Fraser Abbott of Hotel Arts shares the bottle he’ll open in memory of one of his best friends
Fraser Abbott was born and raised in Calgary, and has worked in hospitality since 1987.
At age 11, Fraser played bagpipes at Fort Calgary and Heritage Park. He stills plays bagpipes today as it’s a family tradition, but not to the degree he used to in 1999, when he played 100 gigs. His first job was a bagpiping doorman at the CP hotel, now the Fairmont Palliser, piping in the tour buses, and it’s been in his blood ever since. It’s also where he met Miles Krowicki.
Studying Political Science and Latin American politics at university, Fraser’s idea was business development in the Americas, but after contract work in Cuba and research in Chile, he was approached to join the Hyatt team. “I’m very passionate about Calgary and this is where I want to be”, he says. “My home is here, and my friends and family, and I would like to build a better tomorrow for Calgary.”
In 2005, John Torode invited Fraser to join Hotel Arts. He and his wife had just welcomed their baby boy and he had a great position with Hyatt that he absolutely loved, even winning sales manager of the year for north America, for properties under 500 rooms. But John persuaded him to take a look, and he, and General Manager Mark Wilson, jumped in tandem, knowing it would be a lot of work, but rewarding to turn a run-down property into Calgary’s first boutique Hotel.
The property had been many different hotels previously, and was one of the better music venues back in the day, with Lenny Kravitz, Nirvana, The Tragically Hip and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performing there. It has a part of Calgary’s musical past, and Fraser was intrigued.
And then the bottle….
Fraser won the 1967 Crown Royale in May 2011. His close friend, Miles Krowicki was about 44 years old at the time and his father, who owned Smugglers Inn, had bought several cases when Miles was born. The bottle that he is charged with safeguarding until an appropriate occasion, is one of the last bottles in the collection.
Miles and his band, Talking Dog, threw a Big C party in Inglewood, on May 18th 2011. He had already been diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer, and they invited others to join them at the Ironwood, hoping to generate enough energy to beat it. “The energy was awesome,” Fraser says, “there’ll never be a concert like that again, it was my favourite, favourite concert of all time.”
“My friends and I won this prized bottle by correctly guessing 22 of the 26 songs that Talking Dog & Guests performed at the Big C concert,” says Fraser. “The set list progressed through the alphabet with songs starting with a letter and so on. Miles told them that they’d won, only as long as they drunk the bottle at a great celebration.
Miles passed away in November 2011. “He was a super super positive guy. He was one of the most positive guys you could ever meet and that’s a guy you’d want to hang with, he was like fuel, he could totally energise you. He attracted fun and interesting people that made his life richer, and he did a pretty damned good job of enriching theirs,” Fraser adds. The friendship was solidified even more by the progression into music; it was Miles who suggested that Fraser took up bass guitar.
So when will the bottle be opened? “My friends and I will enjoy this special bottle in the spirit of Miles’ Rule #1: Always Have Fun”, confirms Fraser. “The date is to be determined, but it might be a Big C Concert 2, a summer solstice party or Miles’ birthday on August 29. Whatever the occasion, good friends, upbeat tunes and this special bottle will drive a steady beat of fun…a combination that Miles would definitely relish!”
Miles Krowicki, 1967–2011. A life exceptionally well lived and well loved.
Photo by Ingrid Kuenzel