By Donna Keene Rousseau

Freelance Writer

In 1974 the construction for what is now known as the Ramada Inn was under way. Originally to be a Quality Inn under the ownership of the Chandler Brothers, the property’s layout included 120 guest rooms on two levels with an outdoor pool in the center courtyard, a dining room and lounge each with a capacity to seat one hundred people, two banquet meeting rooms both of which could accommodate 200, and a large kitchen. The food and beverage operations were leased and operated by Kim Negm. After 15 months of construction and just prior to its grand opening, however, Hotels of New England purchased the property and unveiled it on February 22, 1974 as Ramada’s first hotel in Maine under the general management of Charles Testa.

As with many new businesses, the Ramada Inn suffered from “growing” pains in the early years as it sought to carve out its market niche. During that time, the Inn went through a foreclosure and a management company took over the day-to-day operations. It wasn’t until 1978 that the mortgage holding company agreed to sell the Inn to GLAD Associates- with Bill and Joan Gleed and Gary and Carole Adams as prinicipals and Dominic Rosa and John Melonas as limited partners.

The group set the Ramada Inn on course for the future and in 1984 the pool was enclosed. The following year would see the food and beverage operations taken over and, after reconstruction of the area, the birth of FANNY’S Dining and Entertainment, a restaurant/nightclub that seated more than 500 patrons and delivered nightly entertainment seven days a week.

Major reconstruction was again under way to give the Ramada Inn a facelift. In 32 days, a team of close to 40 workers gutted the walls and updated all the guest rooms. Upon completion, occupancy reached an all time high, and the dining and banquet operations were peaking to capacity.

With a name change to Ramada Conference Center came a 15,000 square foot, two-story meeting and banquet facility adjacent to the existing meeting facility in October 1989. The new addition allowed for hosting larger banquets of 500 or more on the first level. The second floor housed five meeting rooms of various sizes to accommodate a variety of customer needs.

The accidental death of partner Bill Gleed was followed by two years of faltering economy and deep recession. No renovations took place during that time, and even the lounge, which had garnished awards through the Ramada system, failed to smooth the waters. As lounge sales plummeted, the days of live entertainment became a thing of the past, making room for a different lounge concept geared for the changing demographics at the beginning of 1994.

That same year of 1994, Gary Adams sold his controlling interest to partner Joan Gleed, his sights set for early retirement. Forrest Hospitality, a management company, was then hired to oversee the hotel operations with the ultimate goal of acquiring a buyer. That buyer was ADAMAR Associates, a group consisting of Gary Adams, Ray Martel, and limited partners Del, George and David Gendron. The group focused on long overdue improvements to the property as well as re-vamping operations and customer service and a return to bottom line profits.

2001 ushered in Dudley’s Dining and Entertainment, a new food concept for the hotel. After tearing down a wall between the existing lounge and restaurant and discarding the old menu, Dudley’s offered an array of buffets. The lounge volume played a lesser role as the volume of food patrons increasingly grew. Operations became more efficient, allowing for better controls.

In September 2002, partner Ray Martel sold his interest to the remaining partners who committed to investing two million dollars to position the Ramada as a premier hotel in which to stay while in Lewiston-Auburn. By November the sawdust began to fly again, the maintenance staff was increased and reconstruction of the Conference Center commenced. By year’s end, all meeting and banquet rooms, hallways and lobby were complete.

Another refurbishing of the 117 guest rooms was due in 2003. The crews had been through earlier renovations and moved through the project, section by section, with confidence. In May, all the rooms were fresh and ready for guests. Outside, a new front entrance was constructed for the conference center and a grand Port-Cochere added to the hotel entrance. A reshaped drive, new landscaping, and a bright new color to the building announced to the community that the Ramada was a fresh as the day it first opened in February of 1974.

The Ramada celebrates thirty years of service to Lewiston-Auburn in February 2004. Says Adams, “It truly has been ‘happening here,’ and what stands out is our employees. They are nice people taking care of nice people.”

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