For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: KIMBERLY HARRELL
Kimberly Harrell is Operations Specialist for Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s leading not-for-profit health care organizations. For the company’s biannual training sessions, her checklist of needs includes close proximity to corporate offices in Oakland, attentive service, diverse menus and the comfort of her attendees.
Only one venue excelled. The Dolce Hayes Mansion is an exquisitely renovated Spanish Colonial manor infused with high-tech hardware and sumptuous amenities, located just 15 minutes from San Jose International. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 100 year-old estate is sheltered among a residential neighborhood, wineries and golf courses.
“The property is as beautiful as it appears in photographs. Manicured green lawns, towering palm trees and tended flower gardens,” describes Harrell, who has hosted sessions for sponsored middle management KP employees from across the country at Hayes Mansion for the past two years.
“When attendees discover where they’re staying, the immediate reaction is, ‘This is such a beautiful place. Is this training or am I on a vacation?’”
The original 41,000-sf Mediterranean villa features exotic woods, imported marble and ornate stained glass windows decorating a building designed in the shape of a Maltese Cross. In 1994, Dolce Hayes Mansion added a conference center housing 33,000 sf of function space, including 24 meeting rooms and two ballrooms, the largest of which is 6,600 sf.
Old World elegance is mirrored in the 214 rooms and suites, as well as Orlo’s Restaurant, a fully-restored burnished wood beauty that won a 2010 Wine Spectator Award for its vast wine selection and New American cuisine. Meanwhile, the 12,000-sf Being Spa was recently named Best Resort Spa in Silicon Valley.
Not that KP’s attendees have leisure time unless they personally extend their stay. “We come here to work,” says Harrell, “but it’s important to Kaiser that our employees are comfortable. When you’re in classes eight hours a day for five days, comfort becomes a valuable commodity.”
How is that achieved? “Ergonomic chairs. Hayes Mansion has them everywhere. At other venues, we had to rent them.”
Harrell says that superior service also sets Hayes Mansion apart. “I can’t say enough about it. When I ask for something to be done, it’s done correctly the first time or is handled immediately. I don’t have to keep asking or check on it.”
Another selling point is the menu diversity for the thrice daily buffets, and the catering staff for their innovative refreshment stands located outside the classrooms. Harrell says, “We usually have attendees with food allergies. Catering considers that and makes sure they’re carefully provided for.”
Service really shines Thursday nights when food and décor take on a more festive air. “They created a beach party last spring, complete with sand, a volleyball net and surfboards around the room. I work with them on Thursday night’s dinner, selecting a menu that fits the theme, but no matter the theme, the food is always delicious.”