Calgary Hotelier (Awarded posthumously)
As a 13-year-old, street-corner newsboy who started his career selling newspapers he couldn't read, Leo Sheftel was a keen observer who learned early that offering his customers personal service would pay off. During more than 70 years of business in Calgary building and managing two of Calgary's landmark hotels, Leo Sheftel achieved success by knowing his customers and giving them the service they expected.
Always a hard worker, Mr. Sheftel spent his youth selling newspapers and magazines, toting luggage for CPR passengers from the station to the Palliser Hotel, and working at his family's fruit and vegetable stand in a market located on what is now the Olympic Plaza. In 1930, he and his brothers expanded into the grocery business, and delivering groceries to impoverished customers who could barely afford the necessities of life during the Depression.
Recognizing the need for a full-service hotel in Calgary, the Sheftel brothers got out of groceries and into the hotel business in the late 1950s. Mr. Sheftel and his partners opened the Highlander Motor Hotel in January 1961, as the first major hotel to be built outside the downtown core and the first to feature an outdoor swimming pool. The Highlander offered complete catering services for conventions and banquets, and hosted celebrities such as Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Leonard Bernstein.
In 1968, Sheftel and his partners turned their attention to the south end of the city were they built the Carriage House Inn. Sheftel served as president and general manager of the Carriage House from 1968 to 1999. During that time he made a point of being a visible presence every day, pouring coffee, shaking hands with customers and asking how their meals were.
Affectionately known as Mr. Hospitality, Leo Sheftel became something of a legend in the Calgary hotel business. Guests at the Sunday brunch that he hosted each week were often surprised to discover that the stooped, silver-haired man filling their creamers was actually the hotel owner. Depite his legend status, Sheftel always regarded himself as "an ordinary everyday working man".
Sheftel retired in 1999 at age 86, and spent his last years volunteering with such organizations as the Beth Tzedec Congregation and Chevra Kadisha, and enjoying the company of his large family. He passed away Dec. 6, 2004 at age 91.