Meet the innkeeper

Fieldcrest Inn & Suites’ John McCallister welcomes you to his world of hospitality. “Welcome to Fieldcrest,” says John McCallister giving the word “Fieldcrest” a punch of enthusiasm. He got the guests’ attention. It was showtime.

Fieldcrest Inn & Suites’ John McCallister welcomes you to his world of hospitality. “Welcome to Fieldcrest,” says John McCallister giving the word “Fieldcrest” a punch of enthusiasm. He got the guests’ attention. It was showtime.

McCallister, the innkeeper at Fieldcrest of North Canton, proceeds to introduce himself to the guests who arrived at Fieldcrest’s lodge for Sunday brunch. He also slips in a few details about the inn and suites, just down the hill from the lodge and available for reservations.

firstguyAnd if they need anything, just ask, McCallister says. The Sunday brunch guests get only a taste of McCallister’s formula for hospitality success.

Like a trained actor with a memorized script, he delivers the greeting so naturally, they probably don’t know it’s part of Fieldcrest’s hospitality standards manual — which McCallister wrote.

Simply put, his standards are these: Welcome them. Serve their needs. Thank them for coming.

“You don’t get that kind of hospitality in many places,” he said. “Often I find the ‘you should be pleased that I’m here to serve you.’”

Welcome

Being Fieldcrest’s innkeeper requires more than delivering a positive greeting and handling reservations for the 10 rooms available at the Inn & Suites and the Lodge, McCallister says.

“It’s about going above the normal expectations,” he said.

brochuresCelebrating a birthday? McCallister will help get a cake ready. An anniversary? How about a dozen flowers? He’ll even order them. McCallister has walked the 50-acre property in North Canton to find quiet areas to recommend for afternoon picnics.

Keeping the Hoover estate in its historic glory also requires tasks most guests probably never realize.

McCallister ionizes the rooms at the Lodge to kill the musty odor that sometimes permeates from its post-and-beam framework. He starts the water in the Inn’s private baths to flush any rust that has built up in the aging pipes.

McCallister has no formal education in hospitality. It wasn’t part of Carrollton Exempted Village Schools’ curriculum when McCallister graduated in 1986, and he never went to college.

His teachers have been his family, the therapists who helped him walk again after doctors declared him partially paralyzed, and the von Trapp family, best known from the movie “The Sound of Music.”

“Hospitality is part of who you are,” McCallister said. “Not everybody can be in hospitality.”

McCallister, 40, of Jackson Township, grew up on a 200-acre dairy farm in Carroll County. His father, Jimmy McCallister, was a minister at a small church in Kilgore, Ohio. Through his father’s example, McCallister, two brothers and sister learned how to be polite, how to listen to others and how to keep their tempers in check.

McCallister describes his mother, Nancy McCallister, as his rock when he nearly hit bottom in 1996.

Serving their needs

On the night of June 9, 1996, McCallister was beaten unconscious. He suffered injuries to his brain and was in a coma for three weeks. The staff at Doctors Hospital in Massillon said he’d never use the left side of his body again.

McCallister doesn’t like to talk about what led to the fight. Rather, he prefers to focus on his path of recovery.

“It was the molding and building of who I am today,” McCallister said. “I saw how being nice affects people, how being positive and upbeat can be catchy.”

guyMcCallister walked, with help, at Edwin Shaw Rehab Center in Akron nine-and-a-half months after the attack. Weeks later, McCallister walked with the support of only a quad cane and could shower, shave and dress by himself.

Doctors said he had reached his potential. McCallister’s parents knew better. They searched for a physical therapist who would make their son whole.

They found Tom Williams in Stowe, Vt., a ski resort community of 4,300 residents. Williams, a former body builder, created a regimen for McCallister that involved not only physical therapy, but also massage therapy, crainiology and a life coach.

“It taught me forgiveness,” McCallister said.

He wrote a letter to the Ohio Parole Board and said he wouldn’t object to giving the man who attacked him in 1996 early parole.

The man served four years and eight months of his 15-year sentence.

“I was not able to focus 100 percent on getting better without forgiving him,” McCallister said. “When I truly forgave him, I noticed a big difference in my progression. I had a better attitude.”

Thanks for coming

During his recovery, McCallister met Johannes von Trapp, the son of Baron Georg and Maria von Trapp, whose romance formed the basis of “The Sound of Music” movie. Von Trapp, also a client of Tom Williams, offered McCallister a job in 1998 at his family’s Trapp Family Lodge.

Hotel hospitality service wasn’t new to McCallister. He had worked at the luxe Embassy Suites at Busch Gardens and at some Stark County hotels.

But the Trapp Family Lodge made them resemble a basic budget motel. The Austrian-style complex catered to not only celebrities, but also top executives and members of the notable von Trapp family itself.

As McCallister rose from handling reservations to being assistant guest services director, he also became closer to the von Trapp family.

He drove Rosmarie von Trapp, the eldest von Trapp child, twice a week to a sing-a-long, where she played the ukulele. Rosmarie gave McCallister her 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier when she left for Israel to become a missionary.

McCallister drove the car home to Ohio in 2005. After his sister’s death, he decided Vermont was too far away from his family. He continues to drive the Cavalier.

Every weekday for the past year, it has passed through the rod iron gates at Fieldcrest. It reminds him of his goal.

“My goal is to bring Vermont’s level of hospitality here,” McCallister said. “Here (in Ohio), I’m sometimes greeted with a mixed reaction when I go above and beyond. They look at me, like, ‘How big of a tip do you want?’ That’s not it at all.”

He believes he can change people’s attitudes, one greeting at a time.

FIELDCREST OF NORTH CANTON

What: The former Hoover estate now features The Inn at Fieldcrest, The Lodge at Fieldcrest and Fieldcrest Montessori School.
Where: 1346 Easthill St. SE, North Canton
Phone: (330) 966-2222
Online: www.fieldcrestofnc.org

ABOUT THE VON TRAPPS
When Hitler invaded Austria in 1938, Georg and Maria von Trapp, along with nine children and their chaplain, left their estate near Salzburg for America. They settled first in Pennsylvania, and moved in 1942 to a hilltop in Vermont, later to be known as the Trapp Family Lodge. The von Trapps turned their family hobby of music into a profession, and toured for nearly 20 years, visiting more than 30 countries. The family’s life became the inspiration for the play and film, “The Sound of Music.”

MEET THE FAMILY

Georg von Trapp was born in 1880. He and first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp, had seven children together. Agathe died of scarlet fever in 1922. Maria Kutschera then wed Georg von Trapp in 1927 and became the stepmother of Rupert (1911-1992), Werner (1915-2007), Johanna (1919-1994), Agathe (1913- ), Maria (1914- ), Martina (1922-1951) and Hedwig (1917-1972). Georg von Trapp died in 1947. Kutschera died in 1987. They also had three children together, Rosmarie (1929- ), Eleonore (1931- ) and Johannes (1939- ).

ABOUT THE LODGE

What: Located on 2,400 acres, Trapp Family Lodge has 96 hotel rooms and suites and 100 guest houses.
Where: 700 Trapp Hill Road P.O. Box 1428 Stowe, VT 05672
Phone: (800) 826-7000
Online: www.trappfamily.com