Tommy Del Zoppo, a Manhattan New Yorker, previously spent 30 years working on Wall Street. His wife was an Emmy-Award-winning producer who had worked for MTV, eventually taking a job with Home Shopping Network, which brought the couple down to St. Petersburg.
“If you would have told me this is where I’d be sitting at this point in my life I would have laughed, or clutched my heart, before falling to the floor because this was not on my radar,” says Del Zoppo.
Like a lot of other transplants, he came to St. Petersburg for a weekend and fell in love.
“We were sitting on the veranda [at the Vinoy Hotel]. I’m sipping some wine and I just couldn’t believe this city,” Del Zoppo says. “All of these people going around, those electric scooters and the beautiful harbor in the water was perfect.”
When he arrived back to New York, he quit his job and two months later he and his family moved to St. Petersburg, to stay.
He met one of his business partners, Alex Hodges, when Hodges knocked on Del Zoppo’s door because he had heard he previously worked on Wall Street. Hodges was trying to raise money for another company.
“It’s very interesting how sometimes in life you can plan things out, and then the universe kind of throws you a complete curveball,” Del Zoppo says.
Del Zoppo is the finance guy, while Hodges has experience in the hotel industry.
“We’ve kind of meshed that together and that’s what led us to where we are,” he says. They’ve been in the business, now, seven years, along with a third partner, Ron New, with the New Hotel Collection.
“I think I’m really good at understanding and seeing things with my eyes and understanding the opportunity and to me, this was a great opportunity right out of the gate,” Del Zoppo says. “This was a whole hidden gem. The rest of the country doesn’t know about what’s going on here. This is an absolutely beautiful city.”
New Hotel Collection owns property within the Harbourside Resort, in Indian Rocks Beach, Beachside Resort, in Indian Shores, and Central Hotel, in Sevierville, Tennessee.
The next big project Del Zoppo is excited about is his passion project, the Cordova Inn, in St. Petersburg. New Hotel Collection purchased the Cordova Inn property during the height of the COVID pandemic, in 2020.
“People thought we were absolutely crazy,” he says, with a laugh. But, he says, he knew exactly what he was doing.
“They built a $90 million pier down there. Right? They didn’t do that, thinking it wasn’t going to draw people,” De Zoppo says. “There’s a direct correlation between the number of young people in the city and the number of microbreweries opening … these are little details that I think people miss but, for us, it was a no-brainer.”
The Cordova Inn has begun demolition on the adjacent Stanton Apartments and Stanton Hotel, which will make way for an additional 63 rooms at the boutique hotel, in downtown St. Petersburg.
Once complete, the hotel will have 95 rooms and will total 53,700 square feet.
The expanded hotel, which was designed by Place Architecture to honor the exterior look of the historic hotel, will feature a rooftop bar and a restaurant.
The character of a building is the defining factor for Del Zoppo when he’s picking his next project.
“I have no desire to do the national hotel chain thing,” he says. “I think the fun in it is building the place that you can come and have an experience. With all of our properties, the thing we try to look at, first, is what kind of character it has. And it has to be distinctly different than anything that is out there in the market.”
New Hotel Collection, owner of the hotel, has already completed several upgrades to the property including adding The Scott, a hotel craft coffee and classic cocktail bar and updates to the rooms.
The expansion is expected to be complete in the summer of 2023.
“That local flavor of each property that we buy, we want to be able to kind of give that experience to the people who are staying there. That to us is hugely important to us,” Del Zoppo says. “There is a whole culture of old school Florida that I am absolutely, romantically, in love with.”
Del Zoppo grew up in Boston, worked on Wall Street, lived in London and now, thanks to his romance with St. Petersburg, says he has found his home.
“Of all the places that I’ve lived, this is definitely my home,” he says. “It’s the first time I ever had actually had conviction to say that.” ♦