Charles Mallory sails the seas of hospitality

Charles Mallory. Photograph by John Rizzo.

At a time when American business leaders are under pressure to create and keep jobs on the home front, hotelier and restaurateur Charles Mallory offers a sterling example.

His Greenwich Hospitality Group owns and operates the Delamar Greenwich Harbor; the Delamar Southport; Hotel Zero Degrees in Stamford, Danbury and Norwalk; Four Columns in Newfane, Vermont; The Hotel Limpia in Fort Davis, Texas; and the Holland Hotel and The Maverick Inn in Alpine, Texas. When the renovated Goodwin Hotel in Hartford, Connecticut, opens March 1 and the new Delamar West Hartford makes its debut later that spring, he will reach the 1,000 mark with the number of total hotel employees. (The renovated Goodwin, like the three Hotel Zero Degrees hotels, is a partnership with RMS Cos.)

“We’ve created a lot of jobs, but that’s because we’re in the service business,” he adds quickly, “and that’s one of the sectors that’s growing.”

He is like that — one who tells it like it is, though he does so with gentleness and humanity. Talking about turning the Delamar Greenwich Harbor, which in previous iterations was the Showboat and the Greenwich Harbor Inn, into a Mediterranean palazzo, he says it was like “putting lipstick on a pig,” since he and his 17-year-old company had to work with the existing brick-and-mortar structure. (Yes, but let’s just say the resulting design and accompanying l’escale restaurant bar — so redolent of the French and Italian Riveras — are more like a creamy Tom Ford lipstick on a pig.)

Over a pre-holiday lunch at l’escale — we have the kale, frisee and quinoa-rich Georgette Salad in honor of Mallory’s wife, Georgette — Mallory doesn’t mince words as he described how his father “twisted my arm” to join the family shipping business.

Ah, yes, the shipping business. The Mallorys have been to shipping what the Kennedys have been to politics. According to Eric Martin’s thorough “The Mystic Mallorys” (tradewindnews.com), the first Charles Mallory (1796-1882) settled in Mystic, Connecticut, in 1816, walking there from New London on Christmas morning after losing his sailmaker’s job in a dispute over a 75-cent loan. But from such pettiness great things may come. From his popular sailmaker’s loft in Mystic, he began investing in merchant ships, embracing a fleet of 92 sloops, schooners, brigs and other cargo vessels by the start of the Civil War. By then, the family had established the Mystic River Bank as well.

His son Charles Henry Mallory (1818-90), who took to the sea as a cabin boy, steered the family business into iron steamships, making it the third largest owner and operator of U.S.-flagged steamships. The string of Charleses was broken by his successor, second son Henry Rogers Mallory (1848-1919). Martin writes that he was pious and meticulous where his older brother Charles was careless and irreverent, presiding over the family business in a topsy-turvy era of speculation, banking collapse, sellouts and regrouping.

His eldest son, Clifford Day Mallory Sr. (1881-1941) distinguished himself in World War I at the helm of the Shipping Board, coordinating cargo vessels to aid the war effort, then navigated the company into control of the largest independent American tanker fleet. His son, Clifford Day Jr. (1916-2000) also saw military service, as a U.S. Navy commander arranging merchant shipping in the Pacific during World War II. When his father died of a massive heart attack as America entered the war, Clifford Jr. was unprepared to take the reins of the company and it was sold. He formed his own firm in 1960, which operated under the Mallory name until the early 1980s when Clifford Jr. retired and the firm became Glander International, focusing on marine fuels brokerage before being subsumed into Dubai’s International Bunkering. 

His son — the present Charles Mallory, who was born in New London, raised in New York City and lives in Greenwich — would seem to have been made for the sea. Indeed, he looks like a rugged seaman, tall and burly with a face right out of a Rembrandt painting. But his interests, which have grown to include art and car collecting, lay elsewhere. His days at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, were heady ones as he interned with ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” worked summers for an investment banking firm in London and was even a winning contestant on a 1970 installment of “The Dating Game.” 

But what he really wanted to do after graduating in 1974 was start a restaurant in Palo Alto, California, to tap into the Stanford University crowd — and what would ultimately become Silicon Valley. His father, however, appealed to the freedom he had afforded him — and the bonds of filial loyalty. 

“I was in the shipping business the day I graduated college,” Mallory says. Soon he was brokering deals with the likes of Christina Onassis. In 1979, he, Sam Jones and Charles Lynch formed Mallory, Jones and Lynch, later MJLF, a leading American tanker house. That in turn led him to real estate and his true professional passions, hotels and restaurants.

As lunch wanes, Mallory says, “I often wonder what would’ve happened had I stayed in California.” But he also recognizes the circuitous circularity of fate and that, like Tennyson’s Ulysses, we are the products of all that we have met. Shipping was just the transport to his destination in the hospitality trade where having a memorable experience is the name of Mallory’s game.

At the Delamars and Four Columns, which WAG has covered, everything is designed for your luxurious comfort, from the spacious yet homey rooms to the sensitive spa treatments, complimentary breakfasts, farm-to-table fare and even the bathrobes, which are like wearing a mink coat. 

In Texas, the Holland Hotel and The Maverick Inn give visitors a taste of Big Bend National Park on the Rio Grande, while The Hotel Limpia is a 20-minute ride from artistic Marfa, where “Giant,” co-starring James Dean, was filmed. These boutique hotels offer tourists from home and abroad a touch of movie-sized America.

Still, Mallory says, “We have a big job ahead to make tourism flourish.”

For more, visit greenwichhospitalitygroup.com.

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