The Gatesworth is getting ready to break out the silver, as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall. That kind of longevity doesn’t come easily, and it has been earned with a commitment to providing the highest possible level of service, says director of operations Bob Leonard. “We do quality, not quantity,” he says. “We’re not trying to run 30 senior living facilities—we have one at each level of care. We decided to do one thing, and do it right.”
The senior-living community is run by three local partners: Charles Deutsch, Elana Spitzberg and David Smith; and a long-term management staff, Leonard notes. Executive director Martha Kessell has been at The Gatesworth since its opening, and she or Leonard oversee the hiring every employee, he notes. “We hire people who are natural people-pleasers and like to be around people,” he says, adding that visitors often notice the congeniality of staff, and the way they look each guest in the eye and smile. “I tell people, you can’t teach somebody to do that.”
The Gatesworth provides a level of service typically only seen at high-end resorts: Doormen are at their posts throughout the day, and a full-time concierge staff parks cars, delivers packages to rooms and more. “We took the attitude that we could have all the services of a hotel or country club environment. When we first opened, we decided to have a doorman. Other senior living facilities have that now, but back then it was unheard of.” Guests also have access to chauffeured transportation in three limousines or two silver Cadillacs, as well as weekly housekeeping and a 24-hour emergency response staff on-site.
Three restaurants are overseen by chef Brian Hardy, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, as well as in Paris. He was named the 2010 St. Louis Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation Chefs de Cuisine Association of St. Louis and is the current president of that organization. “His training is impeccable, and he continues to set the standard,” Leonard notes. The menus at the Bistro, Palm Court, and the more formal Colonnade restaurants are changed seasonally, and guests also have the option of ordering off-menu and a la carte. “Our residents might eat dinner here 75 percent of the time, so it’s great to have that choice of where to eat, and also to have something different on the menu.”
Group outings also are a common occurrence, such as a recent night at Tony’s Restaurant. “Vince Bommarito was at every table with our residents, and most of them have known him throughout their lives in some way,” Leonard says. Residents also have access to a variety of cultural and educational opportunities. For example, the community’s luncheon series has hosted memorable speakers, including Maxine Clark of Build-A-Bear, Ambassador Sam Fox and Bob Costas.
With such a high level of service, the common misconception is that families will not be able to afford The Gatesworth, Leonard notes. “But when they come to visit, they do see that they can afford it. When they’re actually here in person, they see the value—from the sheer size of our staff, to the friendliness and quality of service.”
Dr. Sam Pagano, a Gatesworth resident, agrees. “When I lived at home, I paid a lot of insurance, taxes, home maintenance and repairs…I never knew when something was going to go wrong. When I look at all those expenses and worries, I think I have a great deal here, and I didn’t have to come up with a large up-front sum.”
Leonard adds that the community is almost at 100 percent occupancy, and with a 25-year history of success, The Gatesworth is a secure place to spend retirement. “Our satisfaction level is incredible. The people here are truly happy—I get letters and compliments every day, and complaints are almost non-existent. People know us and trust that we will be around for years to come.”