Here’s the bad: Much as we’d have liked to stay in one of them, much as we are — in our own view — “hipsters,” Ace and I can’t even afford “Bohemian.”
“Minimalist,” it seems, is beyond our means.
We dropped in at the Ace Hotel in Seattle, where the chain got started, and checked out the one in Portland, where it’s now headquartered, but — even with the sliding scale it offers, with lower prices if you share a bathroom — it was out of our league.
So here, I’ve decided, is what America needs — a level of lodging slightly below Bohemian, but slightly above the YMCA, a motel chain that’s dog friendly and mostly free of germs, crawling bugs and psychos. Motel 6 probably comes closest — hopelessly unhip as it is.
The Ace Hotels, from what I saw of them, do minimalist much better, except for the price part. All four are in old buildings with rich histories, and the furnishings– from hotel to hotel and from room to room — are varied and eclectic, as opposed to going the cheap motel route of putting the same cookie-cutter formica furniture in every room across the nation.
Therein lies the difference between Bohemian and Institutional, and who wouldn’t rather spend the night in a place that makes you feel like a beatnik, as opposed to an inmate.
Depending on your own personal economic condition, Ace Hotels are worth checking into if you’re traveling to New York, Palm Springs, Portland or Seattle, because, on top of their dog friendliness, they have some character, which the big chains always lack.
There is another solution to this issue — this issue being getting accurate information on lodging that has character, and is both dog and wallet friendly — and it doesn’t involve chains at all. Instead it involves looking at the world through something other than a corporate lens.
There are some otherwise fine guide books and websites out there that can help one find dog-friendly hotels and motels. The problem is, most of them don’t make much effort to include the non-chains, the mom-and-pop, small independent motels — many of them dog friendly — that don’t charge exorbitant prices for a room. And still have character.
Perhaps it would be too much work for the guidemakers. Perhaps mom and pop aren’t Internet-savvy enough to get their establishments listed. In any case, the result is, from AAA to bringfido.com, the options presented are almost always the big boys — Motel 6, Super 8, Best Western, La Quinta, Holiday Inn, Sheraton, Hilton, Hyatt and on up the ladder of chains.
As a result, pup-friendly mom and pop — who are probably much more in need of the boost in business that comes with being known as dog-friendly — are ignored, because they own one motel instead of 500 of them.
Ranting aside, we stopped by the Ace Hotel in Seattle to take a look, and considered staying at the one in Portland. Both, in the parlance of the trade, are considered “boutique” hotels — which is basically a term meaning it hasn’t grown into full chainhood yet and is still small enough to be charming
While both qualified for our hipster seal of approval, both were beyond our budget, even if we shared a bathroom.
The desk clerk at the Ace in Seattle explained that the name was chosen because aces can be both high and low, and the hotel strives to provide lodgings at both ends of the spectrum, as well as provide high quality at low price.
The hotel in Seattle is in a former Salvation Army halfway house located in the Belltown neighborhood. In Portland, the Ace moved into what was the Clyde Hotel, the lobby of which served as a setting for scene in the movie, “Drugstore Cowboy.” The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In Palm Springs, the Ace Hotel is in a converted Howard Johnson’s; and in New York it occupies the Breslin, a former single-room-occupancy hotel at the corner of 29th Street and Broadway. Transforming it meant displacing some longtime residents.
A New York Times review of the hotel called it “shabby chic” before snottily adding, “a bit too redolent of the past.”
Ace Hotels got their start when Seattle native Alex Calderwood and some friends decided to create a hip yet minimalist hotel. The Ace Hotel in Seattle opened in 1999; and in 2007 they opened one in Portland.
Calderwood’s hipsterness went back even further than that. He used to throw warehouse parties for the grunge set, later moving up to hosting events for Microsoft. Today, he holds four Aces, and, at last report, had his sights set on a fifth.
Given that growth, I think it’s time the chain start considering some advertising, and perhaps a spokesdog. I have one in particular in mind, whose services can be obtained for a reasonable fee — a sliding scale even. I’ve got some other promotional ideas, too, such as complimentary slightly used flannel pajamas for all guests, and even a slogan to help get across the message that the hotels are dog friendly:
“We’ll leave the bowl out for you.”