N.C. hotel offers local experience while channeling '60s vibe

The Longleaf Hotel in Raleigh, N.C., opened Jan. 16. Photo credit: Loden Properties (The Longleaf Hotel)

The Longleaf Hotel in Raleigh, N.C, styles itself as a “vintage motor lodge.” However, this doesn’t mean the newly opened hotel—developed as a Travelodge in the 1960s and last operated as a Days Inn—is taking its design cues from the past.

“We didn’t want it to be a period piece,” said Russ Jones, a partner with the hotel’s developer, Loden Properties. “We wanted it to speak to the period but be modern and relevant.”

Instead of bringing back the structural design of the past—“they didn’t have air conditioning in 1964, so they had doors where you needed doors because it was hot in the room,” Jones explained as an example—the hotel is focused on bringing back a warmth and welcoming he associated with decades past. According to Jones, this resonates most in the hotel lounge.

“You’re getting a drink, you get your tab and you’re going to get a postcard of a historic Travelodge from somewhere in the country—you might get the one that was from Raleigh—and those are your check backers,” said Jones. “Our food-and-beverage team scoured all the flea markets and estate sales within two hours of Raleigh to pick up all kinds of knick-knacks. So, if you go in there and you order deviled eggs from the menu, they’re going to come on a deviled egg tray from 1964.”

Going the Extra Mile

This sort of attention to detail, Jones said, was something Loden found to be a necessary part of opening an independent hotel.

“We felt like the best way to make a difference and be something that really felt local, truly local, is you need to do those things,” Jones said. “A brand doesn’t have to because when ... you’re traveling to anywhere in the world and you check in at a Hampton Inn, you have a certain expectation. You check in at The Longleaf, we need to deliver an experience that makes you feel like you can trust us as a brand.”

Jones identified the hotel’s major public spaces—its lounge and patio—as two big ways Loden has worked to tie The Longleaf to the local community.

“Ultimately, we felt like, as an independent, your success is really related to how immerse you are in your community,” Jones said. “We wanted a place where locals could come and say ‘I love this place,’ and if friends are coming in from out of town ... and someone says ‘Where do you stay?’ this is the only place that they would recommend.”

The patio space—a pool area Jones said Loden decided to fill in due to permitting obstacles and maintenance costs—will operate year-round with programming expected to rotate seasonally. In addition to deviled eggs, the adjacent lounge serves several other snacks, as well as wine, cocktails and local beer.

The Longleaf Hotel Fast Facts

LOCATION

Located in downtown Raleigh, blocks from the North Carolina Legislative Building and State Capitol, Jones said the hotel is bringing in groups who come to see the state government.

OPENING

Jan. 16

NUMBER OF ROOMS

56

GENERAL MANAGER

Tim Rogers

WEBSITE

www.thelongleafhotel.com

OWNER

Loden Properties

MANAGEMENT COMPANY

Davidson and Jones Hotel Corp.

OPENING OBSTACLE

Going into the project, Jones said Loden Properties originally planned to open The Longleaf Hotel with an accompanying restaurant. But, as the project progressed, he said Loden determined the building they originally intended to use for the restaurant would not support the cost of conversion—“it wasn’t big enough; structurally, it was in bad shape.” So, instead of opening both, Jones said Loden opened the hotel and focused on ramping up its lounge. “It kind of forced us to better curate what’s happening in the lounge and it’s allowing us to build a new-build deli property, a new-build restaurant,” he said. Called (ish)delicatessen, the restaurant has yet to officially break ground, but Jones said it should have a build time of only six months.