Channeling the splendor of the Waldorf Astoria and catering to a celebrity clientele, Tony Martello plans to turn New Rochelle’s Surf Club on the Sound into the most sought-after venue in Westchester.
When Tony Martello was hired in 1990 to help build the Surf Club, he had no idea that he would one day become its owner. But the seasoned Harrison businessman (he’s owned a contracting and real estate business for the past 45 years) says he always felt a special affinity with the club. Now, 25 years later, Martello is determined to transform the Surf Club into the luxurious beach club and catering hall he always knew it could be.
Q: You have said that you decided to buy the Surf Club because it felt like home. Can you explain?
A: I was an integral part of building the club and its renovating, and I always had a soft spot in my heart for it. When I was here, I just got a very warm feeling; people were always smiling at these events—it’s not like being at a funeral home where you’re always crying. It was just a very happy place to be.
Q: When you took on the Surf Club, its reputation was floundering. Did you ever consider changing the name?
A: I thought about it, but then I decided that the name was just too good. I was going to have to step it up and make the name even better than it was before. It’s been a great challenge, but one that has paid off.
Q: How did you “step it up?”
A: Piece by piece. The first thing I did was persuade the old Surf Club’s accountant to come on board with me and run the establishment. We then hired a general manager and all new salespeople and maître d’s. It was an entire staff turnover.
From there, we changed the ambience of the entire club. It was too much like an Italian restaurant, and who wants to come to a wedding in an Italian restaurant? Everything in the place had to be cleaned, fixed, or replaced, and we did that. We changed the entire décor both on the inside and out, including renovating the entire beach club and cabanas. We wanted to be like the Waldorf Astoria and be able to handle any event.
Q: Ever had any big-name clients?
A: We just signed up Mariano Rivera as a beach club member, and he actually had a Christmas party here on December 19. Gianni Russo, who was Carlo in The Godfather, is a member at the club and an entertainer here as well. He sings, tells stories, and entertains our clients. He loves the place!
Q: What’s the most memorable event you’ve hosted so far?
A: I had my 70th birthday party here this year. I had 500 guests–it was wonderful! But we have a lot of big events, and every event is a challenge. Every event we do we take great pride in to make sure it’s exactly what the client wants.