Vernon Hills company starts as printer, now makes hotel supplies
American Hotel Register Company headquartered in Vernon Hills is celebrating its 150th anniversary, having started as a printer of hotel registration books and diversified into a wide range of products for the hospitality and other industries.
The family operation was founded in Chicago in 1865 and was officially incorporated as American Hotel Register Company in 1896.
Through the years, the global company with more than 900 employees has changed drastically and now is associated with an array of products from dinner bells to washers and dryers to baby changing stations.
"We look for new products. We work to improve our inventory. We offer sophisticated technology to give our customers control of the ordering process. Over the years, we keep changing the way we do business to better meet the needs of the hospitality industry. And we will continue to improve to earn the loyalty of those who rely on us," said Jim Leahy, chairman of American Hotel.
We talk to the company leaders.
Q: How do you describe the business now?
A: American Hotel Register Co. is a global hospitality supplier. We help our customers create memorable guest experiences with more than 50,000 items, including 1,600 national brands and more than 2,500 best-value products from our exclusive Registry brand.
American Hotel also serves such markets as government and the military, health care, deathcare (funeral homes), education, gaming and recreation. Our wide-ranging products and solutions help many organizations meet everyday needs.
Q: Who is the founder?
A: Thomas F. Leahy first worked at, then purchased, the company in 1903. His family has served as the impassioned stewards of American Hotel Register Company ever since.
Q: In addition to Vernon Hills, do you have other offices?
A: Our corporate complex in Vernon Hills consists of our company headquarters building and a 265,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art distribution center. In addition, we own Canadian Hotel Supply, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, and Intros Hotel Supplies, headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Our company also provides fast delivery from an extensive network of distribution centers across the U.S. and Canada.
Q: What do the flags mean in front of the building?
A: Our success has everything to do with our people, who come to us from many places around the world, so we honor them with flags that represent their birthplaces.
Q: You recently named a new company president and CEO. Who is she?
A: Angela Korompilas joined American Hotel in 1996 and assumed increasingly significant sales leadership roles, and then was entrusted to lead the company's global marketing and strategic planning efforts. In 2012, she was promoted to executive vice president & chief operating officer, and then, in 2014, to president & CEO.
Q: It's a family-owned company. Can you tell us a little bit about the family?
A: The family has consistently maintained its commitment to the company for over 100 years and continues its active involvement in its daily operations. James F. Leahy, Sr., succeeded his father, Thomas, as head of the company in 1932. He guided its growth for the next six decades. His three sons, Jim, Tom and Patrick, proved to be the third generation of Leahy leaders committed to the progress of American Hotel.
Jim and Tom carried on a family approach to business that not only honored the memory of their brother, father and grandfather, but served the company well in attracting employees who shared the family's dedication to customer needs. In 1985, Jim succeeded his father in becoming president & CEO and is currently chairman of the company. Brother Tom is vice chairman.
Q: You started as a publisher of hotel directories, now you have a large assortment of hotel supplies, equipment and furniture. Tell us a few of the supplies that most people would not think the company is associated with.
A: Signs (we have our own sign manufacturing facility in our distribution center in Vernon Hills)
• Chocolate hammers & vacuum cleaners (thank you items for maintenance staff to leave guests if they've had a problem in their room that needed fixing)
• Dinner chimes (to announce dinner is served)
• Medical scrubs (through our American Healthcare Supply division)
• Baby changing stations