Now that the warm weather is finally upon us here in the New York City area, many of us NYC’ers are looking to travel outside of the gritty streets of Manhattan and see where life takes us for the Spring and Summer seasons. With New England being a particularly beautiful area during the warmer seasons, I find that a great stop along your route up the east coast is in Providence, Rhode Island. I am very familiar with Providence due to my five year stay there when I attended and eventually graduated from Johnson & Wales University.
I was there last weekend to teach at my alma matter regarding Manhattan Digest and other publications that I worked for, and chose to stay at Hotel Providence, which is right in the heart of downtown on Mathewson Street. I am very aware of this hotel due to it being so close to a lot of the academic halls that studied in, as well as several friends and parents I knew staying there when they were visiting the great city of Providence. I always heard great feedback about this particular hotel, so I was excited upon my arrival to see what all the fuss was about.
I will say this simply- if there is one hotel you are going to stay in when you visit Providence, or even other fabulous parts of the state, you should stay here. Hotel Providence really sticks with the rustic theme of the area in terms of its outdoor presence and switches that inside with a much more modern take on what a hotel really should be. Even before my entrance to the actual hotel, I was made aware of the beautiful park like setting that was to the left of it, where guests can go and mingle, share a coffee and enjoy their time outside of the room they are staying in. The entryway was beautifully adorned and spacious, with clocks representing several different major cities from left to right. The service itself was quite incredible, with amicable staff who was helpful for me during my time there. Parking in Providence can be a bit of a hassle, yet they have great rates for overnight’s in case you need to leave your car there or if you have friend’s coming down. Just from my first couple of minutes there is that they are there to make you feel welcome. That is something I don’t get from major hotel chains or even some that I have stayed at in Manhattan.
The room that I stayed in was quite beautiful and tailored to my liking. The windows open to a breathtaking view of Providence and the room itself was comfortable and spacious enough for one if not more people. I really enjoyed the classic touches that it had in it with the warm colors adorned throughout. What is even better about this particular hotel is that it is literally steps away from some of the best bars, clubs and hot spots in Providence such as PPAC (Providence Performing Arts Center) as well as minutes away from great eateries on popular streets and locations like Thayer Street and Federal Hill. If you don’t feel like traveling for your food, they have a wonderful restaurant attached to the hotel called Aspire, which is opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a tasty and delicious brunch that I was treated to over the weekend. For menu, hours and more details about Aspire check out their official site.
During my stay at Hotel Providence, I sat down with the fantastic and kind General Manager David Benton, who told me a bit about the history of this location. He also chatted with me about going above and beyond the call for each individual guest and his hopeful future for the hotel.
So tell me about the history of Hotel Providence.
The hotel, interestingly enough, was built in the 1890’s and went through five different transitions of names and hotels. It eventually became a department store, and when that closed it became silent for many years until it turned into dorms for Johnson & Wales University students. A local developer renovated it, bought the building next door and combined the two buildings together to make a 80 room boutique hotel back in 2005. The present owners bought it from that developer from 2009, and now it is Hotel Providence. Matter of fact, the other building that was bought to combine with the original has also been around since the late 1890’s, so this has a history to it for over a hundred years now.
What amenities does Hotel Providence provide that you think would ultimately want the consumer to choose you over the chain type of hotels?
I think we have a different approach because we try to tailor-make the experience. I’ll give you an example that happened yesterday. There was a couple in who we knew were vegetarians and it was interesting that the chef went to meet the and say “I heard you are vegetarians and I know you are dining with us tonight. We would like to make you something you would like versus something you wouldn’t like”. They were kind of surprised that someone would go out of their way and reach out to them, and they had dinner with the chef preparing a very special salad course, entree and a passion fruit dessert. That doesn’t typically happen when you go to a branded hotel that you would get that kind of treatment and individual kind of service.
We have a family program here as well. So as soon as the family arrives you will see a flyer wagon with toys in it. We encourage the kids to go over and choose the toy. Often the child is tired from the journey here and less well behaved, and when they see the variety of toys it becomes an instant mood changer for the better which then makes the parent happy as well. We also have three kinds of children’s robes, from very small for babies and ones that would fit a child of 10-12 years of age. Parents really get a kick out of that. If the mother has forgotten some common products for her children we have an emergency kit for them to use just in case.
For animals accompanying you on your trip, we have a pet stand in the lobby and give them a little room with a great doggie pack full of treats and a dog bed for them to rest on. Matter of fact, when you get your pre-stay letter online, it gives you the option to list if you are bringing children and/or pets with you with their age and what kind of pet that they are so we can be more prepared upon your arrival. Also on the pre-stay it asks if you have any special preferences, which we seem to get twice a day upon completion of the form. I find this sort of thing nice because you get to know a little bit more about the guest before they check in and its essentially all there for them.
For our international guests, we have special key cards made for them- 54 in total. So they are made that if you are coming from a particular country it will include their flag on the card itself. On top of the key card, we also write welcome letters from every language in the world. It really is about the individualization of the service so with that we empower the staff. Instead of them going to the manager and asking if they can do a sort of thing, they simply just go ahead and do it for the customer to enjoy their stay even further.
The great thing about Rhode Island is that you have so many incredible colleges here from Brown, RISD, Johnson & Wales and so on. Do you cater anything in particular to the college students?
What often happens is firstly we have this college package when they are coming to look, which is available on the website. On top of that, we host an enormous amount of organizations like Brown Alumni a couple of weeks ago for a variety of events that each particular association is having at that particular moment. Often, when the parents are coming here they are referencing things like “Where is Ikea, where is the local Supermarkets, etc”… and we are very helpful in helping them navigate the city of Providence in order to make them feel more comfortable not only for themselves but for their children as well. When we go above and beyond to sit down with each individual parent or set of parents it then reflects on them coming back and staying with us multiple times throughout the duration of their children being at the particular university as they really get familiarized with this city.
Now that your ranking seems to be going on the up and up on TripAdvisor, what are you hopeful for in regards to Hotel Providence in 2015 and beyond?
Well the hope always is to increase business and get a ton of repeat business. It is really a great aspect to our hotel when we get repeat clients coming in because it means we have done something right in order to retain their business.
Outside of your run of the mill hotel stay, Hotel Providence can host any sort of big arrangement that you have coming up in the future from weddings, conventions and so on and so forth. They have a beautiful terrace located in the hotel that serves multiple types of purposes, and as mentioned before the park like atmosphere right outside the hotel can also be a big part of your big day whether it is walking down the aisle or catching up with friends at an alumni party that you haven’t seen in a while. Overall, this place is your one stop shop in Providence for travel, engagements and just to have a nice, relaxing time. Don’t take my word for it! Check out their official site for more details.
Safe Travels everyone!