Originally built in 1947, Hotel Palms is a renovated motor court inn three blocks from the ocean in Atlantic Beach, Florida. Focused on design, architecture, and culture, Hotel Palms is personal, authentic and inspiring to guests. In addition to a unique place to sleep, Hotel Palms also serves as a gathering space of community activity for locals and visitors alike.
We sat down with co-owner Stevan Brown to talk all things hospitality, what inspired the vision behind Hotel Palms, and how she maintains a work-life balance. Being in the hospitality business is no small endeavor and Stevan’s unique approach to supporting local businesses sets her vision apart from a lot of mainstream hotels. Check out her interview below, and if you ever find yourself looking for a unique place to stay, look no further than Hotel Palms.
Tell us about your background. What led you to get into the hospitality world?
I got my start in lifestyle and entertainment PR in New York City, where I moved after I graduated from FSU in 2008. I started off as a publicity assistant working with nightclubs and restaurants, so I was exposed to the hospitality industry from the onset of my career. Living in New York, there was always a new hotel opening, with a cool hotel bar, and I was always checking those out with friends. When I moved back to Jax, continuing to service clients within the hospitality industry just seemed natural, so when my family and I embarked on becoming boutique hotel owners, it was clear I would manage the PR, Marketing and Events side of the businesses, as that was my background.
Hotel Palms is such a beautiful space. Can you tell us about the transformation process? What was Hotel Palms before it was renovated? Why did you decide to keep the “motor court hotel” model?
Well, thank you—it always means a lot to hear that. My partners and I (Greg, my brother, and Julie, my sister-in-law), bought the hotel in 2015 when it was the Palms Retro. The previous owners did a great job turning it over from a transient motel to a kitchy bed and breakfast with a 1950s flair. When we originally started looking at the hotel in 2014 as a potential buyer, we knew we wanted to renovate it and make it more reflective of our tastes and give guests the experience we always craved while traveling, which was to feel like a local. We operated it for 9 months as the Palms Retro to become familiar with the operations of running a small hotel and then renovated it in phases starting in January 2016, which allowed us to message to Palms Retro guests what was taking place. This really helped maintain the narrative, rather than shutting down and leaving people to speculate what was happening. We did close in the final phase of the renovation process to overhaul the Courtyard and reopened as the Hotel Palms in October 2017, right before Hurricane Matthew hit. Renovated motor courts were increasing in popularity when we came to be owners of the hotel. It was important to keep that nostalgia and historic integrity in place while also enveloping ourselves in the neighborhood, which Julie worked hard to do as the Interior Designer.
Have you been to any other types of renovated “motor court hotels” to do research for Hotel Palms?
Oh yes! That’s all part of the fun. Greg and Julie have stayed at the Hotel San Jose in Austin, which served as a huge inspiration for the Hotel Palms. I’ve been to the Skyview in Los Alamos, which is a really cool renovated roadside motel outside of Santa Barbara, as well as a cool property in the Catskills called The Arnold House. Every time we travel, we get inspired by what others are doing and try to incorporate some of that into what you see at the Hotel Palms.
You are so open to supporting local businesses in the Jacksonville Beach community. What benefits have you seen from partnering with other local businesses?
Well first and foremost, it’s always great to connect with like minds and cultivate a relationship. We all love meeting new people. When we partner up with other local businesses, we are generating exposure for the hotel among a new audience, which builds brand awareness, which in turn helps the business and moves the needle.
What was the biggest impact to your business during COVID?
Weekend occupancy continues to be an opportunity as corporate travel is still down.
How did you have to adjust your business plan/model to adapt to new COVID protocols?
We started offering a satellite check in and increased our housekeeping protocols. We also suspended community events for most of 2020.
What helps you maintain your work-life balance?
My husband, Reed, is a huge reason why I’m able to maintain a balance. We have two little ones, so he’s always ready to jump in with the girls if I need to be at the hotel for an event. I also schedule family time and try not to look at my phone during those times so I can be super present with my kids. I also have a number of friendships that are hugely important to me, so again, I schedule time to nurture those, as well as for self-care.
How do you get cozy?
I put on camp socks, a heavy-duty robe from Anthropologie, and get on the floor to play with my kids.
Xo, Team SipC