The new butler at the AC Hotel in Southpointe duly started work on November 1st – the day after Halloween. At 10 feet tall, he navigated his first shift at the hotel looking like a toddler, wearing a smart-chic suit he’d slept in after his first foray into Milky Ways and M&Ms.
But no, he’s not a little boy and he wasn’t high on sugar at the time. His name is I would, and he’s a robot, one of the few to ever serve in Pennsylvania’s hospitality industry. And he is programmed to be quite sociable.
“The hotel has the ability to put it in a blending mode where it can interact with guests in the lobby. He handed out candy to the guests on Halloween,” said Gina Johnston, vice president of Southpointe-based Horizon Hospitality LLC, the hospitality management arm of Horizon Properties Group. Both are based in the mixed-use park in Cecil Township.
Ace is not well paid, is on call 24/7 and has a computer screen for a head. But he is a devoted employee who is well-mannered, dresses in a soft tux, and can tell a good joke.
He is a product of Relay Robotics Inc., a Campbell, Calif.-based firm that develops robots for hospitality and medical use. Ace was the company’s first hotel facility in the Keystone State, Marketing Director Scott Sperry said in an email.
This is Ace’s fifth week on staff at what is officially known as the AC Hotel by Marriott Pittsburgh Southpointe overlooking Downtown. His first duty was a modest one, delivering towels and a toothbrush to a guest’s room.
Item requests are made through the front desk where Ace’s docking station is located. It delivers items ordered from the hotel’s AC Store and AC Lounge—food, beverages, towels, toiletries, and more—and takes them directly to the guest room. Relay’s robots only need to be trained once before handling a property, thanks to their obstacle avoidance and self-charging technology.
With the Great Resignation still underway, employers can fill vacancies through the use of robots. “Perhaps due to the lack of manpower, this could allow managers to focus on other tasks,” Johnston said. “If guests need more towels or shampoo, managers can use a robot instead of having an individual deliver items, taking them away from doing their job.”
AC Hotel is a fairly new operation, one that opened in September 2020 after a three-month delay in the early stages of the pandemic. It is Horizon Hospitality’s latest hotel launch and one of 13 properties it manages in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
Danny Isiminger he is 78, vigorous and easy – but not too easy. Retirement is not on his radar.
“I love it,” said the founder and owner of Isinger & Son Automotive Service Center, a multi-service car care business in Washington that he has operated for 55 years. “I’m here every day. I don’t know what I would do if I retired.”
What he doesn’t do anymore, Isiminger admits, is hard physical labor, and he’s put in as many 12- to -14-hour days as he once did. But he still devotes a lot of time to his business.
His duties include overseeing state inspections, 24-hour towing, Splish Splash car wash and small-scale car sales at 1100 Jefferson Avenue, a property he took over from an abandoned Exxon gas station and owns in continuation.
And it really is like a second home – a second family home. Wife CARL and their son Neal each has worked there for over 30 years. “I couldn’t do it without them,” Danny said.
Isiminger’s responsibilities changed a bit on Nov. 22 after he sold his 10-minute oil change and lube business to Valvoline Instant Oil Change. It is a transaction that may be unavoidable.
“Big oil takes hold of guys like us,” he said. “They’re a big company and they can do things we can’t. They can get supplies more easily. Valvoline has 700 locations; we have one And we pay more (for oil) on the open market.” Isiminger said prices have gone up seven times in recent years, but he has only raised prices once — by $1.
State and emissions inspections are a significant part of Isinger’s operation, and the numbers reflect that. Danny said he and his staff have handled over 500,000 of them. These and other services offered by this independent business are forms of community outreach, but Isimgers doesn’t stop there. For years, they’ve donated $500 apiece to the city’s police and fire departments.
The audience, he said, responded. “We couldn’t have been here all these years without loyal customers. Our customers and employees have made us who we are.”
In its next webinar, the Center for Energy Policy and Management at Washington & Jefferson College will examine a popular movement that once seemed incompatible—using solar energy to improve agricultural development.
“And on his farm he had… a photovoltaic system? Where solar and agriculture meet” is the title of the free, one-hour event, scheduled for December 7, at 11:00 AM.
Michael RothW&J graduate and director of Conservation and Innovation at the state Department of Agriculture, will speak about agrovoltaic, a field also known as agrosolar or dual-use solar, on the same property.
There have been questions as to whether operating a PV system alongside agricultural land can prove to be beneficial. Food security, climate change and farm vitality are concerns that were discussed. However, these joint operations, if judiciously employed, can be fruitful. Roth will explain how this can be done in Pennsylvania.
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