EXCLUSIVE: If walls could talk – Longtime employees of The Woodlands Resort reflect on the hotel’s 50-year history

By: Sean K. Thompson
| Published 06/05/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX – The Woodlands Resort has been a semi-hidden gem of The Woodlands since its founding five decades ago, nestled behind groves of trees just off Grogan’s Mill and N Millbend. From humble beginnings through increased popularity and area expansion as part of the Curio Collection, to its recent $26 million worth of renovations, this venerable Township icon has been a welcome home away from home for residents, tourists, and visitors to The Woodlands.

But the Resort is also a second home to hundreds of employees, and for some of them, they have enjoyed decades of enjoyment at the same place. To be able to boast several employees who have served 20, 30, 49 years or more is an astonishing point of pride to the hotel’s management.

Woodlands Online sat down with several longtime employees of The Woodlands Resort in a series of exclusive interviews to ask them about their pasts, presents, and future plans.

Charline Ekenseair – Reservations Revenue Manager – 41 years

Charline came to the Resort as a PBX operator in 1983. Ironically, she didn’t plan to apply for a job when she showed up; she was merely accompanying a friend, but decided to throw her hat into the ring when she saw the hotel in its early wonder. Over the decades, she went from that position to concierge to activities to front office manager.

One of her earliest memories of working the switchboard was handling every single light being simultaneously lit up at the Shell Houston Open. “Then I worked my way up the ranks. I went from the phones to the front desk to guest services,” she said. Today, she is the hotel’s reservations revenue manager.

When asked how she has been inspired to stay at the same place for four decades, she replied, “It’s always changing. Never stagnant.” She recalled the ‘early days’ with just a couple of hundred rooms that went for $79 a night, a manual ticketing system, and pigeonholes for physical messages.

One memory that particularly stands out for her was the 1983 appearance of Hurricane Alicia, which devastated much of the Houston Metropolitan area, including The Woodlands. “So many of us couldn’t get home. Though we were essentially stranded here, we made the best of it. It was a total group effort with lots of camaraderie.”

Charline has another fond memory: that of meeting her husband. “We’ve been married for 35 years,” she said, thinking back on when they first met when he was a bellman at the Resort. The family aspect goes beyond even that; her daughters and a former sister-in-law have also worked with her. Currently, her brother works in the Grand Ballroom, having moved up from working at the tennis courts.

When asked about her future plans, she was straightforward.”Retirement isn’t in my blood. Let’s see where I am in another three to five years.”

Danny Rivera – Banquets Captain / Supervisor – 20 years

Danny’s first day working at the Resort was January 6, 2004, back when he was just 23 years old. His first job was as a busser for the Glass Menagerie, the fine dining restaurant at the time.

“It was a nice experience, with a high standard and exceptional quality of food,” he told Woodlands Online. The restaurant was popular for romantic getaways, as well as every Sunday was a brunch complete with bananas foster, champagne, and live piano music. Danny refers to the days of working at the Glass Menagerie in his formal uniform lovingly as the ‘olden times.’

A native of El Salvador, Danny admits that talking with people was never a strength of his, but he has always admired the attention the Resort gives to customer service. “I learned from everyone who came through here; I learned different ideas to give my best service.”

From bussing, he went to a part-time banquet server, to a food waiter at the poolside restaurant, to bartender, to the night shift in the dining room, until he eventually became the banquets captain and supervisor. In this capacity, he oversees weddings at the hotel, supervises the servers, handles the event package and food, and maintains the timelines needed to pull off top-class events. “They expect perfection,” he says of his position of nearly three years.

When asked what kept him here for two solid decades, Danny – who has been married for five years and has three kids – says it’s the sense of family, not only among his coworkers but also visitors to the Resort. “If you stay here, you get something special. It’s a second home where everyone knows everyone. I love it when I have a wedding or other event and they call or email me to say thank you for the details. I’ve received cards, flowers, even a box of chocolates as a thank you.”

Aldo Hernandez – Waiter – 44 years

When Aldo started working at the Resort, The Woodlands was only five years old. It was that newness that inspired him to come here in the first place.

“When I first started, there was the skating rink, Jamail’s the first grocery store here, and the gift store,” he said. Over the years, he’s noted uncounted changes both big and small. “Back then, we didn’t have any pools,” he told Woodlands Online.

He began his tenure here as a dishwasher, then busboy, at the Glass Menagerie, where he worked for 25 full years before returning to the internal services of the Resort. “The Glass Menagerie was the first restaurant in The Woodlands,” recalled Aldo. “Mr. Mitchell [George Mitchell, creator of The Woodlands Township] used to love eating there.

Family is important to Aldo. Not only is his brother a longtime Resort employee, but he also loved spending time with his wife, three children, and granddaughter.

Romel Teria – Conference Services Supervisor – 24 years

When Roma first began his 24-plus-year career at the Resort, it was only supposed to be a temporary gig. “But I liked the place and the people, so I stayed,” he told Woodlands Online. He went from valet parker to guest services to his current position of supervisor to conference services.

“I like the people I work with,” he told Woodlands Online. “I like to get things done and often come in early to do so. My staff certainly doesn’t wait on me!”

Romel was born and raised in Guam, moving to The Woodlands in 1999 with – as he puts it – “just a chunk of change in my pocket.” Today, he enjoys life with his wife and two children in their house. The family has taken more than one trip to Japan, a destination favorite of his. “In high school in Guam, I took hotel management, and in Guam the largest percentage of tourists were Japanese.” Additionally, when the Resort plays host to Japanese guests, Romel is usually called up to assist.

It is apparent that Romel takes joy in his hard work. “I love being thanked by happy clients. I want to give all I can and make their day memorable,” he told Woodlands Online. “Just recently, a client wanted to treat our staff to a banquet, so they got us a taco food truck.”

Silvia E. Flores – Laundry Supervisor – 43 years

The Resort has always been a familial and familiar part of Silvia’s life ever since she moved here from Matohuala, Mexico. Her father and sister were already here, so she decided to move here to be with them. Her father worked in housekeeping, and her sister worked in the kitchen. “The first day I applied for the job was the first day I started my shift in the laundry department,” she told Woodlands Online.

Though taking care of the laundry for a major resort destination could be viewed as a solitary – and thankless – position, Silvia has loved it from day one. “I like working by myself, and I truly enjoy what I do,” she said.

Her recollections of the early days of the Resort remain clear. “There have been big changes to the lobby and the rooms,” she said. “The country club and the Resort used to be the same, and we used to have a lot of guest houses.”

For a brief two-year stint, Silvia transferred to the kitchen before moving back to the laundry.

When not working at the Resort, Silvia enjoys visiting her daughter and her sisters, and going shopping. “I feel happy and appreciated here, especially with the birthday month lunch they give me every year,” she said.

Woodlands Online congratulates The Woodlands Resort for fifty solid years of hosting, entertaining, and welcoming visitors to and residents of The Woodlands, and all of its employees, especially these special ones who have given a combined 170 years of service.

Comments •
Log In to Comment