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A royale retreat

For over 25 years, Tom Flynn often spent as many as 280 days a year traveling in 41 countries. Being on the road was required for his work in international marketing.

"I used to say if I could stay in my yard for a week, I'd be the happiest man on the planet," he says.Now, after almost three intensive years during which he and his wife, Fran, have operated La Europa Royale, an elegant small hotel just off the I-215 loop, he can't get out of his own yard.

That's because the Flynns have been working up to 100 hours a week trying to get a new, exciting business on track.

It may be almost time for them to slow down, and Flynn admits that he and Fran are seriously thinking about taking some time off to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this year.

"If I don't," he says with a wink, "I might not make it to 41."

Things are going well in the small hotel business. In his own travel, Flynn could never figure out why hotel rooms were so poorly designed.

He wondered about such things as 7 feet of closet rod space when he only had 4 shirts. He wondered why there was not a place in the closet for luggage to be conveniently opened and accessed. He wondered about those rickety suitcase stands he kept tripping over.

Native Texans who have lived outside the United States for almost 30 years, the Flynns moved to Salt Lake City in 1989, so Flynn could work for Snowbird Resort.

But he kept thinking about the future.

In Europe, Flynn sensed an attitude of caring and genteel hospitality almost unknown in the United States. He liked small, executive hotels with between six and 15 rooms.

Finally, in 1995, Flynn secured the necessary loans to enable him to build a small, classy hotel on two acres at 1100 East and Vine Street (6000 South), in the Cottonwood area of Salt Lake County.

Although it cost the Flynns $1 million to build and equip their dream structure, it is now appraised at $2 million, and their mortgage is low.

That is because La Europa Royale has acquired an impeccable reputation as a great place for business people to stay or small businesses to hold meetings and retreats Sundays through Thursdays.

On weekends, guests celebrate honeymoons or anniversaries as the hotel becomes a romantic getaway.

But it is in no way a bed and breakfast, a term from which Flynn shrinks.

"Bed and breakfast hospitality is easy," he says. "B and B guests really don't require anything. They're here to get away from the phone, to renew their relationships. You could pass food under the door to these people, and they'd be happy."

Many of the bed and breakfasts he sees are restored Victorian mansions that have trouble with sound transfer. Frequently, they lack in-room phones, private baths, closets and other amenities.

In contrast, La Europa Royale lives and breathes amenities.

A visiting executive has access to secretarial services, fax and copy machines, a place to plug in a modem, room service, same day laundry service and who knows what else.

The services are equal to those offered by a large, full-service hotel, but they are personalized. People can relax on the patio or take a walk around a picturesque path circling the grounds.

If they get thirsty in the middle of the night, they can run downstairs and get a Coke out of the fridge - without hunting for quarters. Guests can obtain hot coffee anytime, too, served in cups heated to 120 degrees in an electric drawer.

"That's a minuscule thing, but people say that is the most wonderful thing they ever saw. It's the little things in life that make people happy."

The Flynns serve a full breakfast to those who stay in any of the nine rooms, and a light lunch for business meetings.

Rick Davis, director of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, calls La Europa Royale "The closest thing to a Ritz-Carleton in the state of Utah."

That is partly because Flynn has structured the corporate rate schedule to compete with the big hotels downtown for their nicest rooms - $135 each - and then includes extras they don't - such as fireplaces and 86-gallon Jacuzzis in every room, and an oversize two-person shower with two shower heads.

Besides additional closet space, each room has a 10-foot ceiling and is equipped with an expensive, firm king-sized bed, a choice of three types of pillows - feather, dacron or orthopedic foam.

The Flynns do "triple sheeting, enveloping the blanket with a bay sheet, a top sheet, a blanket and another sheet on top of the blanket. The Ritz-Carleton does it."

TV sets are raised, as they are in hospitals, to be user-friendly for guests who want to recline in bed while they watch. The phone system allows the guest to plug in his laptop without losing voice capability.

The walls are sound-proofed, 14 inches thick, with a double-studded wall and a 5-inch dead air space to ensure absolute quiet.

The door for each room is a 260-pound solid core door in a jamb with a threshold, meaning that closing the door "is like putting a top on a jar. It stops all outside noise."

Flynn grins: "We could strike up a band in the dining room and you wouldn't hear it in your room."

Flynn is determined to provide every possible amenity as well as security, especially for female travelers, who represent the majority of his corporate guests.

He has individually regulated thermostats in each room. He equips the bathrooms with high-end products in dispensers - soft soap, body gel, shampoo and conditioners, and offers large 60-inch bath towels.

"You show me a woman who does not want a towel this size," says Flynn.

There are two meeting rooms, one to accommodate 10 people, and a new one to accommodate 25 people. Flynn thinks of everything. "If a guy works on a presentation on his laptop on the airplane, we have a digital converter so he can display that thing on a TV screen."

Such high-tech luxuries may sit in the closet, Flynn says, for 22 days out of 30, "but when we need it, we have it."

Flynn is happy with the educated, sophisticated travelers he has seen so far - "people who are a pleasure to work with."

In two years and eight months of continuous operation, Flynn asserts that they have not lost a single towel.

Flynn and Fran, who married at 18 right out of high school, divide responsibilities for the hotel. Although they see more of each other than they ever have, their marriage is being enhanced.

Fran is the accountant who also supervises housekeeping and food preparation, while Tom takes care of the gardens, handles marketing and makes connections with corporate clients.

Recently, they have acquired five full-time employees and four part-timers, who have taken some of the load off the Flynns.

It's a good thing, because Tom had a mild heart attack in February, and his doctor has told him to stop working 100 hours a week.

"Now," he says, "I'm on a diet where eating is no fun anymore. They just stake me out on the croquet court, and I eat grass and twigs."

Tom plans to slow down slightly so he can revel in the unique enterprise he has spawned. "Every once in awhile, someone has to hit you over the head with a baseball bat."

With a second career in full bloom, retirement for the Flynns seems a long way off.