Riehlife: My blog is about connection and cultures and art. How do you see these themes relating in your business in the hospitality industry?
Theo: The culture of business and the culture of people always are connected. My favorite example? The Carlton has been getting rave reviews from guests ever since our reopening, which means, in essence, that on a daily basis, we were sending about 300 happy people out onto our local streets.
On a daily basis, that influence alone invariably has to have had the same impact as repaving every sidewalk and painting every building within walking distance. Happy tourists visiting local shops encouraged the local shopkeepers to become even more inviting to these happy folks in order to show them what they are about.
Old businesses started seeing a new growth while new and better businesses started moving in, until what was once “The (dreaded) Tenderloin” when we closed down for the remodel, is now being referred to—without even a snicker—as “Polk Village” or “The TenderNob” where people (our 300 daily guests included) are now happy to visit, shop and seek entertainment in ways they never thought to before.
Perhaps best of all, the locals who have lived here forever (myself included) can suddenly claim a newfound pride, living in a neighborhood that was suddenly equal in interest to The Haight, or The Castro and less touristy than the mainstay attractions which some are now passing off as dull, and, well touristy.
Hotels I think can have a “cathedral effect” on their neighborhoods and can lend a symbolic upgrade to its surrounding area, affecting the environment in ways people screaming around City Hall never could.It all can happen quite naturally, if done thoughtfully.
I have often conjectured that if the Renoir Hotel at Market and 7th would step up at the Civic Center with a thoughtful remodel and a more guest-centric approach, it could very possibly single-handedly cause a cultural shift in the grittiest part of Market street.
The location is technically good (easy walk to Union Square and The Opera House), and the shopping is already varied and interesting. So the recipe would be the same as it was for The Carlton: Invite your 300 out-of-towners to a comfortable place, make them ridiculously happy, and then, send them out onto your local streets, and watch them “paint the town” as it were.
Joy is contagious if you make it a point to “infect” people with it, on purpose, when and wherever possible. I believe the nobility part of the Hotel business in any town lies exactly in that notion, though arguably, I think it manifests itself best in San Francisco. And this is probably why complete strangers to it are regularly willing to leave at least one their vital organs here!