The owner of The Lodge at Columbia Point has died after a short battle with cancer.
Tom Drumheller, 64, passed away Sunday — just days after the ribbon cutting ceremony for his Richland hotel.
The Lodge is a 62,773-square-foot boutique facility with amenities from a library to spa rooms. Drumheller worked on it for years.
He first proposed it in 2006, but the project stalled in the recession.
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Because The Lodge wasn’t part of a national chain, Drumheller had to pound the pavement to find financing.
The money eventually came together, and a groundbreaking was held in 2015.
The Lodge won’t be a trendy space, but instead one that’s classic and lasting, Drumheller said during the ceremony.
“Here in a few years, it will not go out of style. It will age gracefully,” he said.
Drumheller was CEO of Escape Lodging in Cannon Beach, Ore., which has several hotels and properties in the Northwest.
He was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in August.
“I’ve known Tom for 30 years, and we’ve been business partners since 1999,” said Patrick Nofield, president of Escape Lodging. “There’s nobody like him. It’s a huge void — not just for those who loved him, but for our community, and the people of Eastern Washington where he grew up.”
A career in hospitality
Drumheller was born and raised in Walla Walla. His family worked in the hardware business for generations.
Growing up, he watched how his father used humor and respect to develop strong relationships with customers.
That set the foundation of his philosophy toward the hotel and restaurant industry, where he worked for 25 years before establishing his own business.
A key experience came when Tom turned 9; he was hit by a baseball, Nofield said.
The ball dented Drumheller’s skull and he lost the ability to talk. “They were able to do surgery and put the skull where it needed to be, but he had to reteach himself to talk,” Nofield said.
His mother, a teacher, read him the Dr. Seuss classic, Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose.
The incident inspired Drumheller’s future career direction, Nofield said.
“Thidwick always wanted to take care of his guests, and of all the people I have ever met, Tom was the most hospitable person to anyone, whether it be a housekeeper at one of our hotels, or whether it be a billionaire developer,” Nofield said. “He treats them all the same. All with love and all with encouragement.”
After graduation from the Carson College of Business at Washington State University, Drumheller participated in the Hyatt Hotel management training program before establishing Escape Lodging in 2001.
Escape Lodging also owns the Ocean Lodge, The Inn at Cannon Beach and other lodging properties and restaurants in Oregon and Washington. Drumheller served on the Cannon Beach Tourism and Arts Commission, Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association Board of Directors, Washington State University Hotel and Restaurant Advisory Board of Directors and Travel Portland Board of Directors.
In 2014, Drumheller and Tom Krueger teamed to open Tom’s Fish & Chips restaurant in Cannon Beach.
Drumheller said in a 2014 interview that his goal was to “try to make it really, really cozy, especially during the off-season for the locals.”
Drumheller and Krueger opened a second location in Seaside this summer.
“I was very fortunate to have some great mentors I admired and learned a great deal from,” Drumheller said in an alumni magazine profile. “When one of them passed away, it spurred me, along with my future business partner, to take what I had learned and start my own company. It was both very scary and exciting. The risk-to-reward ratio has been better than I could have imagined.”
This spring he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Carson College of Business Hall of Fame.
The city mourns
Friends and family gathered in his last days to salute the man they had grown to know and love.
“He was such a fun person to have at the meeting,” said Robin Risley, among the founding members of the arts commission when he was chairman. “He did things with a sense of humor. We didn’t all come from the same place, but he was so inclusive that most of the decisions were made were fair and forward thinking. I just appreciated him so much. He always had such a twinkle in his eye.”
Ryan Snyder, president and owner of Martin North, worked with Drumheller beginning in 1995 and together at Martin Hospitality at the time it was owned by the late Steve Martin.
“Tom was a mentor and a friend,” Snyder said. “He helped me and my family through the times of transition after the passing of Steve in 2000.”
“He was a steady, peaceful, funny, charming, and simply a magical human being,” Snyder said. “He was a great husband and father, a loving grandfather, and a genuine friend.”
“He was a huge rock here in Cannon Beach,” said Court Carrier, the executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce. “He was important — a hospitality executive for decades.”
Drumheller and his wife, Christy Lynn, have two adult daughters, Brook Burnett and Britney Drumheller.
A memorial service will be scheduled.