Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. I cannot believe that I’ve got today’s guest on. I remember living in New York city and my friend Henry said, let’s go to this place. And Henry always knew the places to go and.
It ended up being to one of the hotels founded by today’s guest. Jason Pomerantz. he is the founder of Thompson hotels. He’s now running a new set of hotels called 60 hotels. But the cool thing about it was, you know, they always say you see celebrities in New York city. I’m not a celebrity person, so maybe I don’t notice, but yeah, there were celebrities there.
I remember seeing Steven Spielberg, just sitting there with some friends. Is that like crazy memory of me Jason? Or is that. That’s the type of the type of person who had their right.
Jason: For sure. I think we’re very fortunate in that in the area. Early stages of our brand growth and particularly our first few projects in New York city, we really struck a cord with the creative community by coming at the whole idea of lodging in different locations, different aesthetics, different kinds of food and beverage programming and the vibe for lack of better term attracted a lot of, you know, celebrities, creative types, fashion entertainment, and that’s how we sort of built our brand.
Andrew: Well, that was the place. T to be honest with you, I don’t care that much about Steven Spielberg. I, on everything that he did, I’m more a fan of like you, I’m an entrepreneur person, so I’m excited to find out how you got here. And frankly, if you’re open to it, I’d like to hear a little bit about your dad and how you guys, as a family built up, This real estate empire feels a little bit my trite.
It feels a little bit hokey to say that, but I’m, I’m a, I’m an admirer of what you’ve built. I’m curious about how you did it. I invited you here to talk about how you did it and we did it. We’re doing it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first we’ll host your website, right? If you’re listening to me, go to hostgator.com/mixergy.
And the second, if you’re hiring developers, go to top tower, have them help you hire the right developers. Jason do you, do you remember the day that you launched your very first hotel? Let’s not give the date just yet. but it must’ve been proud that day. What was that like?
Jason: Know, it was a very interesting, the first, really the first couple months of launching the hotel, you know, it was a bit of a progressive process, you know, obviously the development and the construction and the formation of the project took about two years. But once we came to the. Initial opening of our first project, you know, all the butterflies is, Hey, is anybody going to show up?
Like, am I going to be the only person here with some of the team? And then my brothers were my partners on, we’re just going to be kind of staring at the walls.
Andrew: You literally worried that nobody would show up.
Jason: yes, for sure. We learned nobody would show up or nobody would book rooms or, you know, whatever the case may
Andrew: What about, what about the design of it? Do you remember anything that you were especially proud of? I want to give people a sense of what was there and I don’t think I have the words to communicate the vibe. I think at one point you said mojo is something you either have, or you don’t, you can’t buy it.
I don’t have it. I don’t even know how to express what you had. Can you describe what you built through your eyes? The creator.
Jason: You know, I think a at that time and still, even though it’s a much more competitive and much more, Populated industry. I think that, you know, creating an eclectic, uniquely designed space that, you know, each it’s almost a cinematic process, you know, you start with a very tight. Moments, you know, it could be a candle in a corner with a piece of art or a book, or, you know, in a chair and it tans out and everything else feels in, and the guests very much become sort of the actors in this film.
And, you know, it’s very hard to formulate that on paper and explain to, you know, a team or a corporate process, how that works. It’s very intuitive and. It just happens. Right. And, and I think that the trick on the business side of that is how you take that vision and you formulate that into reality. within the confines of, you know, it’s hard to build, it’s hard to do this.
It’s hard to not do that. And, you know, taking those little struggles day to day of trying to achieve that vision is the difference between, you know, I’m just in. The real estate business, where I’m in the very basic idea of selling rooms versus I’m selling a lifestyle. And that’s really what we do.
Andrew: I read an article from about 10 years ago, where the reporter followed you around for the day. And one of the decisions that you made was will your hotel have flip flops in the room or slippers and you decided flip flops so people can take it up to the pool, those little touches you cared about with the very first hotel you were, what in your mid twenties, what’s one of those touches that you still remember.
This is mine. Jason did this.
Jason: that time, there were a lot, a lot of subjective decisions because there was no rule book in the early stages of the lifestyle hotel world. Right. We were using no, our designer was a guidance Thomas O’Brien, who was a protege of Ralph Lauren design and kind of. You know, made his bones on this and then ultimately became, you know, very, very well known, famous interior designer, but he had a very giving them more for the staff.
So there were a lot of combinations of, you know, making furniture, buying vintage, layering accessories, and they were just always some small items that really became a signature. Of the building. I mean, we, you know, we collectively found a, a slipper chair in a antique shop in London when we were preparing for the project and we modeled it that each guest room would have this chair.
Right. And it wasn’t exact, but we used it as inspiration and it was a chair from the fifties and we adapted it and we used a different materiality, became known as the Thompson chair and ultimately at the Milan furniture show, it was the most photographed chair. Ever at that particular moment in time.
And you know, this was probably 15 years ago and you know, that’s a birthing process to something that became then a visual item, that representative of what a trend was. In design. So that’s a very proud moment because it, Trent it transcended just the physical space of the building and became relevant in the industry, you know?
Or there are several items like that, that like one item that you, you spend the disproportionate amount of time evolving that then became extremely pertinent.
Andrew: See, what I want to get to at some point in this interview is how you, a guy from forest Hills Queens came up with that vision. But let me, let me take a moment here and talk about the, I think the day that you did your big grand opening was September. September 10th,
Jason: 10. Yeah.
Andrew: the day before September 11th.
Jason: Timing was not my strong suit for
Andrew: Did you sell out that that day did like all their butterflies? Will people love me? Did they show up?
