NassikasJimmy.jpg

Jimmy Nassikas

James Achilles Nassikas, a noted hotelier who helped to develop the Royal Orleans and Royal Sonesta hotels in New Orleans, died Saturday at a senior care center in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 91.

Nassikas developed world-class hotels throughout the United States. During his time in New Orleans, he also helped found the Krewe of Bacchus with other business leaders who sought to broaden the impact of Mardi Gras.

"Jimmy was the greatest hotel person in the world," said Ray Brandt, CEO of the Ray Brandt Automotive Group, who worked at the hotels as chief financial officer. "He cared about his people and wanted excellence."

"He had a saying, 'The ever-present menace of mediocrity requires eternal vigilance,' " said Brandt. "He was an incredibly gifted man."

Nassikas was born in 1927 in Concord, New Hampshire, the son of Greek immigrants. He earned a degree in hotel administration from the University of New Hampshire in 1952 and certificates for service and cuisine from the Ecole Hoteliere in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In Switzerland he worked in small, family-run hotels, learning about their attention to detail and to guests. Those lessons guided him throughout his career.

“At the core, a hotel is people dealing with people,” he said in a 1989 article in the Chicago Tribune.

After returning from Switzerland, Nassikas joined the Boston-based Hotel Corp. of America, which sent him in 1960 to help open the Royal Orleans in New Orleans as the food and beverage manager. He remained there until 1962, when the company moved him to the Plaza Hotel in New York City and then the Mayflower in Washington, D.C., for three years.

Of New Orleans, he told the Chicago Tribune: “I went down there reluctantly and left even more reluctantly.” He pushed to return to the Royal Orleans and was reassigned there in 1965, becoming vice president and general manager.

“He felt right at home in New Orleans,” said Nassikas' son William, who followed his father into the hospitality industry. “People embraced him.”

Nassikas played the piano and loved music, in particular jazz. He was president of the New Orleans Jazz Club and held small concerts for jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong, at the Royal Orleans and Royal Sonesta.

Along with Pip Brennan, Nassikas was one of the founders of Bacchus, which had its first parade in 1969. 

"My dad, Owen 'Pip' Brennan, said Jimmy was a great asset to Bacchus," said Clark Brennan, the krewe's current captain. "Jimmy was another hospitality manager who shared Pip's vision to make Mardi Gras a better show for New Orleans visitors and locals alike." 

Through his work at the Royal Orleans, Nassikas met New Orleanian Edgar Stern Jr., who developed the Royal Sonesta through his Royal Street Corp. Nassikas helped Stern open the Royal Sonesta in 1970 and was later lured to San Francisco by Stern for a new project: to renovate a dilapidated building into the Stanford Court Hotel. They would later work together to develop the Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.

Located on Nob Hill, the Stanford Court was considered a precursor to today’s boutique American hotels. Nassikas was president and managing partner of the hotel until 1989, when it was sold to the Stouffer hotel chain.

He continued to serve as a consultant for hotel companies and developers after leaving the Stanford Court.

Among his many honors, Nassikas was named Independent Hotelier of the World by International Hotels Magazine in 1986 and received the Silver Spoon Award from Food Arts magazine in 1991.

Besides his son, survivors include a daughter, Christine Fair Nassikas, and a grandson.

A funeral was held April 2 at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Scottsdale.


Follow Sue Strachan on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @SueStrachan504.