Photo courtesy of Benjamin Gray
Delaware native Benjamin Gray makes a splash in hospitality, netting a national award from the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Benjamin Gray grew up like many Sussex County locals. He worked at Grotto Pizza, starting as a dishwasher and eventually becoming manager of Grotto Grand Slam. A graduate of Seaford High School, Gray met his wife, Sydney, at Arena’s Deli and Bar in Lewes.
“I always loved the restaurant industry but then I got an opportunity to go into hotels… I’ve really never looked back,” Gray says.
After high school, Gray’s plans were to become an attorney. It was really all he ever wanted to be. “My only other option was to be a minister,” he says.
He attended law school in Florida and graduated, even though he says, “it really wasn’t for me.”
Gray then applied for a night auditor position at a Hilton hotel. It was part-time but soon, he landed a full-time role. “It felt right, and I knew this is what I wanted to do,” he says.
After interviewing with the Vice President, Gray was named the general manager of a new hotel property in Indiana. It was November 2011, and the hotel Gray was now managing was double-booked for the upcoming 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
“I landed in November and had until February to figure out how to deal with this,” he says. “I learned a lot through that process.”
His background in law came in handy as he was able to renegotiate the contract with the NFL and find suitable rooms for others. “It was a home run for me,” he says.
Gray went on to manage hotels in New York before returning to Rehoboth Beach.
“I knew I wanted to raise my family here,” he says.
He got the opportunity to work with EOS Hospitality at the venerable Bellmoor Inn and Spa which it purchased in 2020. Originally the Dinner Bell Inn, which opened in the 1930s, The Bellmoor has only had two owners, EOS being the third.
“EOS believes so much in their properties that they are willing to invest in them and invest in their success,” Gray says.
When COVID hit, the team at The Bellmoor was hit hard. One of their longtime beloved employees fell ill quickly and passed away.
“It was an incredibly hard time for us. We decided we were going to do everything we could to make The Bellmoor safe for our guests and our team,” Gray says.
Gray went on to serve on the governor’s task force for the hospitality industry, working with leaders across the state to find ways to reopen.
At the same time, EOS had an opportunity to purchase two hotel properties in Bethany and move forward with renovations. The Bethany Beach Ocean Suites and Hotel Bethany are both managed by EOS and Gray now with big plans for their futures.
And, renovations continue at The Bellmoor, getting it ready for the 2022 summer season.
“It has been a few rough years for everyone in the hospitality industry, but I am really proud of how we have all come together, worked together and created something we can all be proud of,” Gray says.
His work did not go unnoticed and in January 2022 he was awarded the Outstanding General Manager of the Year (Small Property) award by The American Hotel & Lodging Association. Gray accepted the award on behalf of EOS Hospitality and the 180 employees working at the three Sussex County properties.
“The hospitality industry is resilient. We can quickly rise to meet challenges,” Gray says. “I am proud of everything we have done during this pandemic. We are part of the community, and we strive to support our employees and others in our industry. We had one of the best summers in Sussex County in 2021 and I am sure we will be ready for an incredible 2022 season.”
Learn more about EOS Hospitality: eoshospitality.com/about.
By The Numbers
The Bellmoor Inn and Spa
78 rooms, 53 inside and 25 with outside entrances
12 suites with more than 1,000-square-feet each
A no-kids floor for a quiet experience
Restaurant and bar for hotel guests only
6 Christian St, Rehoboth Beach; 227-5800; thebellmoor.com
Bethany Beach Ocean Suites
Restaurant and bar, 99 Sea Level, open to hotel guests and the public
On the Bethany Beach Boardwalk
Full renovation plans coming in the next year
99 Hollywood St, Bethany Beach; 539-3200; marriott.com/en-us/hotels/rehri-bethany-beach-ocean-suites-residence-inn/overview
Currently being renovated and upgraded to be completed in April 2022
Offers room service and golf outings with nearby golf course
39642 Jefferson Bridge Road, Bethany Beach; 541-9200; hotelbethanyde.com