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For 40 years, Lexington hotel valet, 'Tone', has opened many doors

His real name is Keith Allen, but most people know him as 'Tone.' It's a name he picked up from his days of running a recording studio in Lexington. 

But Tone’s full-time career started in 1983. The now 61-year-old has worked the last 40 years in guest relations at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Lexington with one goal.

“My job is I tell the guests, I said if you're not happy, I'm not happy. Tell me what I can do to make you happy because I don't want to leave her unsatisfied. So, I try to make everything, I try to make everybody happy when they leave here. I'm the first person you see here. And I'm the last person you see when you leave.”

Tone’s first job at the Hyatt was as a doorman. He says he did that for about 10 years and then was promoted to valet. Tone explained the biggest difference between the two positions.

“As doorman, I used to just open up the door, check the guests in the luggage, take him inside and give them to the Bellman, pass on to the Bellman. And then the valet guy will take the car across the street.”

Tone does a lot of running on the job. When guests need their cars, they hand Tone a ticket, and he uses that to find their keys on a wall inside a nearby valet office. He then sprints across High Street from the Hyatt to a large parking lot and drives the guest’s car back to the hotel.

How many miles does he run on the job? 

“Oh, my goodness. That's a good question. It's 136 spots over there. Right now, we have over 100 cars over there. So, you're running all the time all the time. Back and forth, back and forth. Yes, sir. That's what keeps me healthy.”

Through wind, rain, and snow Tone has made that run.

On a rainy October Saturday, Tone greets Hyatt guests at the main entrance with a smile. 

His friendly personality and interest in people have made him popular among longtime Hyatt guests like Paul Jones of Pikeville. “This is the man of the Hyatt Regency. He is the face of the Hyatt. There's never been a better employee than I know when I've been traveling to the Hyatt for 40 years. He has been taking care of me. He is Mr. Hyatt to me. And if he ever retires, I don't know what I'm gonna do.”

The hours can be long. Tone clocked in at 3:30 a.m. after working late the night before.

“Well, we have airline crews to stay here. And they have to be at the airport. You know the first crew leaves at 4:01 in the morning and the second leaves at 4:08. Then we have several other ones that leave so you have to have at least two people here just in case somebody gets left behind.”

You might assume with his seniority and his job title, Guest Service Supervisor, he’d have better hours, but Tone says it’s hard to find people who want to be a valet.

“These people don't like to work, you know, the younger people. And I try to talk to them. I say hey guys, I've been here 40 years. I've been here 40 years for a reason. I said it's a good job. It'll take care of everything. All you got to do is just put the time.”

Part of his job, Tone says, is making sure guests have whatever they need, and it helps to be well-connected in the community.

“I've got connections with car dealership owners, lawyers, judges, just about anything.”

Lex Veech who says he spent years in the hospitality industry in Florida says Tone also has something special when he talks to guests.
“Tone is the ultimate in delivering personal hospitality. I've been able to know him for the last four, five, or six years. When I come up here to represent the Citrus Bowl. And he is just the greatest gentleman in the world. He will look you in the eye. And he's sincere when he speaks with you. And the big difference in accomplishing Guest Services is that you listen, not hear. So many people hear but they don't listen. And tone. He takes that listening and delivers the ultimate and guest services.”

Tone says he tries to treat all the Hyatt guests the same, including the celebrities he’s met over the years. “I've met Muhammad Ali, Janet Jackson, and James Brown. You know, I've seen anybody that plays over at Rupp Arena. But Muhammad Ali was an inspiring person when I saw him, to see him get out and the way he was walking and stuff and then went inside and he made a speech, and I was just shocked. You know? He really impressed me.”

Tone is not ready to retire anytime soon. 

“It's not about the money. It's the people I like to have. I like to see to repeat customers come back. That's what keeps me going. And then going back and forth across a parking lot. Keeps me healthy. Because if I was sitting at home doing nothing, I'll probably get old, real quick.”

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Sam is a veteran broadcast journalist who is best known for his 34-year career as a News Anchor at WKYT-TV in Lexington. Sam retired from the CBS affiliate in 2021.
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