>Not long after I posted my last comment comparing the Great Bed of Ware to Sybaris, I was reading the Chicago Tribune online and learned some sad news. Kenneth Knudson, the man behind Sybaris, was killed in a plane crash earlier this week. Excerpts from the Trib:
The two pilots at the controls Monday night when a plane crash killed four people near Palwaukee Municipal Airport in Wheeling were good friends--one a financial adviser who flew blood platelets for the survivors of the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon, the other the founder of a hotel chain that offers romantic getaways.
Mark Turek, 59, of Winnetka, was flying the twin-engine Cessna 421B he co-owned with pilot Kenneth C. Knudson, founder of Sybaris Clubs International, Turek's wife, Donna, said Tuesday...
Knudson, 61, of Lake Zurich, grew up on Chicago's Northwest Side and graduated from Austin High School. A former toolmaker, he became interested in karate in the 1960s and established Olympic Karate Studios with 10 sites throughout Chicago, while also earning a 5th degree black belt in the sport. He had been a pilot for 40 years.
He sold the karate studios in 1974 to concentrate on Sybaris, a hotel chain that features suites with whirlpools, swimming pools, fireplaces, even cascading waterfalls.
The chain's inspiration came, not surprisingly, from a bed. Knudson and his wife, Char, were shopping in Schaumburg and fell in love with a huge platform-type bed that sat on lighted glass blocks. So Knudson decided to build one that would fit into their home, said Rande Repke, vice president of Sybaris, based in Arlington Heights.
One of his wife's friends who saw the bed being built, said, "I wish we had a place like this away from the kids, a room like this away from the in-laws," Repke said.
Deciding that couples needed a romantic escape, Knudson purchased property in Downers Grove that became the first Sybaris.
Four other hotels in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin followed in the next several years. Repke described Knudson as a caring, thoughtful manager who befriended the 185 Sybaris employees. The business will continue to operate, Repke said.
"Ken built a business that was dedicated to bringing couples together," Repke said. "The business is the best memorial to Ken."
I am fascinated by this little snippet of the Sybaris backstory, and find it ironic that it was, indeed, inspired by a bed. I'm not sure how Knudson got from a lit platform bed to cheesy waterfall suites, but his work will be a testament to cabañas de amor (as they say in the Dominican Repbulic) for years to come.
Side note: I totally forgot to post this after I wrote it this morning....