Lukus Kindlesparker is a hotelier at heart and from day one brought his passion and excellence through several career stops before finding his current home in luxury at the JW Marriott Nashville.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee—What’s evident immediately upon meeting Lukus Kindlesparker is the passion he brings to his role as GM of the JW Marriott Nashville and his passion for the hotel industry.
“I love the variety and characters in the world of hotels,” Kindlesparker said. “When I was 16 and 17, I had the chance to travel, and in my career to have the opportunity to live and work in these amazing places, and to be paid for it,” he said. “It was my dream to go to California, or an island, and I did work on Big Island (Hawaii) for two years.”
Kindlesparker’s rise through the ranks took him from being the youngest-ever management trainee at two Hyatt Hotels Corporation hotels in California to assistant director of rooms at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and director of rooms at the W Atlanta Midtown.
At the Hyatt Regency Monterey, he was head of housekeeping.
“I was 25 and had 125 employees under me. I was young enough to be the son of a lot of them,” he said.
That position in Atlanta was the beginning of Kindlesparker’s eight-plus years at Marriott International, albeit the majority of that with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
“I come from a small town in Indiana: Peru,” he said, adding that his first GM positions were both in Atlanta, at the Glenn Hotel, a Marriott Autograph Collection, and W Atlanta Midtown, his second stint there.
When reminded that Axl Rose, lead singer of rock band Gun n’ Roses also came from a small town in Indiana, Kindlesparker smiled and said, “Yes, West Lafayette. I went to college there.”
Kindlesparker studied hospitality and tourism management.
In what spare time he has—his wife is a successful businessperson, and he has four children—Kindlesparker runs 5 kilometers (3.14 miles) a day, but always finds time to make fresh smoothies for his family and support them in their sporting and artistic endeavors—ballet, baseball and soccer.
He also spends at least two evenings in the hotel to see how things operate and flow.
Defining luxury in Music City
Even with all good experience, education and training for his current role, the JW Marriott Nashville opened in July 2018* and faced its fair share of challenges, Kindlesparker said.
“There is not much luxury in Nashville, and it is not quite a hotel scene that understands that level,” he said. “Luxury needs time, money and resources to be spent on it, and not every hotel is prepared to do that.”
He said being a part of the first luxury hotel in Nashville has its benefits.
“We can refine luxury on the competition before the competition arrives. I’ll take that any day of the week,” he said.
Kindlesparker emphasized finding the right employees to deliver the service hotel guests expect.
“Every day is different, and you have to surround yourself with amazing talent,” he said. “Team-building and idea-generating inspires you and makes you want to learn more. Passion is a challenge that never lets you rest on your laurels. I can be an intense person, so the challenge is an outlet.”
Kindlesparker hopes his passion will go a great way to leaving up-and-comers far off in the rear-view mirror, although two of the luxury properties in the Nashville pipeline are a W hotel and The Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel, both managed by Marriott. The other is a Grand Hyatt.
“We call our employees ‘internal guests.’ It is all about creating a culture that makes people want to stick around,” Kindlesparker said, who added the JW Marriott Nashville has 34 floors, 533 rooms, 77,000 square feet of event space, and a 10,000-square-foot pool.
The 17,000-square-foot lawn is space for potentially more rooms, he said.
“Nashville is the dream market. It is expanding rapidly,” Kindlesparker said. “The convention center is next door, and the tourism bureau is doing a great job.
“There is a lot of mediocrity in the hotel industry, and I do not want to go back to that,” he added.
*Correction, 20 August 2019: This story has been updated to correct the opening date of the JW Marriott Nashville.