The man at the helm of the Richmond Harbour Hotel is young, ambitious and isn’t afraid to confront a challenge. Here RiverTribe Editor Linda Duberley talks to the hotel’s new general manager and finds a man focused on his work but who always has time to walk his dogs.

When Richard Muldowney started in post at the Richmond Harbour Hotel it was a baptism of fire. Literally.

Muldowney, at 31 already a highly experienced hospitality professional, started on April 30th last year – the day Richmond experienced one of the worst blazes in living memory.

Some 100 firefighters were called to the blaze at the hotel’s spa where the roof had caught fire. London Fire Brigade said crews were facing “challenging conditions” as they attempted to douse flames in Richmond Hill. The fore made headlines on TV and in national newspapers the following day.

Yes, it was certainly a baptism of fire. Right from the start I was in crisis management mode. The one-hundred-day plan went out of the window and we had to be as effective as possible as quickly as possible,” he said.

Incredibly, despite such a tough start Muldowney has not just put matters on an even keel, he has instigated growth which mean that the Richmond Harbour Hotel has grown in stature and credibility.

I love Richmond. It is a centre for well-being. The park and the rural setting make it a pleasure to work here and the hustle and bustle of the town mean we are in a very sustainable environment for developing our brand. There are more than 200 restaurants here and it is a very sociable place. I could not be happier.”

Indeed, the Spa which has been closed since the fire is now due to open and there is much excitement amongst the management team about the state of the art facilities at the spa, the gym and in the conference space. It will be a remarkable rise from the ashes.

The next year or so will be critical to the Harbour’s development. But Muldowney is no stranger to hard work and long hours. He is up at 5.00am and walking his two dogs, Richmond and Frank, is the first order of the day. A quick spin round the park with his boys on a double lead and then into the hotel to oversee operations. The two sausage dogs are a regular sight for guests and help consolidate Richmond’s standing as a dog-loving town.

It is one of those unexpected re-assurances in life that a man like Muldowney can work long hours with full focus, roll with the punches of professional life and still have time for his dogs.

I wouldn’t be without them. They go everywhere with me. Frank arrived only at Christmas so it has taken time for him to settle with Richmond, but now they are very close and no trouble at all.”

Like many in the hospitality sector, Muldowney found the business infectious. He started working on Saturdays for Milsom Hotels in Dedham, Essex, as a way of earning pocket money while he did his GCSEs. He did that for two years and then after A Levels decided to work full-time in the hotel business. His employer paid him to do a degree in Business Studies. He spent 12 years with the group and ended up as the Deputy General Manager of the group’s three rosette fine dining restaurant, The Talbooth. He moved on to Harbour Hotel’s Northbrook and White Truffle Events division overseeing 300 weddings a year at Farnham by the Hog’s Back.

At which point – and still only 30 – he decided to speak up and ask for the chance to run an hotel. He is not short on ambition, which should all of us in Richmond.

By all accounts he is popular with staff – but demanding as well. He is watchful over details and constructively critical. He is prepared to put in the hard yards and is determined to make the Richmond Harbour Hotel a big success.

All the right ingredients are there. We have the right location, we are building the right team and we have discerning customers like to eat out and want a top quality spa. We will become a key destination for people.”