Jason: Interestingly enough, we did, it was fashion week in New York city. And we actually filled the hotel with, you know, in your fantasy world as a young person, if I’m going to open a hotel or a restaurant or a nightclub, like who would be there, it was back, it was Lenny Kravitz in one room, a supermodel and the other room, you know, Russell Crowe and another place.
And then we had this amazing. Which was a combination of our launch party, but it was so a British magazine using launch. That was a new magazine at the time called another, which was done by a friend of mine in Jefferson hack, who, you know, it was a very, was very well known in the publishing community.
Still is the onstage and confused, which is another interesting magazine in the UK. So it was a very edgy, fastened driven publication in. The height of fashion week in New York city at the middle of, you know, the new hotel opening. So the party was populated with everybody you could ever dream of as a kid in forest Hills that you’d want to see, except for maybe a couple of baseball players that had retired from the actors already at that point.
and it was an epiphany.
Andrew: Is that a PR person who brings it in or is that you.
Jason: It’s not, it’s, it’s a combination of a lot of relationships that get built. You know, within the creative community, it’s partially look, you, you, you definitely PR branding and marketing are part of the structure, but they provide the skeleton. Right. And then your personal relationships and your third, two degrees removed personal relationships in Europe, your outreach as well brings in that.
You know, extra special, personal life clientele, and that helped propel, you know, the brand and that particular hotel and, you know, would help line. So as much as the business side of it, of how much can we build the hotel for location room size, aesthetic was part of it, the underlying kind of spiritual culture that came part of it, which is something you can’t pinpoint.
And I often say, No, the hotel business in my world is 75% traditional hotel science and 25% of voodoo and the voodoo is completely subjective. Right? So who’s doing it is that, you know, and it’s very different offered between success and failure of going that extra mile. So it was a. Tremendously gratifying moment to experience this, you know, control chaos of what was going on in September 10th.
And then it was a real punch in the face, the morning, September 11th, and the week that followed, you know, many of those people were stranded and, you know, we couldn’t get food deliveries and I was preparing meals with the restaurant partner and, you know, we just, it was complete. It was an experience that was very formative at the early stages of my career.
and deeply personal to a lot of the people that were there because we were really in the quarantine zone
and we could see the dust
Andrew: nobody can get in or out of that area for days. I had no idea by the way, until I read up on you, that that was true, that they, I knew people couldn’t get into the area. I didn’t realize they weren’t allowed to get out.
Jason: Cause the first few days, there were a lot of insecurity as to what was going on. So there were tanks on Houseton street, right? I mean, it was a full like military presence sealing off the lower end of the Manhattan. you know, versus the upper edge of Manhattan, which, you know, was completely functioning normally.
And it was a very odd experience. It was, it was the closest thing I think. You could experience the living in a war zone, you know, without, you know, being in, being in a direct hot fire environment. But the vibe was that, and there was a tremendous amount of insecurity about what was going to happen next, because there was, there was no clarity as to who what, or why was going on.
So that was hard.
Andrew: Are you someone who beats himself up at that point or worries about the end? Do you feel not the end of life, obviously though, I know at the time people in the U S thought maybe another tack is coming, Saddam Hussein might have a suitcase bomb coming, I think was the New York post headline.
But I mean, on a personal level, do you feel like, Oh man, this was my big thing. My big foray into business, and I think it’s going to fail because people are not going to travel as much. This economy is going to get much worse. Manhattan itself might go through thing where people don’t want to come visit and I’m in the heart of Manhattan in the heart of tourism.
Jason: No at that particular point, the thought processes are only around day to day. We need to take care of the people who are staying here. We need to help the police and the fire department as much as we can, like we need to get through this as a community. And the business issues were secondary as we got a little bit of distance.
From that point on people could finally leave and, you know, Lower Manhattan was trying to get functional. That’s when a certain element of what’s going to be, you know, creeps into your head. I think thankfully at that time as a community, lower Manhattan and the businesses associated with it, really, we came together to help each other and our various.
Vendors or business partners or lenders were deeply understanding of what was going on the business recuperated Robuchon. Can we quickly, I mean, you know, New York is resilient and, you know, and within, I would say a month, you know, we were somewhat back on track.
Andrew: Yeah, and I, I heard your hotel, especially, did well, I don’t know enough about restaurant and hotel lingo to understand what they meant, but occupancy was high years. soon after that is what I read. Let’s go back and understand a little bit about your background. you grew up in forest Hills to a family that got into real estate, I guess 1952 was when your dad got into it.
Jason: My father came over from, Poland and then Germany and around 51, and then try to feed different things. Eventually got into real estate and built multifamily housing in New Jersey as for many, many years. And thank God is still actually active today. And I was 91 and still telling us we don’t know on a Holocaust.
Andrew: Holocaust survivor, and had a, what I read was. I don’t know. I don’t know yet. I don’t know how to pronounce this. Is it grinners, grinders? Who? These gut, what is
Jason: Yeah, a greener,
Andrew: What is a greener,
Jason: a greener is a, basically an immigrant, but it was, specifically oriented towards, the postwar Jewish Eastern European, Groups that call themselves green as actually,
Andrew: greener builders? From what I understand?
Jason: And then they, a group of them became Greenfield builders in New Jersey, New York, and you know, many of them became quite.
Successful. And some went on to, you know, do things in other industries. And one of them, you know, as the owner of the Washington of the Minnesota Vikings, others went into the hotel business and, you know, there was a very small community of Holocaust survivors and ultimately there children, really, it made a large impact on the real estate hospitality industry in the Tristate area over the next several decades.
Andrew: I read, I can’t, I can’t find where I read this, but, you talked about one of them sitting around singing a song by Mary Hopkins. You talked about, in this, in this article about how they would sit and talk about their business together. You were the youngest son, I think, right?
