FEATURES : NEW YORK

Alex and Companies

By Tom Ran & Sarah Williams

Published February 24, 2009

Original artwork adorning the wall by Daniel Joseph

Photo: Jordan Provost

Original artwork adorning the wall by Daniel Joseph

Music Hall turntable stocked with vintage vinyl

Photo: Jordan Provost

Music Hall turntable stocked with vintage vinyl

Inscribed onto the bathroom mirror

Photo: Jordan Provost

Inscribed onto the bathroom mirror

Fully stocked Smeg fridge with more than beverages

Photo: Jordan Provost

Fully stocked Smeg fridge with more than beverages

Alex Calderwood

Photo: Jordan Provost

Alex Calderwood

Queen size bed, Smeg fridge, and foldout sofa bed

Photo: Jordan Provost

Queen size bed, Smeg fridge, and foldout sofa bed

Hair products from Rudy's Barbershop

Photo: Jordan Provost

Hair products from Rudy's Barbershop

Ace stationary with blank music sheets and Dean Markley guitar strings for the guitar in the room

Photo: Jordan Provost

Ace stationary with blank music sheets and Dean Markley guitar strings for the guitar in the room

Previous1 of 8Next

When did you start working with Roman & Williams?
The way I met them was actually through Serge Becker. I was talking to him one day and we knew that the New York hotel might happen, but it was still really early. We were aware that we would be able to acquire the property and finish the deal. So I asked Serge Becker if he had thoughts about design or if he knew any interesting design firms, and he mentioned Roman & Williams. He said, “I recently saw some work from them, and I think they’re interesting." So I called them. Robin, who is one of the owners, called back right away. They were familiar with us because they lived in Los Angeles when one of the Rudy’s Barbershops opened. As soon as I went to their offices I instantly felt they were on the same wavelength. They’re really talented and really great to work with.

Was this after the Ace in Portland was finished?
No, we were still finishing Portland at that time. I remember Robin and Stephen coming out to Portland while we were still wrapping up. They came out for the weekend—there was a camaraderie there, a kind of spirit.

You mentioned that the growth of your businesses have been organic; was it ever premeditated?
It has been a really natural process. If I had to do it over again, maybe it would be a bit more premeditated, but so be it. Here’s where we’re at.

You’ve said that you’d like to open “a new hotel every one to two years.” Why the accelerated growth?
I feel like there are certain windows of opportunity that you have. What we’re doing right now is interesting, and I think we hope to create instant classics, so as not to be pegged as the hip hoteliers. Yeah, it’s aggressive. Get a few of them open and then just enjoy that. Who knows? It’s like when we started talking today, I think even a couple of years ago, I was thinking we could do a couple of hotels a year, and then maybe have 10. That would be awesome. But I think going through this last year, it won’t happen.

What other cities interest you at the moment?
We’re not actively looking at anything particular right now, but of course we would like to do something more on the West Coast, like Los Angeles or San Francisco, they call them gateway cities. There are also second-tier cities like Portland that are interesting. There are places like Philadelphia, Savannah, or Memphis that have some culture going on.

The way the economics of real estate has been going the last 10 or 20 years, a lot of those second-tier cities are potentially becoming more interesting because of the creative class, or the young, creative people that can’t afford to be in the big cities as easily. So that’s what you’re seeing. It’s not really affordable, and you have all these amazing kids going there doing really creative stuff, and I think that same dynamic’s happening in some of these other cities.

Hotels have inspired so many movies and stories, from Lost in Translation to The Shining to Wes Anderson’s short Hotel Chevelier. What’s the best story that’s taken place in one of your hotels?
That’s funny, wow. We actually had this conversation the other day about how there are a lot of stories you can’t tell. That’s one thing: Hoteliers are famously discreet about their guests. Another guy I know who owns a few hotels who I like a lot said something kind of funny: “There’s one good thing about hotels: if you think you’ve done something kind of naughty or something kind of bad in a hotel, somebody else has done much worse.” That made me laugh; I thought that was funny.

You may have read that Ace in Portland was actually used in Drugstore Cowboy. We actually went back through the movie, and you can see it. I didn’t know this at the time when we started the project. I was watching the movie one night and all of a sudden I noticed it in a couple of scenes and said, “Oh my God, that’s our hotel.” Then I recognized the hallway, and an interior shot with Matt Dillon. It was a revelation that it’s our hotel!

COMMENTS

Your Name

Email Address

Add Comment