Columbia Club manager leaves after short stint

December 16, 2008

Maarten van Wijk, the general manager hired by The Columbia Club in 2007 to polish its lackluster operations, has been lured back to Hershey, Penn.

Club President Gregory Harris informed members of van Wijk's impending departure in a Dec. 9 letter. "While it is a great disappointment that Maarten is leaving, I am pleased that he has been offered this wonderful career opportunity," Harris wrote.

His last day is Jan. 23.

The distinguished club was losing money and members and had problems with its historic building on Monument Circle when it named van Wijk general manager in June 2007. At the time, membership stood near 2,100 and was declining.

Founded in 1889 by supporters of President Benjamin Harrison, the club until recent years was a hub of Republican networking but since has diversified its membership.

Harris said in his letter that the club had made "significant progress" in 19 months. "Not just in improvements visible to the membership, but to the behind-the-scenes operational works that allow us to have a financially stable organization."

Harris added that the team of associates is "better than ever," and that accounting had made strides in budgeting, cost controls and collecting delinquent accounts. "For the first time in many years, the financial bleeding has been stopped in food and beverage."

Van Wijk, a third-generation hotel manager who grew up around Holland's luxury class, had been general manager of the four-star Hotel Hershey. According to Harris' letter, van Wijk's former employer, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Corp., asked him to return as general manager of the country club. Van Wijk and his wife Oggi are set to move back to the Keystone state in February.

Van Wijk was not immediately available for comment this morning.

In his letter, Harris said the club's personnel committee is talking to a recruiting firm and plans to name an interim manager soon.

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