Andrew: And so you were around these people who are talking business kind of the way that you and I and others are doing on podcast today.
What did you pick up from watching these older men? That many people would’ve dismissed, but you seem to have absorbed something from, what did you learn?
Jason: You know, the most interesting thing about the thing and, you know, I was much younger, so I’m probably, you know, the youngest of child of any two Holocaust survivors. Period or amongst the eye that was at the latter end of the kind of generation. And so I was baby, when they were still. you know, going into the forties and fifties and kind of the peak of their career or getting to the peak of their careers.
I think what was really interesting as I became a young adult around them is, is a couple of things. One the resilience and the work ethic. And despite none of them having college educations or most cases, we have high school educations. You know, they were able to one by one bill, very successful businesses and, you know, against, many experience multigenerational real estate developers in New York and New Jersey and become incredibly successful in that STEM partly from work ethic, partly from, I think the deepest strong survivor instinct, you know, being.
Aggressive when you need to not taking no for an answer, if necessary and really prioritize, honor, and respect amongst partnerships and commitments that you made to each other. So there was a code of, you know, really looking after one another and doing the right thing and, you know, and I think that’s a great lesson to learn, I think, at any profession that you’re done.
And then I think if you take it to another step further, I think what was remarkable is despite their experiences of their past, which were all, you know, diverse, but, you know, deeply excruciating for the most part, you know, the fact that they were able to adjust to live. Normal normal, healthy, and in many cases, quite fun, lives in the U S you know, and kind of evolving as this community and really enjoy watching their kids grow up and becoming more successful.
and that’s really remarkable considering the kind of experiences that they went through. So there’s a lesson there in, in resilience. And kind of the core code of, of human conduct that really is a driver, no matter where you are in the arc of history or what kind of business that you’re in.
Andrew: You told our producer, you went from Queens to. Manhattan, upper East side in high school. I remember as a Queens kid, myself, wanting to move to Manhattan in the worst way. What was it like when you finally got to move to the, to the big city?
Jason: It was like a Jewish Jefferson’s a little bit, but a little bit. I mean, you know, look, we were one of the impetus for going moving was my older brother’s rather than the house when I was going to high school. Right. So, you know, it was, I went to a school called Ramaz on the upper East side
Andrew: okay. I know you wanted to be closer to school and.
Jason: And, you know, look, the reality was the economic and lifestyle situation for a lot of the community was changing where kids were moving out of the house, the.
Older generation had done quite well and their respective businesses. And, you know, it was time to kind of change their lifestyle. So our little, for lack of better term step to like quality and Queens moved to fifth Avenue in the sixties. Right. So they still all lived within four blocks of each other, but it was kind of in a new.
New world order, where they were living in Manhattan and co-ops on fifth Avenue and then, you know, enjoying life a little bit more. And for me as a high school student, it was a change because it’s, you know, you’re exposed to a different world every day. And part of that is going to school in the city.
And you know, the integration into Manhattan is the first punch in the face. Have you got about, you know, where am I going? Like, what am I doing in this whole mix? And where’s my future.
Andrew: Become spoiled, but you know what, let me take a moment just to thank my sponsor. It’s a company called HostGator and I usually promote them and tell people why they should sign up. Instead of I’m just going to say thank you to them. The fact that a few years ago, I set up a WordPress site, just like anyone could do on HostGator.
I set it up. And now I get to talk to people whose businesses who’s built buildings whose visions I’ve admired is just an amazing experience for me. And I’m really grateful to HostGator for sponsoring and anyone who wants to go set up a website. I highly recommend you go to hostgator.com/mixergy. So why didn’t you grow up and become spoiled you and everything?
Jason: Well, look, I think when you’re a, you know, a child, even though we had a lovely upbringing and home, so they live in fancy homes in Queens. These were very kind of middle, upper middle class, relatively small places. And, and it was cute. You know, it was more of a little village than it was any kind of.
Fancy upbringing. And, you know, the value system as, as a young man growing up in that community was based on family. It was based on your academics. It was based on, you know, a certain amount of discipline. and the reward was more about warmth, you know, big dinners and parties amongst the community and maybe some shifts, but it wasn’t.
Spoil your kids rotten with material possession. That wasn’t the goal. And that wasn’t the psyche. Like you didn’t look for that. They know
Andrew: you know who, who was doing well at school at the, at the dinners that you’d have, or you’d go to, did you know which kids were doing
Jason: Well, I was, I was the only kid at that point,
Andrew: but what about because you had no cousins or friends of friends or kids or friends and in that community, did people know how well everyone was doing?
Was that a thing? Was that a
Jason: I mean, it was a bit, it was a bit funny, you know, certain, certain groups stressed, academics a bit more than others and, you know, really cared if you went to an Ivy league college or you went, you know, and I think others were more practical and, you know, saying, Hey, you’re not taking the school. Let’s get you to work as soon as possible.
So every kid had a different. vibe vibing. The challenge for a lot of those parents remember is it was very hard for them to help in academics because they didn’t have that education. Right. So, you know, the old kudu is being encouraging and, you know, obviously provide a good framework for it, but it wasn’t like English lit was something that you were going to go to your uncle.
Cool. About the ashram, because that wasn’t their background. It was more of a practical reality. so, you know, I think as you grew up. Up in that environment. The highest point of praise was you were being a good person, right? You were whatever you were doing, you’re committed to, if you were being a doctor or a lawyer, or you were visiting your parents, or, you know, you, you were doing the right thing, quote unquote.
And I think that’s a nice coat to be out, even though look, we’re all slightly hypocritical in what we present and what we do sometimes. But. Having a good standard by which to sort of live your life. There’s always a good dive in life, wherever you go. Right. And I think that’s particularly pertinent as you sort of change world.
