2017-10-05 / Around Town

A Community Connection

Conversation with Brewer Rowe
By Amy Martin

The jack of all trades, Brewer Rowe The jack of all trades, Brewer Rowe Brewer Rowe is a man you may recognize around town, but you’re not sure how you know him. Frankly, the possibilities are endless. Maybe you frequented the Newport Athletic Club in the 1980s and remember an energetic boy with curly brown hair and a penchant for soccer. You may recognize the face from when he was a caddy at Newport Country Club, a student at St. Michael’s, or mixing drinks at the Black Pearl or 22 Bowen's during his 15 years at Bowen’s Wharf. Brewer’s familiarity also could be attributed to recent city council meetings, where he speaks on behalf of the hospitality and tourism industries as chairman of the board for Discover Newport. Maybe you have been a spectator at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open or you play tennis at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where he is the senior vice president of tennis operations. Here's some background on the man you recognize, but may not know from where.

How did those early experiences spark your interest in hospitality and tourism? I’ve always loved the hospitality and tourism industries. I love the energy and the vibrancy that comes from the constant action, because every day is different. In hospitality, I always feel like I am in the pulse of Newport, and I love that spirit. I got a job at The Black Pearl in high school through my connection with the Cullen family. Tom Cullen was one of the industry leaders in Newport. He saw a future in the town even when the Navy was pulling out of town, and he turned his restaurant into one of the best in the area. Tom taught me all about customer service, and it’s one of the main themes that I try and teach to my staff on a daily basis. Whether you’re working in a restaurant or running a tennis facility, ultimately it boils down to customer service. Treat your guests as you’d expect to be treated when visiting their establishment.

How did you get involved with Discover Newport? I was appointed to Discover Newport by the city, so I am one of three city of Newport representatives. In order to serve on the board, a person must live within one of the nine cities and towns [of Newport and Bristol Counties] and work in the hospitality industry.

What led to your current position at the International Tennis Hall of Fame? I’ve always worked in hospitality and entertainment. I worked for Octagon Sports Marketing. I was a logistics coordinator at the Gravity Games (NBC’s version of the X Games). The X Games actually started here in Newport, and when it got more extreme they moved to Providence. After that, I worked a BMW account, managing a mountain driving tour at Vail Resorts, and then worked in professional golf and worked the CVS Charity Classic in Barrington. I worked several more years in sports management and then applied for a position at the tennis Hall of Fame and just celebrated my five-and-a-half-year anniversary. I was originally hired to help run the professional tennis event, and now I am also overseeing club operations.

How has the Hall of Fame changed in the past five years? With new leadership, our focus has gone from a small localized organization to making our mark in the greater landscape of tennis. Our focus is now a global one, which in turn has greatly improved our local product.

What would you like to see more of in Newport? We want to make ourselves a year-round destination. Our attractions can drive business in the offseason. Our restaurants are phenomenal. The concept of Newport Restaurant Week, the Newport Winter Festival around the President’s holiday, are great. These types of events are extremely valuable to this effort.

Favorite Festival? The Harvest Fair because I have children and we try to experience the outdoors as much as possible.

Favorite Annual Tradition? The polar bear plunge. My wife and I have gotten our girls into it.

Are there any misconceptions about Newport that need to be overcome? There is a misconception that Newport is inaccessible in the summer because of the tourism. That’s just not the case. You don’t want to not come in July and August because there are tourists here. It’s exceptional at that time of year and there’s so much to take advantage of. Another issue that is top of mind in Newport is the lack of parking. I don’t think that is ever not going to be an issue, but parking does exist. Bike Newport has done a good job getting people in here, RIPTA and the buses are doing a good job, too.

What does the city need, in order to increase tourism? We need a convention center. Where we lack as a destination is from the corporate standpoint. In order to get larger groups, we need meeting space. We obviously flourish with weddings and parties and smaller corporate meetings, but we don’t have any space big enough to hold large corporate meetings that could accommodate a couple thousand people. Newport also needs a five-star property like a Ritz or J.W. Marriott. It would be a great stamp, making Newport a luxury destination.

Favorite Place to go for a Walk? Cliff Walk.

Favorite Hidden Treasure? Ocean side of Fort Adams and the two-mile hiking trail that goes around the Eisenhower House north up to the fort.

Is there anything that residents can do to help promote Newport and add to its growth and success? Embrace tourism and embrace the hospitality industry. When the America’s Cup left in the 1980s, they said Newport was going to die. That obviously didn’t happen, because the community collectively embraced the area and all that we had to offer. It’s important to know that the room count for all lodging properties in Newport and Bristol Counties is 4,129, with 2,361 coming from Newport alone. So, we are responsible for filling those room nights with guests year-round. The residents are the ones who make Newport attractive.

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