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Fall 2009

The Gershwin Hotel A Home for Art in the Big Apple


The Gershwin Hotel

A Home for Art in the Big Apple Written by Erin Behan A New York hotel that feels like New York without being priced like New York. It’s a tall order and one that owner Suzanne Tremblay first tackled in 1992 when she and a partner opened the Gershwin.

As Tremblay explains, “We’re pulling definitely from Warhol and the Factory style, as that was a place everybody gathered, the door was open for all, and there was this sense of possibility.”

“Our first point of view was to create a place where people from other countries would come and feel they were really in NYC,” Tremblay says. “I’m Canadian, [my business partner] was Swiss-American, so our sensitivity was with a different eye. For us, New York was a place where you push the envelope, you dare to do things, and it was Pop Art.”

Indeed, where most hotels value quiet the Gershwin prefers a connection and spirit that is anything but, hosting revolving exhibitions by VJs, commissioning artists to do holographic and film images and sponsoring artists-in-residence. “We stretch the boundaries of what is a hotel; it’s not a place to go in your room and sleep; it’s a place where you will meet people with the same desire and hope about life, which is to create something – whether music, culture, architecture – it’s an act of the energy that is New York,” Tremblay says.

The art literally pops out everywhere – off the facade, across the hallways, inside the rooms – and Billy Name from Warhol’s Factory even served as the resident photographer.


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“We have a constant relationship with artists, promote art events, because I truly have a feeling if someone comes to the Gershwin and writes within the walls, that energy stays among us,” Tremblay continues. “So when you come you have a feeling you are in a very active and interactive and creative place, and you will meet people that have the same outlook in life.”

kept within the American artist tradition, having a real sense of location.”

A Space with a Sense of Place

The Gershwin is within walking distance to many of the city’s prized possessions: Madison Square Park and its famous joint Shake Shack, the Empire State Building and its breathtaking view, and high-end restaurants like Eleven Madison Park, which just received four stars from outgoing New York Times critic Frank Bruni.

A popular spot amongst budget-minded Europeans (and a cadre of Americans), the Gershwin gets its name from the very American composer George Gershwin, who started selling music on nearby Tin Pan Alley. Using American local history was intentional and important, Tremblay says, “We

In its 17 years of serving New York visitors, the hotel has kept up with the times and the demands of its clientele. “Things keep improving, Joel Oury, the hotel’s general manager, says. “I’ve been here 10 years, and when I started it was more a hostel with dormitory accommodations. But little but little

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we changed these to suites. The hotel looks much more like a hotel.” “The improvements have been all throughout in terms of service and amenities, Oury says. “We’ve looked at design comforters, the look of the rooms, the lighting of the rooms.” And, yes, it has WiFi. Even as it’s moved toward a more modern boutique hotel aesthetic, the Gershwin has kept its unique vibe and look. Travelers can get a room like the Cozy Canadian Cocoon complete with moose head over the bed, or a room with a designer crib. They can also – true to the hotel’s mission of keeping prices low – opt for bunk beds. It’s this kind of stylemeets-innovation that’s had the place featured everywhere from airline magazines to German travel shows. The planned opening of a LEED-certified café has the potential to draw even more accolades.

The Art of Hotel Management Behind all that panache, however, it’s the little things that keep things running smoothly, like using family-run, New York-based San-Tec for cleaning and equipment needs. The company provides laundry products, housekeeping products chemicals for machines, repairs on equipment and training staff on its products. As any hotelier knows, there’s never a dull moment running a hotel, but add the sponsored causes (currently including benefits for Polaris Project, which is against human trafficking) to the events, artists and “surprises” that come up and it’s a real challenge to juggle it all. “Every day is a different day for me, especially because of the art work and events we constantly have every week, something to organize or meet,” Oury says. “All my days are really full, full of work, meetings and surprises. It’s not only running the hotel, it’s also dealing with artists, supervising all those events.

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“From my point of view, this hotel is so unique in a way of the art connecting to the hotel business, so it’s a lot to go over things to make sure it all goes smooth,” he continues. “So many things happening at the same time, overlooking everything and make sure it is in place is my challenge every day.” And for Tremblay, keeping the hotel running isn’t just a job; it’s an extension of herself and her values. As such, she considers her employees dear and keeps tabs on their lives and needs, and they, in turn, are eager to make the hotel a success. “To set up an exhibition, people will stay late and not complain, because they are proud to see what is on the wall,” she explains. “The night desk person is so happy to


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explain the events, show them to the guests. To recognize that your staff is really the first step to your success, and to make it part of it, is one of our main concerns.” In the future, the French-speaking Tremblay says she wants to do something else in her native Canada. “I’m from a small village, east of Montreal, and it’s about bringing a concept of impact zero and sustainability and a place where young people find that they are really connected to the area they live.” Though situated in one of the most bustling metropolitan regions on Earth, the Gershwin Hotel continues to stand out by curating its own sense of culturally aware community. ▪

COMPANY AT A GLANCE Established : 1992 The Gershwin Hotel Employees : 50 GM : Joel Oury US Executive Journal SummerJournal Edition 2008 | 7 |7 US Executive Fall Edition 2009

The Gershwin Hotel

Winter 2009

7 East 27th Street N e w Yo r k , N e w Yo r k 1 0 0 1 6 U n i t e d S tat e s w w w . g e r s h w i n h o t e l . c m

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