The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix will be closing its doors for good on Friday, July 24, and with it goes a beloved Phoenix event — Afternoon Tea with Maitre’d Jeffrey Hattrick.
Mr. Hattrick, 34, began with the hotel more than a decade ago in the banquet department before the resort created a position for him. The Ritz offered Afternoon Tea before, but didn’t have a specific person who made it their own.
Since then, Mr. Hattrick has evolved the event into a family staple.
He was named No. 10 on “101 Things We Love About Phoenix” by Arizona Foothills Magazine and in 2005 was honored with the J. Willard Marriott Award of Excellence, the 133,000-employee company’s highest form of recognition, according to the Ritz-Carlton Phoenix website.
Mr. Hattrick moved to Phoenix with a former significant-other and found his fate at the Ritz-Carlton Phoenix by accident.
“I have been in charge of the afternoon tea for about 16 years,” said Mr. Hattrick in a July 9 phone interview. “It has become more than a place of employment, it has become my identity, my home and my family.”
Ever since the announcement of the closure three months ago, people have been flocking to the doors of the resort to try and get one final experience, said Mr. Hattrick.
Carol Balin, a local high school English teacher who has lived in the Valley for 30 years, has been a regular attendee of Afternoon Tea for nearly two decades.
“First of all, the worst of the whole thing is losing Jeffery because he is so nice and so dapper and always in a tux,” said Ms. Bailin in a July 7 phone interview.
The tuxedo was the exciting part of the job, in the beginning, said Mr. Hattrick.
“I started serving and didn’t know anything about tea,” said Mr. Hattrick. “I knew I got to wear a tux.”
Ms. Bailin reminisced about going to the resort to enjoy tea for special occasions such as Mother’s Day and birthdays, but also when friends would come into town.
“He is the epitome of being a gentleman, and makes every occasion such a special moment,” said Ms. Bailin.
The journey is now coming to an end, and Mr. Hattrick says it has been emotional, but exciting.
“The biggest thing to hold onto is that the memories are not going away,” said Mr. Hattrick. “It’s never been about the tea; the tea has been the vehicle.”
Making relationships throughout the years has been the source of joy that Mr. Hattrick gets from his job. He considers many patrons to be his friends and family now.
“For two hours a day, I get to take people out of their reality and give them a dose of fantasy land,” said Mr. Hattrick. “I feel like what I do is give them a chance to go to Disneyland every day, which is not real but I make it real.”
Ms. Bailin had similar feelings about the event, saying it was “always so special,” and that although she has been to other tea establishments in the Valley, none have the key ingredient: Jeffrey.
The Ritz-Carlton Phoenix is going under new management, and becoming more of a luxurious boutique hotel instead of a business hotel, according to Mr. Hattrick.
The Ritz-Carlton Phoenix declined to comment.
Mr. Hattrick is unsure of what the next step for him is, although he is currently training for the local Ironman competition in Tempe, has been a health-coach for five years and has created his own line of tea and tea-infused vodkas.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” said Mr. Hattrick, of his next career. “It’s like I’m writing the last sentences of a book and I can’t go on until I’ve written ‘The End.’”
News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached at 623-445-2746, by e-mail at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro