Boutique Design’s 2017 Up-and-Coming Hoteliers are making their marks with niche hotel concepts that sell to Main Street and Wall Street.
The start-up: In 2003, late twentysomething Robert Blood jumped into the hospitality industry when he moved into the basement apartment of a small inn on Nantucket Island. That dive into the hotel world became the platform for a new kind of inn for travelers who want unique experiences delivered in a fresh, design-led package that’s tightly integrated with the real (not postcard) locale, focused on a modern approach to service and unapologetically playful. Collaborating with Dawn Hagin, who had developed marketing strategies for more than 50 lodging businesses (and would become the company’s chief inspiration officer), Blood launched Lark Hotels in 2012. Five years later, this company is involved with the ownership and/or management of 20 hotels and four restaurants in the northeastern U.S. and California, with 12 projects in various stages of development. Next up is the opening of The Hotel Salem in Massachusetts this summer.
Robert Blood. Photo: Joe Ferraro
Why the world needed another hotel company: “Traditional hotels sell a commodity—a bed, an alarm clock, a coffee maker—all things that fit into a brand standards document. These products do not create an experience. Big box brands are starting to understand this, and are frantically rolling out new brands (read: products) to generate a coolness factor that simply isn’t in their DNA. However, you cannot create an organic experience, rooted in all that is local, by crunching data.”
What makes him—and Lark—major influencers: “Our creative process allows the people in our company to be involved. When we’re creating a new identity story, the process can be brutal, but it always leads to interesting new ideas. I have a million thoughts in a day. I am lucky to have people to whom I can send a text to get an objective check on the lunacy of the idea.”
Hotel Salem, Massachusetts. Photo: Courtesy of Lark Hotels
How he knows what guests want—and will pay for: “We ask them! As an example, we just purchased a restaurant and hotel on Cape Cod. I have found the best way to get the pulse on what guests want is to sit at the bar and listen. We also learn from past projects. We get better every time and use existing properties as ‘test kitchens’ for future hotels.”
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