|By Bob Shallit, The Sacramento Bee,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
July 26, 2006 - Chip Conley wants his company's first boutique hotel in Sacramento to capture some of the city's historic qualities.
But don't look for vintage photos or displays of gold mining equipment at the Joie de Vivre Hospitality property, scheduled to open at 926 J St. late next year or in early 2008.
"You won't feel like you're in a museum or anyplace trying to show how the world used to be," says Conley, who started his hotel chain in San Francisco 19 years ago and now has 30 properties, all in California. The historical elements will be "more subtle, more metaphorical."
Exactly what that means will be ironed out in the next couple of months as Conley and staff visit Sacramento to meet with arts and business groups -- and even the general public -- to come up with ideas for the name, design and character of the 200-room hotel going into the former 1920s-era Cal Western Life building facing Cesar Chavez Park.
But Conley says a few things are certain. The place will have luxurious trappings and a personality as distinctive as each of his firm's other properties, which range from the high-end, health-conscious Hotel Vitale on San Francisco's Embarcadero to the quirky, rock 'n' roll-oriented Phoenix in the city's Tenderloin district.
He also promises a level of customer service that will differentiate the place from the larger Hyatt and Sheraton hotels.
Such as? Doormen who greet you by name. And staffers who remember "that a guest likes a certain kind of red wine in their room when they check in."
Little things that make a difference.
If you want to participate in Conley's brainstorming sessions to devise the concepts for his Sacramento property, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of Joie de Vivre's new Sacramento inn, it's part of the company's push for geographic diversity.
A few years back, "We had all of our eggs in the same basket," Conley says. The company's entire lineup of hotels was in the Bay Area.
That backfired after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which hammered tourism in San Francisco.
In response, the company refocused on its strength: Operating hotels that connect emotionally with their clientele. It also began exploring expansion into new markets as a hedge against future Bay Area downturns.
New York? Not good. Its revenue-per-guest numbers mimic the Bay Area's, meaning that both markets ebb and flow at the same time. Southern California? They're the complete opposite of the Bay Area. "Like a see-saw," Conley says. That's why three Joie hotels have either opened or are planned in SoCal.
And what about Sacramento? Its "rev per" patterns are nice and steady, unlike both S.F. and L.A. Another benefit of having recession-proof state government as your largest employer.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
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