New Woodmark manager strives to keep hotel Kirkland's urban resort

John Murphy, the new general manager for the Woodmark Hotel, strives to keep the hotel an urban resort. Also pictured is the hotel
John Murphy, the new general manager for the Woodmark Hotel, strives to keep the hotel an urban resort. Also pictured is the hotel's labradoodle mascot, Woody.
— image credit: Peggy Kunkel/UW News Lab

Coming in September, the Woodmark Hotel at Carillon Point will host a clambake on the lake featuring bluegrass music, food tents and wine and beer.

The force behind this event is John Murphy, new general manager.Commenting on his move in July to the Woodmark, Murphy declared: “I am so happy to work in the Kirkland community.”

He and his family moved to Washington State from the East Coast 10 years ago. “Friends told me you need to go to the water, you need to go to Kirkland, and we did.”

Murphy exudes enthusiasm as he discusses his plans for the Woodmark Hotel. “We’re not a downtown Seattle; we’re not a downtown Bellevue. We are in an urban area. The thing we are striving to do is for this to be the urban resort for both the business traveler and our transient guests,” he said.

Murphy adds, “It is important to have amenities, whether it is the fitness, the paddle boarding, the kayaking, and the scooters. We have our beautiful salon, we have our spa and we have our Carillon Point managers that we work in tandem with — it is very important to be able to get all of that on one page in the Kirkland community.”

Murphy explains, “Then add to that our creative and exciting events being planned such as the clambake, getting our farmers involved, everyone’s talking about farm to table, what happens if we bring the farmers into the restaurant and Woodmark chefs write recipes around what they sell to us or a “Pigs and Porter” event with music, yoga on the beach in the sunset — how cool is that.”

The vision of success includes coming up with a good mix for a broad range of visitors. As Murphy puts it, “We want guests to feel like this is a big bed and breakfast.”

Toward that goal, he is often out in the lobby welcoming guests, along with Woody, the hotel’s labradoodle mascot.

The Woodmark lobby boasts breathtaking views of Lake Washington and impressive artwork. It is known as a beautiful location for weddings. The hotel has won many awards. Murphy is proud that it recently was voted “the best of 425 2011” for best wedding venue from in July.

The chefs have garnered attention as well. Award-winning chef Paul Hyman was invited to cook at the “Burning Beast” event held in July at Smoke Farm in Arlington. The event was sold out.

What does Murphy hope to accomplish? “You’ve got to make sure it is the right product mix, it is consistent and it is delivered with a passion,” he said. “We need to stay ‘top of mind’ and relevant, projecting that we are the happening hotel and there is a lot of new and exciting things that are going to occur.”

Murphy reminds us that teamwork is essential. It takes a village to make it all work and continuing effort to instill that excellent service culture into team members, empowering them to make the right decisions on behalf of guests.

Murphy observes: “When I first arrived, what impressed me the most was the loyalty of clientele." He says his team members are the hotel’s secret ingredient behind that loyalty.

“Sometimes what we say is, it’s when you are inviting your best friends over and your family and you are entertaining them in your home - you are putting love into that experience,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing that translates to the hospitality business. If you put that love, that understanding into it - it goes back to passion and it will come across as that.”

The hotel was booked solid on a recent summer weekend, including a wedding party. Murphy said he spoke with a family vacationing here recently from California. The wife reported that they had a great time kayaking and riding bikes; they all said life is gorgeous here.

Yasodha Caulfield, visiting from Portland, said: “We love it here, it is just beautiful, just look at Lake Washington! We have a corner room and we all have our own space. Yesterday, we went out in the boat all day on Lake Washington. It was great fun for the kids.”

Murphy brings broad and deep experience to the Woodmark. He graduated from Florida International University in Hospitality Management in 1982, and  before that from the Culinary Institute of America.

He began his career as a sous chef in 1980 for a 200-seat classical French restaurant in Princeton, N.J., moving up the management ranks to general manager. In 1989, he was appointed director of food and beverage for the Nassau Inn in New Jersey, operating three restaurants. In 1992, he moved to Hilton Hotels in Denver where he later worked as director of operations.

Then, a change of pace. He moved here to work for Microsoft as an account manager in 2001. It was an opportunity that was as challenging as anything he had done before.

According to Murphy, “It’s all about managing people in hospitality with the focus on service, service and service.”

Murphy moved to Columbia Hospitality in 2004. For seven years, he managed operations within their portfolio, including the Salish Lodge, University of Puget Sound, Bell Harbor International Conference Center, Seattle World Trade Center and Cedarbrook Lodge.

The combination of Murphy’s education, experience and his ability to build high-performance teams, has enabled him to consistently deliver year over year increases in revenue and Net Operating Income, he said. For each property he managed, he said, he attracted national recognition and awards.

With his many talents and success at adapting to challenging and dynamic environments, one can anticipate that Kirkland will benefit with this amazing performer at the helm.

Summarizing the Woodmark Hotel, Murphy notes: “It’s a culture of enthusiasm and excellence - we have to deliver on that service and that food and that experience.” Barbara Leland, vice president and general manager for Carillon Properties, describes Murphy as “an experienced hotel operator … who understands the dynamics of our clientele.”

Murphy lives in Sammamish with his wife, Marti, two children John and Meaghan, and their labrador, Casey.

Woody, the hotel’s resident canine, has just returned from a sleepover at Murphy’s.

“That was fun, that was cool,” says Murphy as he takes a few moments to hug and pet the dog. “He came home with me. I also enjoy taking him for walks twice a day. We are new to each other so it is important to me to bond with Woody.”

More information

For more information about the Woodmark Hotel, visit or call 425-822-3700.

Peggy Kunkel is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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