He’s responsible for handwritten notes and extras that pamper Hotel Napoleon guests: chocolates and champagne, or rose petals scattered on the beds of people celebrating anniversaries.
He plays and sings national anthems for visitors: England’s “God Save the Queen,” France’s “La Marseillaise,” “Advance Australia Fair,” “God Defend New Zealand” and “O Canada,” to name a few.
Guests marking a birthday or other milestone are greeted in the lobby with “Guest of the Day” honors on a sandwich board.
He took care of VIP guests for the National Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Awards during their recent stays at the Napoleon. Of course, he won’t name names, because that wouldn’t be discreet.
Rocky Goodwin, 52, the Hotel Napoleon’s concierge, said he stepped into a job seemingly made for him when the boutique hotel opened Downtown two years ago.
Rocky Goodwin is the concierge extraordinaire at Hotel Napoleon in Downtown Memphis. He greets foreign visitors in their native tongue – or sign language – plays their national anthem on the P.A. system, and has received 31 nominations for the Welcome to Memphis Pick Awards for hospitality workers. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian)
When he isn’t giving tips on restaurants and attractions, finding a special wine or otherwise tending to guests’ errands, Goodwin can be found cranking up favorite tunes of guests in the lobby bar, answering the phone, taking reservations or making sure the white floor tiles stay spotless.
Goodwin was recognized during the Welcome to Memphis Pick Awards recently as one of the city’s top hospitality industry workers. He and Sherry Breland, an Orpheum Theatre employee, were runners-up to the overall winner, the Downtown Memphis Commission’s Vance Stacks, a member of the Blue Suede Brigade safety and hospitality team.
“I don’t think of it as going the extra mile,” said Goodwin. “It’s just how I operate.”
“I get paid to do what I would do for anybody,” he added.
Memphis Tourism’s Welcome to Memphis initiative works to improve the visitor experience. It educates hospitality employees about what Memphis has to offer, provides customer-service skills training and recognizes outstanding workers through the Pick Awards.
Tourism supported more than 23,000 jobs in Shelby County with an annual payroll of $742 million in 2017, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
A Memphis resident since age 6, Goodwin has been a Downtown resident for more than 30 years and has worked at jobs that have included Northwest Airlink flight attendant, furniture and rug salesman and antiques dealer. He previously was a concierge at the Westin Hotel Beale Street.
He lives in Carolina Lofts condominiums with his partner of 19 1/2 years and husband since March, Davis Brady, and their 3-year-old Yorkie, B.B. King.
The Pick Awards, presented at Crosstown Concourse Oct. 29, drew from 50 nominees this year. Goodwin garnered 31 nominations from guests, co-workers, friends and others.
“I didn’t catch his last name but I will forever remember Rocky at Hotel Napoleon,” said one guest. “I travel all over and never have met someone who was so genuinely sincere in being helpful. He is a great cheerleader for Memphis and Hotel Napoleon.”
Another guest said she met Goodwin in the lobby. “We started talking about something I was dealing with personally (yes, with a perfect stranger, he is that comfortable to talk to). He suggested a place for drinks and dinner, Brass Door, which was wonderful, and when I returned to my room, he had left me a goody bag and very sweet note. I will return just because of him.”
Goodwin is mentioned more than 50 times in 200-plus reviews of Hotel Napoleon at online travel site TripAdvisor.com.
“You have to pour on the Southern charm and it can't seem disingenuous. Southern charm is real," Goodwin said. "If they're like from New England or wherever else and they say, 'Say something in a Southern drawl,' I will magnolia mouth that thing to death. 'Sugah, how's your momma and them?' People get a kick out of that. But I don't speak like that as a rule."
It's important to make everyone feel special, he added, because the hospitality market is highly competitive.
“In the end, you want heads in the beds. You’ve got to give people what they want."
Goodwin said the personal service provided by a relatively small staff at the 58-bed hotel in the former Scimitar Building is the reason it’s among the city’s top 10 hotels by guest rankings on TripAdvisor.
His pointers for other hospitality workers?
"You have to be knowledgeable, eager, sincere," he said. "You have to have some history under your belt. You have to be genuine. You have to be empathetic."