So now, as we moved into Manhattan into a much more kind of a risk Socratic community, a much more wealthier than community, you know, having that ability to be centered, I think is very important.
Andrew: I’m going to ask one more question about your childhood and then go on to where the origins of the business, where I’ve got this New York times article on you from 2007. I, I saved it to my photos library just because you got swagger in this photo, like your brother’s standing next to you, Michael.
That’s your brother. Am I right? He’s standing next to you looks completely like a guy who runs a hotel. Someone you could respect. Everyone else looks cool too, but you’re coming at it like, like you got the belt, you got the boots, you got the beard that you’ve had for years. It looked like I didn’t give a rat’s ass about shaving, but clearly you pay attention to it.
The hair, the chest out. I wonder. Did you have swagger as a kid? Is this something that you, at some point built up for yourself? Can you be open about that transition? Is it a little bit like a high school movie?
Jason: You know, a little, you know, I think I was always a gregarious. outward personality as a kid, you know, there are many, you know, old homes, movies, and pictures of me at birthday parties of my own kind of like looking to be the center of attention and speaking over everyone. So I think being shy was not part of my DNA.
I think the evolution into the new world once he, you know, once we started really working and once. The hotels and hotel, first one, and then the subsequent ones became quite successful. you know, I was living in a different world, right. It wasn’t, you know, I went to law school, I went to business school all fine and dandy, but those skillsets in order to navigate the, you know, interesting mixture of creativity, fashion, entertainment, business, like you, you have to innately be able to swim in that.
See in order to be able to succeed. And you know, if it’s coming at a right time, when you know, you’re in your early thirties to start out with, that’s a lot of, that’s a lot of rocket fuel to kind of propel your personality at that point. And it builds a degree of confidence at an early stage that, you know, you have to work 20 years to get there.
You maybe don’t have the same, The Vive about it because it, you know, it’s a longer road. you know, so today, do I still have that kind of confidence? I think so, but it’s tempered a little bit more with a lot more life experience that kind of mixes into it.
Andrew: You’re saying you came out in your twenties, did this thing that you envision did well through bad times, you survived and did well. And that allows you the freedom to say, I can do this and show up for a photo like that. Okay. Let’s go back then. To where the idea for, your first hotel came from, you told our producer, you were traveling around a lot and you notice something outside of the U S that didn’t exist.
What was that?
Jason: Okay. You know, luckily, even as a child, I was sort of given the opportunity to travel because being so the youngest of three, my parents had very little interest in shipping me off to summer camp and doing what you know, to get rid of the kid. So. You know, they would dress me up and set outfits and take me to Europe and drag me around to wherever they were going.
And I’d be eating a Michelin star restaurant, you know, and that was, you know, first level of exposure to a travel was right. And it was a unique experience that wasn’t necessarily what we did at home. But travel became the special time where we’ve got to see and do things that we don’t normally do. But I did notice, particularly as I, you know, first time I was Europe, the level of culture of service culture within hotels was completely be different.
There was a sort of genuine pride, whether you’re in London or in Paris, and you’re in a fine hotel, even the most. The smallest of, of gestures. And, you know, I noticed even as a teenager, that this guy really cares about how he’s pouring that drink, or, you know, if he bumps into you by accident and it’s not just by root, it’s a passion.
And then, you know, as you explore it even more, you just kind of thought of what you would think as a hotel. Is different because you’ve got all these charming, small little places in London and Paris and, you know, Rome and, you know, as many of them not necessarily particularly famous, but all with history and, you know, quirks.
And that was very interesting to me, even at a very young age and then travel really became part of my exploration. And as I extended into middle East and Asia, I explored all different perspectives in that. It definitely inspired what I was going to do. And ironically, you know, as a, as. When I was in high school and finishing high school, we were applying to universities and I wasn’t sure if I want to do New York or what, but I did apply to Cornell hotel school because that was the best one in the country.
I had a little bit of a inkling that I wanted to be in hospitality. my father had that time and my brothers had some airport hotels and some not sexy, but you know, very commercial sort of hospitality related things. So there was some connection already that I understood the mechanics of the business.
So I went up to Cornell to interview, and mostly out of spite because my guidance counselor at the time said my grades weren’t good enough in high school to get in the car now. So I should have wanted it to be motivated to pray. Prove them wrong. And when I interviewed with the Dean, he said, you know, why do you want to come here?
Which is something I didn’t actually think about before I got it. Why do you want me to go to hotel school? I didn’t articulate in my own mind distinctly, and I just started talking and I just went into this whole thing about how, you know, Hotels, as we view them in the U S were formed and post-war psyche of Hilton and Marriott and explored it and, you know, American views to the world.
And there were big and standardization was everything because there was no order to the hospitality business at that time. And I was fascinated by a book about Intercontinental that, they were used as a daze for CIA operations in the postwar cold war Europe and all this intrigue. And, and I found that fascinating, but we had reached a point of inflection point in America where that standardization was boring.
And why were people not using different design, different food and beverage programming, different social aspects to. No kind of embraced hospitality in a more unconventional way and unconventional areas. And that ended up being my career. Right. But I didn’t know it at the time I just was pitching it, you know, to get into school.
And, but it sort of stayed with me cause it wasn’t organic reaction and you know, that help guide my path. I did get in, but for the record I ended up, I ended up going in way here, but I, but I did get.
Andrew: Ah, I was wondering why you went from a family that was in real estate that yes. Also had hotels. I read a little bit about them to you caring that much about hotels in my mind, I thought it was like this thing that I heard Harry Helmsley say when he was asked why he went from other parts of real estate to hotels, he said with hotels, I could raise the rates every day was very much like a.
