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Zanol and Richards heralded for service

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Kalmar Richards, principal of CedarBridge Academy, and Lindo's Group president Giorgio Zanol occupy vastly different roles — but both exemplify the congenial spirit celebrated over hospitality month.

“They both go out of their way to be welcoming in their professional roles, and creating a space for others that we believe is part of our Bermuda heritage,” said Glenn Fubler of the group Imagine Bermuda, which is commending the Island's icons of hospitality throughout April.

For Mr Zanol, who can often be found stacking the shelves or packing bags at the Devonshire branch of Lindo's, an early start in the hotel business proved tutelary.

“I just like people — I like to deal with people, I am always trying to please people,” Mr Zanol told The Royal Gazette.

“When my mother-in-law asked me if I would start a small mom-and-pop store in 1968, I didn't know anything about grocery stores. Believe it or not, grocery stores are a service industry. It's hospitality in a way.”

Mr Zanol grew up in the northern Italian village of Cavalese, popular with tourists, and as a teenager he worked during the summers at the local Angelo D'Oro hotel.

“I went to hotel school and graduated in management. I had to go through all facets of the service industry — the kitchens, dining rooms and dealing with guests. That's why I don't spend much time in the office at all; I'll come in here for a half-hour to check my e-mail and sign papers, and then I like to be out on the floor because the people are there.

“People are confident to talk to me, and if there is any problem or compliment, they talk to me,” he said. “If I miss a week or two because of vacation, they always ask where I have been.

“That's the reason why Lindo's is where we are now because there is always a member of the family out on the floor. We all work together and know what we have to do to take care of the customers. My background in the hotel business definitely helped in the business here.”

After 47 years in the business, Mr Zanol still draws on his hotel background.

“I don't feel subservient — I have never felt that way,” he said. “I don't feel myself above or below anybody. People appreciate it when you take care of them.”

In addition to people skills, Mr Zanol acquired a keen eye for cleanliness. The supermarket makes a point of closing on Sundays for staff to spend time with their families; the break also allows time to clean.

His service philosophy even extends to discounts: one customer told him that the ten per cent discount offered on Wednesdays, which Lindo's and other supermarkets opted to extend by a few more months, had saved her a thousand dollars.

Although Mr Zanol said he would occasionally have bad days when he was younger, he has grown stoical with time, and also takes solace in running.

“Our margin is very low; we make money because of the volume, so we want the customers to keep coming back,” he said. “We always try to make the customer feel important. Never tell them they are wrong. At the end of the day it's service, service, service — it's very important.”

For Ms Richards, as principal of CedarBridge, the story is much the same: “My life has been one of service,” she said. “I've been an educator for over 30 years and I'm still just as excited about it. It's very hard work, but my commitment to young people and helping them prepare for the future is what drives me.”

Getting to know students personally is a key aspect of Ms Richards's approach, and she takes pains to interact with them daily.

They are “not just students — they are like my children, for want of a better term, and the majority of them I do know”.

Ms Richards knows the bulk of her students by name, which communicates that “they are valued and will add value, not only to Bermuda but to the world”. She also makes a point of getting to know students' interests and appearing at athletic events or performances where they are taking part.

“Just today, a young man came to my office to check on me — he wanted to know where I was last week and said he was making sure that I was doing well.”

While Ms Richards describes herself as a no-nonsense principal with high expectations of her students, she prides herself on being approachable.

“School has to be a place where children feel safe, feel good about themselves and feel they will always have someone who will be a cheerleader for them,” she said. “That's the place we're striving to be.”

Asked how she maintains her welcoming temperament, Ms Richards said: “I love people.

“I value and respect the staff and faculty that I work with, and I endeavour on a day-to-day basis to affirm them for it. I don't just accept that they are doing their jobs. Celebrating the contribution of the team is important to me because what they are doing is transforming the lives of young people, getting them ready for great futures.

“You can't ignore that. Most leaders say they work with people; I say that I work with family — I truly love the people I work with, and I tell them that.”

Ms Richards said husband Terrence could attest to her passion for the job. “He knows the love, care and concern I have for the staff and students,” she said. “He sees me up early in the morning or late at night, writing letters of commendation or sending e-mails to thank people.”

Both Ms Richards and Mr Zanol have been dubbed “heroes of hospitality” by Imagine Bermuda, which is using April to promote Bermudian values of warmth towards others.

Lindo's Group president Giorgio Zanol, saluted as part of Hospitality Month for his love of service. Photo by Jonathan Bell
Kalmar Richards, CedarBridge Academy principal, has been hailed as a 'hero of hospitality' for her welcoming approach to her students. Photo by Jonathan Bell.

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Published April 14, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 14, 2015 at 9:19 am)

Zanol and Richards heralded for service

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