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WHAT DO YOU DO AND HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Method Co. We own and operate ROOST Apartment Hotel, the high-design extended stay concept currently with two locations in Philadelphia, and Wm. Mulherin’s Son’s, the urban Italian restaurant and forthcoming hotel in Fishtown, Philadelphia.
WAS HOSPITALITY SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO DO?
Not exactly. My interest in hospitality is something that grew over time as I realized how many of my interests and passions converged into the singular vision for Method. From a very early age I was interested in real estate but it took time for the Method platform to develop. I realized that by combining hospitality operations with quality real estate investments we could create a lot of value and I’d be doing a lot of the things I enjoy. I truly enjoy every aspect of the business from team building and design to exploring new markets and the financial operations of the business. It’s all interesting to me and switching focus from one moment or period of time to the next depending on where we are in the life cycle of a new project keeps things interesting and fresh most of the time.
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
Either a photographer or an accountant. I spent a number of years studying and practicing both. They both require a mixture of discipline and creativity that I think are an excellent foundation for developing a hospitality business.
HOW DID YOU END UP IN PHILADELPHIA?
I grew up just outside of Philadelphia and went to college here and never left. I’ve lived in the city now for 23 years and take a lot of pride in being a Philadelphian and raising a family here. I cringe when someone first associates Philadelphia with a certain sandwich or an epic sports movie with an iconic theme song. We are still a city defined by gritty character and I love that, but Philadelphia today is so much more. I’m glad our first few projects are here and I think Philadelphia will continue to develop into a world-class city over the next 20 years. We are working on a small hotel project above our restaurant Wm. Mulherin’s Son in the Fishtown section of the city that I think has the potential to become one of the top entertainment and food neighborhood destinations in the country.
WHO ARE YOU CURRENTLY ADMIRING IN THE INDUSTRY AND WHY?
He’s not a hotelier but Danny Meyer’s approach to hospitality is something I admire greatly and I think is as relevant to the hotel world as it is for his restaurants. His focus on the human condition over the latest trends in technology, etc. is something that resonates with me as the best approach toward building teams and hospitality environments that are very lasting and special.
HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY THE LOCATION AND PROPERTIES FOR EACH OF YOUR PROJECTS?
We look for neighborhoods where we can become an integral part of the fabric that makes city living so great. We are very cost conscience about how much we are paying for land/buildings so that we can deliver a product at the end of the day that represents a great value to our guests. Essentially we attempt to allocate more resources to experiential elements and place make as much as possible rather than overreaching for a particular location.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK PHILOSOPHY?
Write it down. Make it happen. We were very deliberate in the choice of Method as the name for our company. Since day one, we have been very process-driven and realize there are no quick or simple ways to create truly special hospitality experiences, whether it’s an apartment hotel or a restaurant. At some level this seems to run counter to a truly creative process but for us it’s critical. We spend a lot of time up front on brand essence which creates a roadmap for us that we can always circle back to when we feel like we may be veering off course. This has proven critical to creating a culture where all our team members can help bring our ideals to life on a daily basis as they interact with our customers. Alina Wheeler has been a great friend and mentor of mine and she’s had a big influence over our approach to every project.
WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION?
My wife and kids are my greatest inspiration. I realized a while ago that their love is the fuel that keeps me going and pushing though whatever obstacles pop up along way. They keep everything very real and always provide perspective. They are tough customers and if something isn’t quite right they don’t hesitate a second letting me know! I figure if I can impress them, the rest will take care of itself.
CAREER ANECDOTE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?
Very early on when ROOST was just an idea on several pieces of paper (in fact we had not even settled on the name yet), I knew emotional connection though good design was going to be a very important element of the brand. We had no assets, employees or a proven history. We were very early stage start-up with an idea to define a new category of hospitality in the US. We had identified what we thought could be a good first project but had not even signed and agreement of sale yet. As we got closer to trying to put a deal together, we decided to begin thinking of who we would like to hire as an architect and interior designer. We kicked around several names of local designers we knew and could afford and it something didn’t feel right. We took a step back and said if we could work with anyone in the world at that moment who would it be. I had been smitten with everything about the Wythe Hotel and did some research that lead me to Morris Adjmi. I said what the heck, let’s start there. I sent a total cold e-mail with a summary of our business idea to the “Contact Us” address on their website, one of those e-mail addresses you feel like go into cyber space and are never actually read. Literally 30 minutes later I get a call from a 917 number and I pick up the phone and someone says, “Hi, this is Morris”. Ever since that moment, Morris has been a true partner and has helped us bring the brand essence of ROOST into a physical form. I will always be grateful to Morris for buying into and becoming such a critical part of our vision. It also was a critical lesson for me to start with exactly what you want in a perfect world and don’t talk yourself out of something before you have even tried.
WHAT DRIVES YOU TO DEVELOP?
Exceptional hospitality experiences are truly one of the great joys in life. We all work hard and lead busy, stressful lives. Vacations, nights out and any time away from our daily routines feel more and more valuable all the time. There is nothing better than getting surprised with an exceptional hospitality experience. There are so many emotions that can be brought to life in one of these moments…excitement, creative energy, comfort, enlightenment, connection, love...all the good stuff in life. What could be better than spending most of your waking hours working creating environments and experiences that allow other people to feel these kinds of things.
NOT MANY HOTEL COMPANIES ARE FOCUSING ON THE EXTENDED STAY PRODUCT. WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION HERE?
To me it’s the most exciting space in hospitality. Hotels are inherently geared toward a great first impression and competition can sometimes lead to design and programing that is very of the moment with a very short shelf life. As an apartment hotel, ROOST has to deliver on many levels since we have both long and short-term guests. Our fundamental goal and what we believe separates us is our focus on creating an environment that feels good on day one but gets better the longer you stay. And ideally one that feels as good five years from now as it does today. There is a unique challenge in creating a living vs. a staying environment. A very different emotional connection needs to be formed and we tend to look at things very differently than a traditional hotel.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE HOTEL IN THE WORLD AND WHY?
That’s a tough call but I’d have to say the Greenbrier in West Virginia is right up there. It’s so different than the design focused, intimate hotels I typically stay at when traveling. There is something magical about the place though, particularly the summer cottages. Authenticity is such a buzz word today in the industry but something that I think is impossible to replicate about a place like the Greenbrier is charm. The place has charm is spades. The over the top decorating that would normally irk me just makes it feel more charming. The scale and entire premise is something that hasn’t been attempted for a long time in this country. It’s like a step back in time and very few places can evoke nostalgia to a simpler period. It all provides such a wonderful environment to for families to spend time together and experience a sense of renewal.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST CHANGE IN THE INDUSTRY TODAY?
I think we are seeing a fundamental shift in consumer preferences and overall taste levels. Design and lifestyle oriented social media has had a democratizing effect on our society. Years ago you needed not only a lot of money but also a great deal of time to travel the world to see a fraction of what you can see today on a device that fits in your pocket. While technology will never replace the sensory nature of a first hand experience, it nonetheless has raised design aesthetics globally. Interestingly, I think smaller, more nimble organizations are in a far better position than larger ones to develop and deliver products and experiences that appeal to customers ever evolving sensibilities.
WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING 10 YEARS FROM NOW?
Hopefully, pretty much the same thing I am doing now. Working with talented, gritty and passionate folks where our attention to detail and commitment level is the same as it is today. There is a wonderful energy and sense of urgency that surrounds your first few projects when everything is on the line and failure is not really an option. It’s tricky but I think it’s a worthy goal to try and keep as much of that start-up spirit going as long as possible as we develop more projects in different markets around the country.