Commerce based attitude. It seems like for you, it was more of a passion. It was this vision that you had. And, and then the next thing I was wondering was were you influenced by Ian Schrager company? And it seems like Ian trigger company was founded years after Thompson launched about four, but he had created Morgan’s hotel group a few years before.
Jason: His current hotel company was done, but he, I believe in the late eighties, early nineties had already established Morgans and then ultimately the royalty in the paramount and the Delano in his first wave of hotels. So they all existed, you know, leading up to it.
Andrew: was Morgan’s 84 from what I can see. So were you influenced by that? Did you say, look, this thing is working in some capacity. I think I could do this too.
Jason: I was, but I didn’t view it necessarily. I didn’t understand that technical aspect. I remember walking into the various hotels of different times and being felt like I was being punched in the stomach because I was so enamored by this crazy visual that I’d never seen in a hotel. And this almost. A cast of characters that looked like he was a film set of, you know, beautiful people and just perfectly created vignettes.
And I remember the first time I walked into Delano specifically, you know, it was like a revelation to me and. You know, so it did influence me in that, you know, this kind of radical reinterpretation of what people perceived as the hotel business was working, right. There’s a there’s room in it or not copying that vision, but Mark, you know, creating your own, right.
So there’s obviously that’s being so well received and we, and M South has been very much. I’m a inspiration and a mentor over the years. And he’s been super supportive in different ways, you know, as time has gone by,
Andrew: What was it about the era that made these? Well, I was going to say boutique hotels, but I heard you say to report, don’t call my hotels, boutique hotels. I wonder why you don’t want that.
Jason: well, it, you know, it’s, it’s a very difficult. To put a label on something that’s supposed to be inherently unique, right? So people use, it keeps sometimes, but that kind of takes scale and size a little bit as well versus lifestyle, which could be anything versus design driven, which is more about aesthetic.
So I think what’s happening is, is we’re just creating a new version of hotels. Right. They’re not actually the ideas, there’s a new normal, right. Every particular hotel and every different niche is moving Anita. And you see that that effect happens even in the big chains, right? Like when you have companies like Weston that are trying to focus on, you know, different aesthetic and, or w or, you know, all of this is, you know, the five original.
U S hotels of which, you know, one that we’re kind of helped make the industry some Schrager, Mercer, 60 Thompson, you know, they wrote the script for an entire industry, essentially. Right. Which became edition, which became w which became Indigo, which became, you know, 2.0 Kempton. So it changed the whole paradigm of, of what.
Any hotel is supposed to be. So you can walk in to JW Marriott today and maybe similar chair that you saw at, you know, a very kind of exclusive design fatty hotel in Amsterdam, right? And the world has become a much smaller place and much more accepted. Of, unconventional approaches to all of these applications.
So I think that was, you know, that’s why it’s hard to put a label on it because there is a new normal, right. And that’s where the hotel business is changing so much. So fast.
Andrew: You expanded beyond New York? one of the hotels, I I’m curious about how this work, the, the row, the Hollywood row, the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel was the location for the first Academy awards associated with movie stars like Clark Gable and others, Marilyn Monroe. I read that Goodwin guy bought the property from bankruptcy.
He owned it. And then did you then manage the hotel or did you buy it? How does that work?
Jason: Goodwin was, you know, this was very early in his career since then to become quite a successful finance and real estate owner and hotel owner, and many other things. But Goodwin bought that building as his first project. he came from a very well known Hong Kong based family. he was learning on the job.
He would live in the hotel. He’d worked there, but he didn’t necessarily know yet what he wanted to do with it. Was it supposed to be utterly commercial project and try to monetize it in the most straightforward way that he could or do something creative. And we met and I toured the building for the first time and I was blown away because.
Historic nature of the spaces, the David Hockney painted pool. you know, there was so much history there that I just became obsessed and. No, we spoke. And eventually we worked out a JV where we would operate the hotel and effectively take on the responsibility of relaunching them. We introduced them to the incident and most hotel companies are primarily management companies, their brand and management.
They may own some hotels, but most hotels are privately owned by institutions. Private developers, a real estate investment trust like brands like four seasons all the way through, you know, the independence are for the most part branded and managed by the hotel companies and owned by third parties. And that was the case.
we. Many people in LA at the time. So we were crazy and they thought that people wouldn’t go that far Eastern, but luckily as kind of new Yorkers, without a deep knowledge of the LA kind of nuances, we didn’t look at it that way. Right. It just seemed like this greatest star go bang in the middle of stuff.
And we thought people would come and in the end, it, you know, it was, it was a remarkable. Ascension into for a period of time, probably being the most notorious or famous hotel in the world for many years. No, in Los Angeles, for sure. Nightlife and events. And you know, it became the celebrity hub, the social hub.
We had a nightclub called Teddy’s. That was. World-renowned we had all the history that came with it, ask her if she has any major events, the movie premiere that happened that I have to mirror. It became the social epicenter of Los Angeles for quite some time. Since then, there’s been a proliferation of many other hotels in LA or, you know, trying to kind of.
Get some of that. So I don’t think one place has that power anymore, but it was a particularly remarkable project to work on because there was a historical restoration component. There was a activation component. There was, you know, a lot of history to kind of have to either utilize within the brand or.
You know, you couldn’t really ignore it. Right. So you got to respect it and you have to really try to make it part of a progressive culture that you were private put in there.
