Captain Of The Canoe: A Talk With Matthew Kristan

Photo courtesy Canoe Place Inn & Cottages

Matthew Kristan knows about running hotels. He spent time checking in big names at the legendary Carlyle in Manhattan. Also, the St. Regis, Mandarin Oriental, and Equinox Hotels. Now, as he takes the reins at Canoe Place Inn & Cottages, he’s ready for the “Sophomore Summer” at another legendary spot. 

The recently renovated 20-room inn, five cottages, and 37 suites at the neighboring Boat House will see a lot of jazz, authors’ nights, and art exhibitions this season. 

We checked in with him recently to see if he and the facility are “ready for their close-up.” Spoiler alert: He’s expecting world-class ratings and knows how to handle just about any request. Including expensive bath water. 

Matthew Kristan. Photo by Bill McCuddy

Welcome to the Hamptons.

Thank you. After 14 years in New York City, this is a big change. I grew up in upstate New York, Putnam County. 

When you were a kid, did you want to work in hospitality? Greet your parents’ friends at the door and say, “Your name?”

(Laughs) I had a bar set up, and I’d be serving drinks at 7 or 8. I always wanted to make sure people were happy, so yes, it was a logical transition to do this. I worked at restaurants in high school, pivoted over to hotels in college, and I’ve been in hotels ever since. The role of a General Manager is to make sure everyone who walks through that door is happy. The industry changes in the last 20 years have shifted emphasis to your team and your people. They want to have a voice and participation in creating a great stay.

Photo courtesy Canoe Place Inn & Cottages

Has social media changed everything?

It doesn’t matter if a guest is going to write a review or not. The goal is that when they walk out the door, they had a great experience. 

What’s the craziest thing anyone has ever requested?

At one of my hotels, a regular guest wanted Fiji water to bathe in. They would stay for one, two, or three weeks at a time and spend thousands of dollars on Fiji water. I can’t say who it was but I will say it wasn’t a movie star. 

And at Mini Bar prices, you cleaned up! 

 (Laughs) Well, we didn’t charge that much, but it was expensive. 

Photo courtesy Canoe Place Inn & Cottages

What are you most excited about this summer at Canoe Place?

Jeff Goldblum is a great actor, but he also has an orchestra, and they’re coming in July. This is great for me because coming from The Carlyle, we had Cafe Carlyle, and Jeff had a residency playing there, so now he’s coming Out East. It’s mostly jazz, but they play the theme from “Jurassic Park.” I’m kidding, but with people like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and others, we have a history, and we wanted to honor that. So far, we’ve been getting great reviews for Candlelight Concerts, big bands, single acts, acoustic, tango, Latin bands, and it’s all pulled different types of people into the property, which is great. 

Last summer was the hotel’s first full season after the multi-million dollar makeover. What have you learned?

People have preconceived notions of what Canoe Place actually is, so a lot of our effort is focused on showing just exactly what we are. The music, entertainment, wine dinners, authors’ nights are all part of that. Stella Cole is coming, the Django Allstars in partnership with the Hamptons Jazz Festival and a “The Moth” like series of real people telling stories is hopefully going to be a regular series. It’s coached by a woman who’s done it all over the country. We are also bringing artisans and their work to the property through an alliance with a major museum. 

Photo courtesy Canoe Place Inn & Cottages

There’s indoor and outdoor dining all summer?

Yes. There are also some exciting things to come in the kitchen. We can’t talk about it yet, but it’s going to be an amazing summer at Canoe Place. And we’re really a part of the local Hampton Bays community year-round.  

Okay, Matthew, we’re on our way. Save us a table. 

Jeff Goldblum. Photo courtesy Canoe Place Inn & Cottages

This “Place” Has It All — Here Are A Few Summer Highlights

The upcoming summer season at Canoe Place promises to be an exciting one, with Jeff Goldblum and The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra set to perform on July 25. Goldblum, a gifted and celebrated actor, has also distinguished himself as a jazz pianist. He has starred in blockbuster films such as “The Big Chill,” “Independence Day,” and “Jurassic Park.”

For those wishing to relax oceanside, Canoe Place offers a Summer Beach Experience, kicking off May 24 through September 2. The service includes round-trip transportation to nearby beaches with a set-up of complimentary towels, chairs, umbrellas, and a Yeti Beach Cooler, in addition to a variety of picnics and seasonal menu specials from Good Ground Tavern as an add-on amenity.

Photo courtesy Canoe Place Inn & Cottages

Memorial Day Weekend: Candlelight Concert Tributes to Taylor Swift and Coldplay, Pedro Giraudo Tango Quartet

June 1: High and Mighty Brass Band

June 2: The Power of Telling A Story with Bonnie Levinson

June 6: A Night of Poetry with Nick Flynn

July 6: The Gotham Kings featuring Alphonso Horne

July 15: Django Festival Allstars 

July 25: Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra

July 27: Stella Cole

August 8: Nnenna Freelon Quartet

September 16: Cyrille Aimee

An East End Experience

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