CALLICOON — In these tough economic times, there's one bright spot for western Sullivan County: The Villa Roma will soon be back at full strength.
The resort surrounded by gentle green hills plans to open its $27.3 million new main hotel area by mid- to late June and hire 200 workers, bringing employment back to 500.
For two summers, the Villa and the shops in several hamlets have suffered while the resort rebuilt the main portion of the hotel, which burned down in April 2006.
Three months later a flash flood washed across the property, drenching time-shares.
Last summer the Villa was able to accommodate about 50 to 100 people in the hotel, about a quarter of the norm.
"We're moving along fairly nicely," Vice President Paul Carlucci said Tuesday, while workers buzzed around in hard hats and sparks flew from welding machines.
On Saturday, the Villa will hold a job fair, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the main hotel. The resort is looking for waiters, bar staff, cooks, groundskeepers, all the way up the ladder to corporate management. These jobs will pay everything from $10 an hour to $50,000 annually.
Workers still have much to do in the new three-story building, which includes a 650-seat dining room, lounge, ballroom, kitchen, 150-seat cafe, corporate offices and a lobby.
The new main hotel area won't have guest rooms, unlike in the old 1940s-era building, which was added onto several times over the decades.
In much of the 65,000-square-foot building, the dry wall hasn't yet been hammered up. Soon, though, the concrete floors and metal stair cases will be covered with plush carpeting and tiles, and the hotel will take on a look of shimmering greens, reds, beiges and blues.
The Villa is also finishing off the pool area, adding a fifth outdoor pool with a water playground, a 30-person Jacuzzi and 265,000 brick pavers — believed to be second only to the number used in the vast walkways at Bethel Woods.
This is all good news for shop owners, who rely on Villa employees and guests.
"Since the hotel burned to the ground, it has cut down on business tremendously," said Susan Bodenstein, standing behind her counter at The Secret Garden in Jeffersonville.
Villa guests often wander into her gift shop, buying speciality candles shaped like pastries.
"You need local business to survive, but the Villa Roma is the icing on the cake."