Andrew: Yeah, I did find when I lived in LA that there are historic buildings that are culturally significant, but also so run down that you don’t want to be associated with the culture. Right. It’s it’s like, it’s like seeing really nice wooden floors that are warped, but can’t get
Jason: Narrative. And I, you know, it took a substantial amount of efforts to kind of restore and kind of bring it back. but it’s, it’s still a remarkable building in, I think that was a remarkable period. There was also a real Ascension in Hollywood. At that time it was pre, you know, reality show obsession, you know, social media was in its infancy.
So, you know, we’ll. Interesting creative, famous people went out and they socialize and they were part of the culture of what was happening there. And they were on the rise in their career. The people that, you know, we’re seeing kind of winning Oscars today, being at the, you know, they were still coming up and, it was an exciting time.
It was a fun time to be in Los Angeles. And the Roosevelt was the epicenter of most of it.
Andrew: This was in a Conde Nast. I read about that in a Conde Nast article called, Hotel years. Second act. I want to find out about your second act. And I also want to ask you, you’ve seen a few people who made it, you’ve seen yourself. You told our producer one of the big challenges for us was could we, I think he’s used the word survive in Miami.
I wonder why you survived. I wonder why you think certain people who you’ve met along the way made it. I want to see if I can pull that out or maybe. Maybe it’s to direct the question to get an answer to, but let me take a moment just to thank my second sponsor. It’s a company called top tail. I’m not gonna oversell it.
I’m just gonna tell you guys if you’re looking for the best of the best developers, we’re talking Google level to Google Facebook, maybe not Facebook these days, Google level developers go to top tower.com/mixergy. When use that URL, they’ll give you 80 hours of developer credit. When you pay for your first 80 hours, they really pride themselves.
And having the top 3% of developers. That’s top isn’t top of the mountain towels and talent, top tal.com/m I X E R G Y. Great place to hire developers top. Tell why do you think, why do you think that, that you would able to make it to Miami? Why do you think you were able to make it at all and not be one of these?
No. Good Nick kids of someone who did well, who’s just wasting life.
Jason: Well, you know, look, I think people are somewhat inherently driven or they’re not right. And once you’re. Maybe some people discover it later in life. Some people well discovered earlier, you know, I, for better or for worse found something I was passionate about and, you know, believe that I could, you know, also have it be a successful career from a business point of view.
so when we were going to answer your question, as we went into new cities, You know, we, we had to become a locals in North city, so it wasn’t just picking the right project and picking the right partners. It was really understanding the culture of the sub market we were going into and becoming part of it.
So with every project we did, I spent a ton of time, no, either living or being, or interacting with that market, trying to find, I always said that. When we went to a new city, whether it was Toronto or Chicago or Miami, or, you know, there was, the strategy was somewhat the same. You go there, spend time. You try to feel where the, what the city needs.
You put your, like your concept together, but there’s also five connectors in every city that helps. Kind of spread the branches of the tree that you’re building. And it’s, you know, somebody from every industry, right? There’s a person from the arts as a person from marketing and PR and communications, finance person, fashion person.
And, you know, you’ve gotta be able to kind of find one in brand and bath that kind of helping you spread the word and spread the Tenneco over the project, into the local community. Cause your local community. Is what gives you all of your brand value, sleep in the rooms are there for a very limited period of time, right?
So hopefully they come back, but the locals are the ones you need to do your marketing for you, locals like it. And they frequent the establishment and they want to Tom and they recommend it to other people you want.
Andrew: For the restaurant for the bars, for the
Jason: Just the whole concept. Yeah. They need to be your proponent. Right. And they need to like what you’re doing.
Cause they, they view you as a foreign and search them. It’ll blow back against you completely. And that happens a lot, particularly with people in brands, from New York, they go to all these cities with a very arrogant attitude of we’re just going to do what we do in New York. And you’re going to like it because where do you are?
And we know what we’re doing, and it inevitably ends up in some problematic situation because they’re not really listening to the local culture.
Andrew: What’s what’s an example of something local that you added either as your current hotel in Miami or, or the previous one.
Jason: you know, I just starkly, I mean, just to think of a few things, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a lot of is partnerships and collaborations. you know, when we were in Toronto, I think that’s a really good example. Cause we had a lot of. is, and we help build a whole community, a residential community that was just evolving around the hotel.
So we had a 24 hour diner because there was no kind of hangout for late night. And in that location, the lounge nightlife operator was very, very local, but the chef was somebody we brought to New York. So we tried to mix and match to integrate. Location Toronto at large, and then a taste of New York, a little bit to kind of bring the whole thing together.
And, you know, I think with every city it’s a similar philosophy.
Andrew: You know what, now that I think about it, when I went to your hotel. It was because my friend was my friend Henry worked in the restaurant industry and still does. And he knew that’s the place where the waiters and chefs would go after hours to see someone. Is that part of what you guys are cultivating or were, is that
Jason: That’s always great. Like when you can get the industry to really love your place. but that, you know, that’s a little location specific, right? Because you know, like when you’re in downtown New York, there’s incredible intensity of people working in nightlife and restaurants that congregate, you know, like in Beverly Hills or in like more compliantly, more kind of quiet or resort communities, you don’t have that same kind of intensity, but in the urban markets, that’s always a signature that you’re doing well.
If the other chefs and the other nightlife, people want to hang out there.
Andrew: Why is that? Because they start recommending it to other people or it’s they know what’s good. And that’s how you
Jason: Yeah. They know the inside, right? When you they’re the ultimate insiders in that field.
Andrew: All right then to close out Thompson 2012, you part you, got into a merger and then the partnership dissolved and then you left. Is that right?
Jason: For the most part, what happened was we, we merged with another company that was backed by the Pritzker family or part of the Pritzker family that founded Hyatt. And we took over together a company in California called , which was a ransom, you know, quirky and very cheap, independent hotels, although mostly concentrated in the West coast.
