‘Pemby’ to stay the same for now

New owner may partner with hotel chain in future


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The new owner of the Pembina Hotel isn't about to fix what isn't broken.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/01/2015 (3003 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The new owner of the Pembina Hotel isn’t about to fix what isn’t broken.

Sabino Tummillo, whose family has purchased the Pembina Highway institution for an undisclosed price, likes the multiple revenue streams it generates from its beverage room, vendor and video lottery terminals.

Oh yeah, and its 22 hotel rooms.

“We’re going to keep it the way it is (for now). It just needs a little bit of promotion. The hotel is fine. It makes money already,” Tummillo said.

As much as he likes the current business model of the “Pemby,” Tummillo thinks the one-hectare site has the potential to be an even bigger draw as a mainstream hotel with 150 to 200 rooms in five to seven years.

“We might want to link up with a flagship hotel. It could be any name. It depends on what franchise is available,” he said.

“The city is growing right now and with the brand-new stadium, we do need more rooms in the area, especially on Pembina Highway. What else is there? Canad Inns, the Holiday Inn and Best Western. There’s nothing too major.”

The Pemby has been owned and operated by Trevor Druxman’s family for decades. His maternal grandfather, Ben Zelcovitch, bought it from the Carling O’Keefe brewery in 1959, when the breweries were told to get out of the hotel and bar business. (Labatt owned the Cambridge Hotel across the street, which was purchased by the Klein family at the same time.) Then Druxman’s dad, George, following his nine-year career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, started helping out his father-in-law, and finally, the youngest Druxman, took over in 1983.

He said the fact he’s selling the business his family has run for more than a half-century hasn’t hit him yet.

“I’ve put my heart, energy and money into operating the hotel. It’s going to take a lot more capital over the next 30 years to operate it. A new beer store, for example, is a million-dollar investment. Sabino and his family have the capital and ability to make improvements over the next 30 years,” he said.

Druxman said the Pemby first caught on with the university crowd in the early 1990s, and he had to admit he was a little surprised at how quickly it happened.

“I was standing down by the men’s bathroom and I said to my friend, ‘Pemby’ Dave Roux, ‘There are 500 people in here. We’ve got to get some doormen.’ The next day, I called a security company, and we hired doormen. Otherwise, we would have been closed down by the liquor commission,” he said.

Scott Jocelyn, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said Druxman built the Pemby into one of the most popular haunts for university students, and it will be weird to drive by the place in a couple of weeks knowing the Druxman era is over.

‘We might want to link up with a flagship hotel. It could be any name. It depends on what franchise is available’

“Trevor is very passionate about the industry. You hate to see people like him leave,” he said.

“There’s probably some untapped potential there, and hopefully Sabino and his family are the ones to unlock it.”

The Tummillo family owns the Oxford Hotel on Notre Dame Avenue and the Stock Exchange Hotel on Arlington Street. Having three hotels will provide buying power with suppliers.

“The more hotels you have, you can always make a deal,” Tummillo said.

The family has been a mainstay in Winnipeg’s hospitality industry for 27 years. It also owns several properties downtown, including 291 Bannatyne Ave. and 436 Main St.


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