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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | November 4, 2014

Cambria Suites White PlainsThis is a tale of the unexpected, which reminded the often-skeptical Hotel Insider that genuine hospitality thrives, if you know where to find it.

Thanks to 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts, my town, which lies roughly one hour north of New York City, lost power for much of this past weekend. Coincidentally, it also happened to be the first time the mercury had dipped below 40 degrees F. Not wanting to spend two cold days in the dark, we began calling around to hotels and managed to score two rooms at the brand-new 130-room Cambria Suites White Plains, a stone's throw from IBM headquarters.

coupon for free breakfastCambria is parent company Choice Hotels International's new upscale, all-suite, nonsmoking brand. With complimentary Wi-Fi and a gym, a lobby bar, a 24-hour grab-and-go market, and usually three or four meeting rooms, it promises guests "smarter business travel." And, while I had never stepped inside a Cambria before this weekend, I have been following the brand's development for the past few years under the stewardship of Michael Murphy, senior vice president, upscale brands, and a former Marriott executive.  

Now, fast forward to the reception desk and a grumpy, tired family of four expecting to be told they would have to wait until 3 p.m. to get into their rooms. Wrong. Not only were our rooms ready, but the receptionist called her superior over to introduce us and explain why we had suddenly become impromptu weekend guests. "I think you need a little something to cheer you up," this manager said, handing us coupons for four complimentary breakfasts. And I don't mean continental. It was a hearty buffet spread, with a copy of USA Today at every place setting.

Hotels are always going on about how they empower their staff to enhance the guest experience, but this was the first time in 20 years of covering the hotel industry that I've experienced such genuine warmth of service firsthand. I immediately signed on to Cambria's loyalty program. There currently are 20 Cambria properties in operation, with another 30 in the development pipeline in prime urban markets, including two in New York City — in Times Square and Chelsea. If their staffs are half as genuine and welcoming as their White Plains sister property, the competition will get a little more interesting in Gotham.