2019 Hospitality Super Heroes

Frontline employees are the backbone of the hospitality industry. Those individuals who consistently provide high-quality customer service, plus go the extra mile to “wow” a guest by rising to an unexpected situation, pulling out all the stops, and making sure their experience is a positive and memorable one, are recognized as Hospitality Super Heroes.  The group was honored at Explore St. Louis’ Annual Meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19, an event designed to celebrate the very best of the region’s travel and tourism industry.

View the video below to see the 2019 Super Heroes and their “WOW” moment.


Billy Haag, Forest Park Forever

A Forest Park visitor was upset when his expensive prescription sunglasses accidentally fell into the water. He struggled to find his glasses as his vision was compromised and he wasn’t sure about the depth of the water. He called the Forest Park Forever office and explained his situation to Billy. On his lunch break, Billy sprang into action – hopping into the Emerson Grand Basin and searching the murky water with his wading equipment.  Careful not to step on the glasses, he took his time and successfully retrieved the intact glasses. The visitor was so grateful to Billy that he gave him a small token of his appreciation. Billy’s exceptional customer service was recognized by the Forest Park Forever President & Executive Director, Lesley Hoffarth and others at the next staff meeting for going above and beyond and ensuring a positive, exceptional visitor experience.

Fata Dulie and Alice Klein, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis

A guest was attending a fundraiser at the Ritz- Carlton when he spilled a glass of wine on his white tuxedo shirt. He attempted to clean the shirt but was unsuccessful. He decided to forget about the stain and enjoy himself at the event; however, Alice and other associates at the hotel stepped in to help. Alice asked him for his shirt size and proceeded to bring him two shirt options to wear while she sent his to be cleaned. Before dinner was complete, Alice discretely approached him and informed him that his shirt was ready for pick-up at the coat check. The guest was impressed with Alice and the rest of the team and expressed his gratitude.

Denise Shell, Marriott St. Louis Grand

When a guest had lost her ring during her stay,  Denise with hotel security came to her rescue. Professional and empathetic, Denise wrote down the guest’s statement and took photos of the ring. The guest explained that she didn’t believe the ring was stolen but thought the ring fell from the TV stand and was accidentally vacuumed up by housekeeping. Denise went to housekeeping and found the ring after extracting it from a vacuum cleaner within one hour. The guest was grateful for Denise’s diligence and determination for finding her ring, creating a memorable experience.

Erin Aripowski, Brian Counsell, Orel Dahan, Katie Stryker, Kevin Oksanen, Val Olstad and Kyle Ulmer – Saint Louis Zoo

A visitor collapsed due to the heat after a Sea Lion Sound show at the Saint Louis Zoo. The staff called security to have the medical team respond and take care of the visitor. He was visiting the zoo with his wife and eight-year-old granddaughter who were concerned.  The little girl became visibly upset while her grandfather was receiving medical attention.  The team took immediate action to calm her and brought her a souvenir Frisbee and a magnet. They also offered to show her behind the scenes at the Sea Lion Sound area. While showing her behind the scenes she was able to see the indoor care facility for sea lions, learned more from sea lion experts and even got to meet a sea lion up close. During this time, some of the staff took care of the young girl while the rest of the staff kept the normal schedule of feeding animals for zoo guests. The girl mentioned that her family did not have the chance to make it into the gift shop where she wanted to buy a cheetah stuffed animal.  The day after the incident, Val went to the gift shop and bought the cheetah for her with her own money. The Sea Lion staff also gathered a few other zoo souvenirs and mailed her a care package. The sea Lion sound crew made his granddaughter’s experience top priority. These hard-working individuals continuously provide fantastic customer service in tough situations.

Jonathan Hickman, Missouri History Museum

An online customer of the gift shop emailed Jonathan and told him that her order had not arrived. She needed a special gift for her grandchild as soon as possible. After learning that her package would most likely not arrive in her desired time frame, the customer became frustrated and worried. Jon empathized with her predicament. He wanted to ease her stress, so he decided to hand-deliver a complimentary duplicate of the St. Louis water-globe that she purchased. He contacted her to let her know that he would drive her grandchild’s gift over to her house immediately. She was ecstatic! She was grateful and impressed that he exceeded her expectations.

Theresa Schafer, St. Louis Board Game Bar and Café – Pieces STL, LLC.

A customer reached out to reserve one of the private rooms at Pieces STL: Board Game Bar & Café so that he could propose to his girlfriend. After numerous emails back and forth, Theresa encouraged the customer to come into the restaurant so they could discuss the plan. Theresa wanted to make sure the couple received the best possible experience. The customer set up a meeting with Theresa and his photographer. Theresa showed the photographer the best spots for pictures. The customer wanted to propose to his girlfriend with the game Battleship which they had played on their first date. She helped prepare a riddle and arranged for a specialty cake from the in-house bakery that would be delivered after the proposal. On a busy Saturday night, Theresa waited for the customers at the door and helped every detail go according to plan. She delivered a specialty cocktail called “The Love Letter,” with the riddle attached including the code B-5 to represent the location of the ring on the game board. She said, “yes!”

Katie Steinman, Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel

A guest reached out to Katie regarding an upcoming weekend getaway that she was planning with her husband. The guest told Katie that she had heard the Renaissance had an extraordinary view of the airplanes arriving and departing from the airport. Her husband, a retired member of the Air Force, would love to see that. Katie made the reservation for a room with a great view of the planes. She also made sure the couple had access to the 11th-floor concierge lounge, which offers great views. The lounge was closed for the weekend, but Katie set it up just for them. She made a special trip to the hotel on her day off just to make sure everything went smoothly. On the way to the hotel, Katie stopped to pick up the guests’ favorite bottle of wine. She delivered dinner and the wine to the concierge lounge. The couple was over the moon with how she went above and beyond to make sure every part of their getaway was magical. Katie continues to strive to surprise and delight guests every day.