And we were growing Thompson, which was meant to be kind of more of a hard branded global market. Concept and together we built several new projects, the beacon in New York city, the Cape and Cabo, several others, Playa Del Carmen. You know, we would London, we went international, Chicago, you know, was one of our, you know, very interesting projects.
And I think we got to a certain point where, You know, I think there was a gut check moment where the company was big. And, you know, I was the co-chairman of a board of a company with some very wealthy people that, you know, were just looked at the world in a different place. It’s about structure, about brand, about passionate, about art, about culture.
And, you know, I spent my life in board meetings as opposed to creating projects and I just didn’t like it. And, you know, we agreed to sell our portion of the management company and brands who are partnering. They ultimately sold it to Hyatt with some. Now those brands are part of Hyatt. and we left and my brothers and I went independent.
Again, we reconstituted a 68,000. No, it may be for lack of creativity, but obviously Thompson was named after the street of the first hotel. 60 was the address, right. So we kind of, you know, it’s a little tongue in cheek, but.
Andrew: Thompson. That’s got
Jason: That’s our first step down. Right? So that’s how it all kinda came together.
and you know, before we, you know, we, we, we put together out of some of the older hotels and some of the new ones, three, four hotels, five hotels that you’re operating. And now we’ve kind of re focused into a new growth plan where we’re looking at, you know, four or five new hotels over the next three years.
And we’ve launched a new brand concept. That will live alongside 60, but will be a slightly more affordable millennial and gen Z driven re-interpretation of kind of limited service that draws from youth hostile culture called civilians. And we’re very excited about it because we love the idea of how to balance to give it more affordable youth oriented product on one hand, versus, you know, let’s call it a more matured, sophisticated.
A product on the other
Andrew: We had a Nazi, this, you were saying a hotel brand that did, that takes some of the cultural field from, from a hostile and it’s called
Andrew: civilian. this
Jason: And it’s meant to
Andrew: me to Google.
Jason: a very democratic
Andrew: Is it up? Is there a website? Is it civilian hotel?
Jason: There’s a landing page, but I think if you Google it, some of the initial press will probably pop up.
Andrew: 60 collective portfolio. Ah, here we go. a new hotel brand under the 60 collective portfolio, civilian hotels set to debut this year, the new boutique. Oh, they call the boutique dude. What do you think it can’t get away from it.
Jason: off of me.
Andrew: Miami beach is going to be the first place. Why Miami?
It feels like you’ve got to love. Love for that city.
Jason: I do have a little bit of a love affair with Miami. I think every new Yorker to a degree does, but more important than that, I think Miami has become. you know, the demographics of the country are changing, you know, because of a variety of reasons, some fiscal, some lifestyle, Florida is becoming, you know, a growth center for innovation, for business, for finance industry, and for, you know, obviously leisure and travel.
So I see a big growth opportunity, not just in Miami beach, but I think Miami in South Florida as a whole, and you’ll see a lot, migration and demographic jump and particularly young people moving there. But I think also more mature, successful people moving there for lifestyle and tax reasons on the hand.
I think it’s a good time to capture that statewide there.
Andrew: I’m seeing that a lot, the tax benefits of no state tax is that right?
Jason: There’s no state tax, but guys, no city or state.
Andrew: and beautiful weather. Let me close it out with this. I was kind of fascinated by that one article that I saw here it is. It’s in travel and leisure. Wow. From over 10 years ago, about a day in the life. I don’t think that we can obviously go through a whole day in the life here, but.
I’m curious about the little parts of your day. Like what time do you start work? Do you go right away at the time? You said that you end your day with your black pair. Blackberry. Do you start your day checking email? What time of day do you start? What’s the first thing you do.
Jason: You know, I’m not a super early riser. Probably get up around eight 30 and I work out in the morning first because I need to sort of get it out of the way. So, because it’s more of a necessity than a passion. So I do that. Then I go straight into emails and calls from home. Coming to the office, probably around 10 30, hopefully already kind of ahead of the game, deal with ops and discussions about various things going on in the various hotels.
And, you know, the, I think the differences is now as we go forward, a very large chunk of my time is in capital structuring and, you know, really putting the deals together as well as implementing them because. That need is necessary in the business. It’s having more competitive. So we need to dig under the hood in a lot more detail on the financial structuring of the project, as well as the
Andrew: 35 million that you guys recently raised from the Silverstone companies? This is the type. So I thought that one of the reasons why you left, your previous company was that you were spending a lot of time in boardrooms. I don’t remember again where, but I saw that you said that I’m not a person who sits in offices all day or in boardrooms all day.
I need to be out. You’re now in maybe not necessarily literally the office, but you’re in the office all day, working on investments and not looking at
Jason: Well, not necessarily
Andrew: going to be the Thompson chair.
Jason: I mean, I’m moving around a lot and I’m in the hotels predominantly and you know, the office is nice to come back to a bit just because it’s a good hub to get the team going. But I, I work on the, on the move. And, you know, and truly I get some of my greatest clarity and inspiration when I’m, you know, randomly walking down the street or, you know, on vacation, sitting on a beach or, you know, in the middle of dinner while, you know, kind of just my mind drifts a little bit and something triggered something.
So I definitely work better in an unstructured cultural environment, but I think, you know, we need. Sometimes the catharsis of working together and kind of fleshing things out.
Andrew: It’s So when, when you’re saying you’re looking for investments or you’re spending time, you mean in person with people, the way that you did when you moved into a new city and tried to get a feel for the that’s, what you’re talking about.
Jason: we’re establishing relationships where, you know, talking about why, you know, we’re different as a company and why our vision is different and that’s, you know, and, and we’ve created developers and potential partners. Explaining that, you know, this extra money while of collaboration and working together is what’s going to make a much better project financially, as well as spiritually, as well as Brad, and maybe resonate beyond just, you know, a pile of bricks as it would to the building next door.
