Balsams ends an era


After more than three decades at the helm of one of the state’s historic grand hotels, Steve Barba and Chef Phil Learned will retire as managing partners of the operating company for The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel. Tillotson Corporation, owner of The Balsams, has named Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts to take over management of the resort. Barba has agreed to continue in an on-site capacity through the transition and beyond. “The legacy that Steve and Chef Learned leave is enormous,” said Bill Alico, president and CEO of Tillotson. “Their commitment to The Balsams and the New Hampshire community is simply extraordinary. They’re an institution in these parts, and we cannot thank them enough for their personal dedication and professional efforts in making this the premier destination resort in New England.” Barba, 59, and Learned, 78, combined for more than 85 years of service at The Balsams. Barba began his affiliation with the property in 1959 when he enrolled as a caddy at the hotel’s caddy camp and then went on to work his way through numerous summer season positions. In 1971 he and his longtime friend Warren Pearson took over the reins as co-managers and shared their distinctive lobby office until Pearson’s death in 2001. Learned, director of food service and executive chef, began his career at The Balsams in 1965 and quickly turned the resort’s American plan menu into one of the most notable culinary attractions in New England. He joined Barba and Pearson in 1977 as managing partner of the operating company along with maintenance superintendent Raoul Jolin, who retired in 2001. “It’s been a lifetime’s labor of love to serve here at The Balsams,” said Barba. “With generations of families who come every year and visitors from around the world, I have been privileged to live and work in this beautiful place and to pursue what I know to be a noble enterprise. I am proud to have been a steward of this national treasure, and I am honored by all the loyal and good people who have shared this work with me.” The new management firm, Delaware North, is one of the country’s largest hospitality and entertainment companies and manages such properties as the TD-Banknorth Garden in Boston, as well as the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa in British Columbia and the Tenaya Lodge and the Ahwahnee Hotel, both in Yosemite National Park. The company also manages several ski areas as well as some gambling properties.
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