The venerable hospitality industry mantra of “location, location, location” seems to have been replaced in recent years by “local, local, local.” Hotels have been one-upping each other on that front through their regional design and food, working with the community, presenting resident artists, being guides to the neighborhood, and more.
Hotel Darwin, which just opened in Atlanta, aims to bring this marketing approach to a crescendo. The theme of the hotel is to represent its home state, so nearly everything in the hotel has been curated or sourced from local Atlanta or Georgia businesses -- from the interior designer to the artwork to the beer and liquor (once the property gets its liquor license), etc.
Darwin, located on the city’s East Side in the historic Old Fourth Ward, is a name is meant to “channel the essence of the reinvention of the neighborhood,” according to managers. Among other Atlanta elements are a portrait of civil rights legend John Lewis and other murals done by local artists; woodworking from local craftspeople; items from local vendors on sale; coffee from a nearby roaster; and pastries from a local bakery.
The hotel supports artisans in the community by purchasing their products, providing a place for them to display and sell their work, and sponsoring small exhibition nights to showcase the range of talent.
Owner Shyam Patel grew up watching his father build and manage two major chain properties. When he took over an old, franchised hotel, he considered a brand affiliation but then decided to go the independent route. After a major renovation that reduced the number of rooms and significantly upgraded the facilities, "we decided to take the risk of being a boutique hotel.” In a neighborhood where people like to maintain their culture, he thought locals would appreciate a “one-off” custom feel.
Working with a local architectural firm, Patel’s team totally redirected the look and feel of the building. “We want guests to feel the soul of Atlanta,” said Patel, “and leave feeling better than when they checked in.”
Patel hired employees from the city -- though they originally come from many places. Even the uniforms are aimed at an authentic feel. While outfits feature standard custom jeans and simple T-shirts with the Darwin logo, employees are encouraged to wear hats, vests, “cool shoes” or whatever fits their personality.
“We want to be a local hangout -- and not just for guests,” he added. “Taking care of our community is part of the story.” And the Darwin even claims to be the only hotel in town with a dog park.
Through hyper-local positioning, Patel thinks he can attract a broad demographic: young single travelers coming in for a music festival; couples on a weekend getaway; retirees visiting children or sightseeing; savvy business travelers who are tired of chain hotels; and digital nomads who might stay for weeks.
There are a lot of hotels close to the Darwin because of its convenient location, said Patel, but he thinks a hospitality experience that “captures the essence of Atlanta” will set the property apart.
Love this look at a hyper local hotel and what they are doing. I have stayed at a Graduate Hotel in Berkeley. This is a boutique chain that takes over old independent hotels near University campuses, then adds a 'school' flair to them. At the Graduate Berkeley, nightstand lamps are shaped like bongs. The framed art is by Cal alumni like Hollywood designer Edith Head and radical Patty Hearst. Doors and lobby signage is shaped like Varsity banners. Anyway, I would certainly stay in a place like the Hotel Darwin and want my kids to experience the essence of the city they are visiting. Thanks for sharing!