TAMPA — Jim Bartholomay started his career as a chef: A position where it's pretty normal to shout and throw things.
Bartholomay though, is an even-keeled kind of guy and didn't stay in the kitchen long.
He moved up within management of the Somerset Marriott in New Jersey and became general manager of the Renaissance Tampa Hotel at International Plaza when it opened in 2004. For the fourth year, the hotel has been ranked as a Tampa Bay Times Top Workplace, and took the crown as the top small company in the 2017 survey of employees.
The hotel has a tight workplace culture, employees say, and 13 years after the hotel first opened, it feels like family.
"(Bartholomay) has known my son since he was little," said Jenny Usme, who started working at the hotel around 2005 as a server and is now a banquet team captain.
The key is to hire nice people and to empower them to do what they enjoy, Bartholomay said. The employees set up a selfie area in a lounge with flower petals for Valentine's Day, and a letter-writing station with a mailbox for children to write to Santa Claus in December.
The hotel recently went through a $10 million renovation, when the bright orange and yellow paint in the lobby was replaced with a more neutral gray, with modern high-top chairs and honeycomb-style lounge seating.
"We took down the tones to make more of a relaxing environment," Bartholomay said.
The hotel is next to Neiman Marcus in Tampa's International Plaza and Bay Street and its dozens of retailers and eateries, including its in-house restaurant, Pelagia Trattoria.
Just down the road from Tampa International Airport, the Renaissance is part of the West Shore district that boasts about 9,000 hotel rooms — the highest concentration in the city.
Despite the increased competition since a handful of new hotels have opened nearby, Bartholomay said that the Renaissance is often fully booked.
Contact Alli Knothe at [email protected] Follow @KnotheA.