CHICAGO - The state of Illinois officially re-opened Friday after a 15-month COVID-19 quarantine.
Businesses awakened with new energy, including one of Chicago’s largest hotels – the Sheraton Grand Chicago in Streeterville.
Noel "Nick" Elizondo was one of the first employees hired at the Sheraton in 1992 and returned to his job as a doorman.
"I'm one of the originals. It's a double header for me. I'm back," said Elizondo. "I miss the guests, the hotel itself, the employees. It's nice to see these faces, makes you smile big time."
Employees cleaned the house for company, disinfecting every surface and touch point.
General Manager Mark Lauer and a handful of engineers kept the empty building maintained, through harsh winter weather and the hot summer of 2020.
"Our engineers are going through every guest room. There are thousands of details to attend to when you have 1,800 guest rooms, 125,000 square feet of meeting space," he said.
When it first opened in 1992, the Sheraton Grand established itself as a major employer when jobs were scarce.
Thousands applied to become housekeepers, doormen and sales agents.
Hospitality brimmed, until 2020. The economic engine of Streeterville fell victim to the coronavirus – and survived.
Lauer says 95 percent of the employees want to return because working at the Sheraton is not just a job to them, it is a career.
Throughout its run, the hotel hosted presidents, celebrities, the annual Cubs convention, among other things.
Lauer says he aims to "wow the folks who have saved their money and are coming to Chicago for the first time. Those are the guests we make sure are wowed."
Five original employees were the stars of the reopening, representing 125 years of service to the hotel and guests.
The Sheraton Grand Chicago has reopened with a new identity, making use of its Riverwalk location, featuring musicians, artists and the things that make Chicago great, to become a hometown destination.