High School for internships. Chicago Vocational High School sent students here to shadow us. We sponsor events. We give certificates for raffles,” Beach notes. “We try to support what we can. Our eyes are open to help.”
Indeed, whether it’s neighborhood regulars sipping coffee at the lobby cafe, or baby showers and book club meetings being held in the conference spaces, the Hyatt Place-South has become a welcoming spot for local residents. And Anthony Beach wouldn't have it any other way.