Tijuana Jenkins has become part of the history of one of Augusta’s most historic places.
In August she will mark 26 years at the prestigious Partridge Inn on Walton Way. She started working there as a desk clerk. Today, she’s the general manager.
“At the time I came here, I was married, I had a toddler,” she said. “I wanted extra money and decided to get into the hospitality business, and fell in love with it.”
Born in Washington, D.C., Jenkins moved to Augusta with her mother when she was 10. Describing herself as a “nerd, bookworm type” growing up, she graduated from Lucy C. Laney High School in 1984.
By the time she arrived at the Partridge in 1991, she had worked in the registrar’s office at then-Augusta College; on the document-handling side of the Central Shops Area of Savannah River Site; and at the front desk at a hotel on Washington Road. Pregnant with her younger child, she took maternity leave at that hotel and spent a few months as a stay-at-home mom.
When she decided to return to the workforce, remembering her hospitality experience, Jenkins applied at the Partridge and was hired by the hotel’s managing director at the time, Joel Sobel, now chief operating officer and general manager of the downtown Pinnacle Club.
“I guess he was the starter for me – my mentor who started me on that path,” she said.
After just 10 months, Jenkins was promoted to front office manager.
“At that point I recognized that I was learning. I was expanding my horizons,” she said. “I was educating myself and at the same time loved the day-to-day of being out there, being out front, motivating the team, being that leader for them. It was always my sweet spot.”
For more than 10 years she oversaw reservations, the front desk and the Partridge’s valet and night-audit functions.
Jenkins also was an adjunct to the hotel’s sales office and began soaking up knowledge not only about hospitality management, but the financial ins and outs of running a hotel. Sitting in on meetings, she became well-acquainted with profit-and-loss statements, and STR reports, which document hotel marketing data and trends.
So when an opening emerged in the hotel’s sales department, the transition felt natural.
“I was already in the hospitality business and dealing with people,” Jenkins said. “So some of the same clients I worked with, checking their guests in and out, became my clients as a salesperson, to get more business from them.”
In 2005, she became senior sales manager, then director of sales and marketing in 2013.
In February, she accepted the general manager’s position “to get my feet wet back into operations,” she said. “And here I am.”
The hotel she now runs spans three centuries of Augusta’s history.
The hotel dates to 1836 when Daniel and Elizabeth Meigs built a home called Three Oaks on property they acquired from George Walton, one of Georgia’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence. A home that once stood on that property dated to at least 1816.
Morris Partridge bought Three Oaks in 1892 as both a private residence and a small seasonal hotel. It officially opened as the 60-room Partridge Inn in 1910.
The hotel changed ownership several times from Partridge’s death in 1947, through the 1960s, when it became an apartment building. By 1978, many people had moved out after the building was deemed unsafe.
In the 1980s, renovated after being spared from demolition, it re-emerged for a short time as Partridge Place, consisting of apartments and retail space. But that development closed, and it re-opened in 1989 as a hotel, with the Partridge Inn name restored.
In 2005, it was sold to Atlanta investment company Walton Way LLC for $8.1 million, and a multimillion-dollar renovation was completed a year later. But the company defaulted on a $16 million loan in 2011.
Suwanee, Ga.-based NorthPointe Hospitality Management LLC acquired the 1.3-acre property at auction in 2014 for $4.25 million.
The following year, the Partridge affiliated with Hilton Worldwide Holdings’ Curio Collection, a brand of the international hospitality chain that markets one-of-a-kind boutique hotels.
The 143-room Partridge also completed a $6 million renovation in 2015.
Jenkins embraces the history of the property, and knows many Augustans do too.
“The locals have buy-in to our property,” she said. “They feel ownership to it, and as we’ve gone through various stages throughout the years they’ve been right there with us.
“It is definitely very unique. It has a lot of ambience and character. It’s not a brand-new, brass-and-glass structure. But with this new renovation, everything has been running smoothly.”
Jenkins credits her mother’s drive and perseverance in helping to set her on a path to success. She recommends hard work and determination for anyone who wants to achieve similar success.
“You have to educate yourself,” she said. “You have to research everything that your job entails. If there are classes for it, whatever it is, you have to do that so you become the subject-matter expert at what you do. Nobody does it like you.”
What began as a job for Jenkins quickly became a career – and she can tell you the difference.
“If you just want a paycheck – punch a clock, work from this time to this time – you won’t have a career. You’ll have a job,” she said. “If you want a career, you have to apply yourself, and you have to do it until you get the job done.”
Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543