AN ICONIC HOTEL ON HIGHWAY 35 IS BEING RETURNED TO ITS FORMER GLORY, IN A FLOOR TO CEILING RESTORATION THAT INCLUDES A GAMUT OF MODERN LUXURIES
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY CHRIS LOUPOS • WEDDING PORTRAIT BY LIMELIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY
The Sheraton Eatontown Hotel has been an iconic structure in Monmouth County since it opened in 1988. Centrally located between Atlantic City, New York, Philadelphia, and the beaches and boardwalks of the Jersey Shore and Asbury Park, the establishment was, in its heyday, an anchor of business and tourism in the Garden State. Over the years, few renovations were made to keep it up to date with modern standards, and by the early 2000s, its prestige had begun to decline. In 2017, the New Jersey based Hospitality Company Hotels Unlimited set out to change that.
“We were drawn to the hotel’s potential,” explained Julia Coppock, marketing director with Hotels Unlimited. “The way the property sits on the main highway is majestic. Everyone knows the Sheraton Eatontown Hotel. It had a name and a reputation. It was once the place to go.”
Founded in 1990, Hotels Unlimited has built a reputation in the Garden State for its transformations of hotels from the inside out. The family owned company began with one property and, by the turn of 2017, had expanded to a portfolio of 10 hotels sprinkled throughout Central New Jersey and the Jersey Shore. That spring, it acquired its latest addition by purchasing its first Marriott property, the Sheraton Eatontown. Once the purchase was finalized, the new owners, Coppock said, immediately went to work, vowing that not one piece of the establishment would go untouched.
“It was in serious need of some TLC and modernization,” she said. “Now, it’s completely new from head to toe, with a fresh and modern design aesthetic and cutting edge facilities and amenities,” adding that “every corner” was upgraded, from the restaurant to the Marriott Bonvoy Club Floor to each of the 208 guest rooms. Wedding and banquet facilities also experienced an overhaul, including the new Grand and Regal Ballrooms, cocktail areas, and outside ceremony space.
At the time the new owners took over, the hotel fell near the bottom of the Marriott guest satisfaction ranking, which compared all 224 Sheraton properties in the Americas. In February of this year, it was ranked number seven. As of mid-March, it was number four.
“We’ve also seen a dramatic rise in our TripAdvisor rating,” Coppock said. “We’re really proud of that.”
Renovations of the guest rooms included incorporating calming hues of white and blue and replacing outdated pieces with modern furnishings. There are now 11 Luxury Suites on site with large, open layout floor plans and kitchenettes. Of the nine Junior Suites, two are outfitted with pool tables. (“It’s especially great for the grooms’ parties,” added the marketing director.) The lobby’s famous stairway, where innumerable guests (including brides and grooms) have posed, kept its photogenic bones, but was updated with modern materials and a massive copper chandelier.
The onsite Urbane Restaurant and Lounge was the next section to undergo transformation. A new geometric tile floor was laid to complement the revamped blue and saddle color scheme, and a variety of contemporary lighting fixtures now hang from the ceiling. The bar, flanked by a backdrop of bronze painted brick, has an updated cocktail, wine, and beer menu featuring finer local and international selections. Even the enclosed kitchen was updated with all new equipment. Chef John Anderson, a 35 year veteran in the restaurant industry and graduate of a French culinary institute, spearheaded the menu.
“Chef Anderson has been with the Sheraton for a while, and comes to us with a lot of experience. He was able to make the transition seamlessly,” Coppock said.
With five other banquet venues in its portfolio, Hotels Unlimited had already been able to boast 84 consumer choice awards for its wedding and event facilities when it acquired this newest property, and its team had big plans for the Sheraton’s event spaces. There are now seven total event rooms on the property, including the Grand and Regal Ballrooms, an outdoor garden, and separate cocktail spaces. The company started from scratch in both of the two ballrooms, adding starlit atriums, natural textures, chandeliers, and shimmering metallics. In addition to upgrades to the spaces themselves, wedding packages were also reimagined.
“The wedding team is available seven days a week,” explained Tara Stokes, Hotel Unlimited’s regional catering sales director. “Each couple gets three event planners who help with table designs, linens, menus, and more. We offer hundreds of options, so the couple can personalize their ceremony and reception, adding things like a donut station or a vodka ice luge. And on the big day, we are there to fluff the dress, adjust the bow tie, and make sure everything else is perfect.”
“People also love that you have everyone under one roof for their event,” added Coppock. “No one has to worry about catching the shuttle from location to location. The spaces also all have separate entrances, so you don’t have to worry about sharing the space with hotel guests.”
After the Hotels Unlimited team took over and the upgrades were made, the Sheraton won e Knot’s “Best of Weddings” award the first time the property had received this honor in many years.
“This hotel did weddings before, but it’s at an entirely different level now,” Stokes said. “It’s a truly gorgeous place to get married.”
Additional renovations, including a state of the art gym and a revitalized indoor/outdoor pool, are slated for completion in early spring.