New manager settles in on Kemah Boardwalk
Nine months into his job as general manager of the Kemah Boardwalk, Mark Kane said the biggest surprise he's faced since leaving New Jersey is the manners of Houston residents.
"I really like the people in the Houston area," he said. "The people are fabulous, very polite and well-mannered, and I mean our staff and our guests."
Kane, 57, came to Kemah after 27 years of working for Six Flags, including a stint running the company's largest park in New Jersey.
"Mark is a proven performer with an excellent track record in strategic development operations and marketing," said Keith Beitler, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Kemah Boardwalk. "His knowledge of the amusement and theme-park hospitality industry blended with his vision and energy makes him a dynamic addition to the Boardwalk."
Despite the recession, business has been good in Kemah, Kane said.
"I think people are doing more of a 'staycation,' " he said. "They're coming to see us rather than traveling across the country."
That business is crucial for the town, said Bill Kerber, Kemah's city administrator.
"They are a big contributor, the No. 1 contributor to our sales tax," Kerber said. "We have a population of 1,700, and we tell people we have 3.5 million to 4 million visitors a year."
Those people want to be entertained, Kane said, and in an era where many believe customer service is a dying art, keeping customers happy is more important than ever.
"Nationwide, I think service isn't what it used to be," Kane said. "One of the reasons I joined (Kemah Boardwalk owner Landry's) is how impressed I was with their restaurant operations and their ability to deliver consistently every single day. I'm trying to transfer that continuity and consistency."
Kane's background isn't typical for a business executive.
"I was actually working for Six Flags when I was attending college," he said. "After I graduated, I was offered a full-time position."
But Kane didn't study business; he studied psychology in college.
"But I think the study of people and their tendencies has been a great help."
Kane's challenge is to build on the success Kemah has enjoyed as the economy recovers.
"We have a very diverse set of assets with nine branded restaurants," he said. "We've got a lot of things going for us."
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