American Hotel Register Celebrates 150th Anniversary

CHICAGO—In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was still in office. The Civil War was drawing to an end. And, the Windy City’s earliest hotels were under development. In the opening months of 1865, a group of Chicagoans formed a business and quickly established their niche as printers of guest registration books common in hotels of the day. The group’s dedication to meeting business needs served as the foundation for American Hotel Register Company. 

American Hotel Register (AHR), headquartered in suburban Vernon Hills, IL, with nearly 900 employees, celebrated 150 years of supporting the growth of hospitality during its 2015 Global Hospitality Expo, held Jan. 26-30 at Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. The annual event brought together suppliers, customers and associates.

“We’ve endured because we love our customers,” said Jim Leahy, AHR’s chairman. “We look for new products. We work to improve our inventory. We offer sophisticated technology to give our customers control of the ordering process. Over the years, we keep changing the way we do business to better meet the needs of the hospitality industry. And, we will continue to improve to earn the loyalty of those who rely on us.” 

This family-owned company supplies everyday items such as furniture, appliances, amenities and cleaning products that help hotels create lasting guest experiences. AHR emphasizes technology-driven personalized procurement programs and services, according to the company, and delivers global supply chain solutions through its ownership of Intros Hotel Supplies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and other strategic partnerships around the world.

As AHR continues to extend its customer reach, the company reflected on its heritage during the 2015 Global Hospitality Expo. The company’s initial book printing and binding was churned out as Chicago grew to more than 30,000 residents and became the world’s largest grain port and railroad hub. Just six years into business, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the company’s original office. The company returned to a new office at 542-548 Washington Blvd. By 1914, owner Thomas F. Leahy had built a six-story loft building at 226 W. Ontario St., which served as the company’s home for the next 64 years.

Jim Leahy Sr., succeeded his father at the helm of the business in 1932, and the company had, by then, expanded beyond its registration books to publishing a hotel directory, printing hotel forms and selling advertising space in hotels to local businesses. His sons—Jim, Tom and, later, Patrick—joined the company in the mid-1960s and made a priority of transforming AHR into a one-stop distributor of essential hospitality products.

Jim, now chairman, and Tom, vice chairman, are third-generation leaders of a company with an annual Buying Guide, which has served as a resource of hospitality products for decades. Having built lasting relationships with suppliers and customers that include Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, American Hotel Register continues to adapt to changing times and growing needs. 

“Our focus has always been to serve our customers better than anyone else,” said Angela Korompilas, president & CEO of the company. “We are incredibly grateful to be celebrating this special milestone in our company’s history with them and with all of our fantastic associates. Their collective commitment to American Hotel has made this 150th anniversary possible.”