Is it best for a business to construct its own reality: an experience that's intentionally set apart from its community, its locale? Or should a business embrace its particular geography and make the most of it?

Either approach can work. Certain businesses, for sure, can attribute their success--sometimes, their runaway success--to their ability to create a reality apart. For a small-scale example, consider how even the tiniest, most bargain-oriented ethnic restaurants succeed in transporting their guests far away, through the vehicles such as a soundtrack of exotic music, a few tastefully positioned screens, and, of course, the foreign cuisine. Or, on the world-conquering scale, think of how every Drybar location (there are more than 90 at present) creates a private oasis for its blowout clients; even if you're actually in a mall off the Vegas strip, when you're within the walls of Drybar, you unmistakably feel a world apart.

[An aside: If you want to learn how to emulate the Drybar customer experience, here's the Inc. Magazine piece where we consult for Drybar on creating this world apart, as consultants on customer experience and customer service.]  

In many cases, however, the best approach is to embrace your locale, both feeding off of it and feeding into it. My example today is Hotel LeVeque, an authentically vibrant hotel that makes a point of drawing you into an authentically vibrant city. Columbus is clearly a city on the upswing, visibly abuzz with  commercial and civic activity and growth, including the lovely Scioto Greenways project, which has created 33 acres of new city parkland, and the recent $140 million remodel of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, a 1,800,000-square-foot complex [that's not a typo; every single one of those zeroes is correct] chockablock with unexpected features as the largest contemporary art collection in the city and what is billed as The Smartfarm--an internal, vertical garden on the first floor of the complex that's intended to provide some 5,000 pounds of herbs and vegetables every year for use by the center's food services.  

Hotel LeVeque is in the center of all the commercial and civic liveliness, and is a great place to see a city on the move. The hotel's 149 rooms occupy six stories (out of 47) in downtown Columbus's historic LeVeque Towera. The art deco building, the magnum opus of architect Charles Howard Crane, opened in 1927 as the tallest building between New York and Chicago and the fifth-tallest building in the world. Though its ranking on that list has slipped, of course, over time, it's still one of the two tallest buildings in Columbus, topped only by the modernist, 70's-era Rhodes State Office Tower, and is easily the dominant landmark in the Columbus skyline

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There was a time I can remember when "historic rehab" was a synonym for "not enough water pressure."  But there's nothing lovelier and more comforting than a historic remodel done right, and Hotel LeVeque's 2017 renovation, part of a $27 million rehab of the entire tower, is spot-on. Hotel LeVeque is part of the  Autograph Collection, a collection of unusual, often one-of-a-kind, upscale and luxury properties. Operated under the Marriott banner, each hotel in the collection is selected for and operated in a manner intended to maintain and emphasize its uniqueness. (One "mark" of each hotel's uniqueness is, in fact, called The Mark, and each Autograph Collection hotel has one. Hotel LeVeque's mark is a celestial theme, in homage to the Art Deco aspirations of the building's design. This theme is manifested in custom-designed light fixtures shaped like beams of light, as well as and other touches in the public and private spaces of the hotel and, quite spectacularly, a turndown service touch where the hotel staff sets up a projector to shine constellations on the guestroom ceiling.)

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Once you're in your room at Hotel Leveque, even before the celestial turndown service, one of the things that may strike you is the silence. In spite of its central location, there is close to zero street noise; well below even a Santa Barbara or Greenwich CT level of non-noise; it's more of a dropped-in-the-center-of-a-nature preserve level. Kudos to the rehabber for the triple or quadruple glaze; whether their goal with this was energy credits or some such, the result enhances the guest experience wonderfully.

The other challenges of a remodel are addresses thoughtfully as well. Brilliantly designed, industrial-esque sliding doors to the restroom address one of the challenges in these rehabs; when there's not enough room for "real" doors, you often end up with privacy-reducing compromises. Not here; they have truly rocked this issue. And, once within those clever doors, you're presented with perhaps the biggest shower you'll ever step into, bigger, it seems, than the average Manhattan apartment.

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A great physical plant and location do not, by themselves, create a complete hospitality experience. It's the people who make the difference there. And here, Hotel LeVeque has you covered, from concierge David Mott, who knew so many anecdotes and facts about Columbus that I got the feeling Google consults him, to the front desk staff, including Sean and Kim, who are more than happy to answer any inquiry with a "yes," almost before you've posed the question.

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What about you, at your business? Is "yes" the default answer to customer questions and inquiries, or is it "no," "don't know," or "maybe later"? Because embracing positivity with customers is as important, or more, than the decision you make on embracing, or standing apart from, your local environs.

Published on: Apr 21, 2018