Andrew: Look at this, by the way, civilian hotel doesn’t have an SSL certificate on its website. Hardly has a website. You call it a landing page. I wouldn’t even call it a landing page, but it has a couple of photos that give people the vibe of what you’re going for. There’s a woman who’s new diving into water. It’s like
Jason: It’s about youth culture and
Andrew: youth culture and freedom.
Jason: and trying to understand, and I
Andrew: you’re, you’re a guy who’s like in his fifties, you still have the swagger and the
Jason: Thankfully I’m still in my forties,
Andrew: Oh, in your forties. Okay. Then I misread somewhere, but you still, you still have this thing. I wonder. Okay. This is maybe me picking up too much of like little details.
There was one article that said that you had behind you, like a style board or something and inspiration board. Where do you get your inspiration for design, for style? How do you, how do you get this thing that feels so interesting and compelling? The,
Jason: I know, I draw a lot from the other arts and the other discipline
Andrew: how do you do that? Do you go out and look, do you watch movies a lot?
Where, where do
Jason: It’s it’s a combination. Film is definitely an inspiration, Austin it’s iconography and you know, images that are resume beyond just being current. I think art. As far as contemporary art is also a big stimulus and some of those photos are, are, you know, from a, my favorite photographer, Ryan McGinley, who, you know, kind of a real voice, in this idea of youth culture, kind of constantly moving.
But I also think fashion as part of it, you know, design, historical architecture, you know, particularly of the period of the 1950s and sixties and, you know, California, Brazil, and some of the European, interior designers and architects are, I think, set the basis for. Many things that are resonance still today.
And, you know, kind of combining these, these visuals is, is what sets the tone. and we’re lucky enough is that today, unlike when we started and you actually have to do like tear sheets out of books or magazines, you know, the digital world has made the entire world available to us. To see what’s happening.
And I think that you’re seeing in very obscure places, very interesting hospitality and food and beverage culture, because they can be so remote, but yet see what’s going on and anywhere in the world, it’s an exciting time to be in that business. And, you know, to see how you can kind of personalize that and create your edge.
And, you know, going back to what you said about, you know, how do you, you know, whether your forties or fifties trying to figure out what the next generation wants. I think we all, or at least it’s become a symptom of, you know, generation X on, you know, we want to be eternal or young, and that is a spiritual and a psyche and a psychographic that transcends exactly what age demographic you’re at.
So kind of tapping into that. Eternal youth dream that we all have is, is very much about unlocking, you know, what P how people connect with brands and you see with fascia brands all the time, right? And the buyer may be a certain age, but the visual is a completely different one. And I think creating.
Slightly obscure images of inspiration of that, where we want our life to be. Even if it’s not literal, we’re not showing a picture of a bag. You know, I think that inspires people to connect to your brand.
Andrew: And if I were to I’m looking to see, what can I take away methodically from this conversation? One thing that. Are about you is, is your style that I, that I’ve seen literally over the years, except for one photo that was out of context. I’m trying to understand why I think you’re wearing a three piece suit and had no beard in it out of nowhere.
but I’m trying to understand how does he
Jason: It was actually a costume party.
Andrew: Oh, is that what that was? You know what I’m talking about.
Jason: I was trying to dress as Thomas crown. So
that was, that was my character.
Andrew: I, so I, I started out this interview saying, I don’t know how to communicate what made the hotel at first glance, just. Be something that you wanted to pay attention to that felt like somebody, if that makes sense.
One of the things that I take away from it is just like you would listen to your dad’s generation as they talked about the real estate world. And you allowed yourself to absorb things without pulling out a notebook and taking things in. I should hear that you’re into or inspired by Ryan McKinley. And I see his website right here.
I was, I looked them up. I didn’t realize how, I didn’t realize how significant of an artist he was, but I see it now, instead of sitting here with notes, trying to say, what can I take away from this? That would make me a little bit closer to Jason’s eye. I should just take it in and take the photography and allow the feeling to come to come in.
And then without forcing it, maybe make my design of this
Jason: Look, you
Andrew: bit better. What am I, what are you thinking?
Jason: I think very much so visual is an extremely powerful weapon that, you know, many times can override words, right. And the growth of Instagram is a perfect example of how that works in the human mind. But I think. And, you know, I think some of the most powerful images that have inspired me on are, are, are more iconic of.
Personalities that lived in a moment in time. Right? So Picasso in a room, you know, back in the 1930s, Steve McQueen looking kind of perfectly casually, cool, Sophia, Loren, or Bridget Bardot, you know, these kind of iconic thing. And then going into the seventies and Warren Beatty and, you know, the studio 54 era and, and then, you know, goes on and on and on and taking these moments that are captured by photographers.
That captured, not just space, but they capture mood and spirit. I think that is a great place to start from when you’re building a Brown.
Andrew: All right. The website is 60 hotels.com. I write for anyone wants to go get a sense of your design. I, and, you’re in Beverly Hills Soho. What else are you guys? You guys, I thought you were in Miami. I just don’t see it on the
Jason: We were, we sold one of our Miami project last month, but we’re, we’re about to do another two new ones. So we’ll get there.
Andrew: thanks so much for being on here. I appreciate it.
Jason: My pleasure. Thank you. Thanks for making the time.
Andrew: Oh, you bet. And thank you all for listening and I want to thank the two sponsors, hostgator.com/mixer G and top towel.com/mixergy. I have to talk slow cause I’m in New York. I say top tell people don’t know what I’m talking about.
Jason: Take care. Bye bye.