Why are we using AirBnb as Hamlet Hotel's booking tool?
As a family, we continue to choose a traditional hotel experience for particular types of travel circumstances, but increasingly find the unique travel experience associated with AirBnb to be our preferred method. We value location and we appreciate gaining a local, less "cookie-cutter" perspective on our destination when seeking our own short term rental accommodations. We believe that we are not alone in this travel preference and furthermore find that AirBnb provides the best means of realizing it. As a result, we have built Hamlet Hotel to specifically service today's engaged and active traveler.
How we become hoteliers…the long version
Colleen and I met at WWU in Bellingham, back in 1985. Following graduation, we both took jobs in Seattle and believed that we were likely off on our exciting trek to explore the world. As it turned out, my new employer, Xerox Corporation, following my initial sales training class, sent me back to Bellingham to work out of their small field sales office. Deciding that we were both better suited to a small-town environment, Colleen left her big city job and joined me in the ‘Ham. We got married and immersed ourselves in our fun new Bellingham life together.
Six years later, I left Xerox as an employee and opened my own Xerox sales dealership (Benchmark Document Solutions), out of a small office on the outside of downtown. At the same time, we were blessed with the birth of our first son (of two). Colleen soon took on the bookkeeping duties for the business. Things were becoming busy for us - it was a team approach!
The business was growing and after six years in business, we needed a bigger space. We wanted to be in the heart of downtown and so in the year 2001, we relocated the business into the space that is on the first floor under Hamlet Hotel. My brother, Clark Schacht, constructed our tenant improvements (office space), beautifully for us. We now had a legitimate sales office, complete with demonstration area, service area, a kitchen, and bathroom. We were very excited to be a part of downtown Bellingham and our trajectory was through the roof!
History of the building
The building was originally constructed in 1906 to be the Cottage Bar (first floor), and the Cottage Hotel (second floor). 1906 was part of a boom era for downtown Bellingham and things were certainly active along Railroad Avenue, as trains literally ran both ways in front of our building. The building’s neighboring spaces were occupied by assorted business operations over the years, including an Oakland Pontiac automobile dealership during the 1920’s.
At some point during the 1940’s, Herb Gorne purchased the building and opened Gorne’s Neon Lighting Company in it. The second-floor hotel operation had been shut down in previous years, so Gorne stuccoed-over the exterior second floor windows and used the space for inventory storage. The interior walls were stripped of their lath and plaster and for the next 70 years, the space currently occupied by Hamlet Hotel remained dark and quiet.
Purchase of the building
In 2005, Collen and I purchased the building which runs from Railroad Avenue to the Alley next to Cap’s Bar. We were at this point very busy running a growing Xerox sales dealership, a growing family of four and now commercial landlords, as well…it was a super fun time for us!
For the next 12 or so years we pondered what to do with the second-floor space. While it served our boys well as a club house for ping pong get-togethers for many of those years, as well as several high school prom night parties, we knew that one day it would need to be evolved to meet a higher purpose. We loved the building and wanted to see natural light pour into the second floor, again.
As our boys completed their respective college careers at Gonzaga, we simultaneously began the process of selling our Xerox dealership. We hired local architect Zervas Group to start a serious second floor rehabilitation planning process and in April of 2017 we hired local contractor Franklin Corporation to manage our exciting project.
The construction and rehabilitation work included seismic upgrades, a fire sprinkler system, as well as a complete reconstruction of the second floor. When the contractors began removing the cracking, 70-year-old stucco treatment, thereby revealing the original window frames it was a definite “re-birthing” of that space. We certainly endeavored to retain the original soul of the building and did so by refinishing (as opposed to replacing), the old growth douglas fir floors. As well, the original red brick walls were repaired, cleaned and refinished. We even were able to retain much (over 90%), of the original 13 residence rooms from the Cottage Hotel by re-configuring them into the current collection of four one-bedroom suites. The original Cottage Hotel community bath now houses our housekeeping room, in fact!
Hamlet Hotel, est. January 2018
Colleen and I were so excited by the beautiful new/old space that had been re-created, but now we had to furnish the spaces into our comfy and stylish living spaces that you see today. For this, we had great help from our longtime friend and fellow Bellingham business person (Hair By Wendy), Wendy Chestnut and her husband Scott. Wendy helped us choose colors, textures and “bling” items, and Scott built the beautiful and unique pub table in Suite 203. We owe them both a debt of gratitude for all the hours they invested in our space to help make it “Hamlet Hotel.”
On January 15, 2018, filled with anticipation and excitement, we hosted our first guest at Hamlet Hotel. Over subsequent months, we have been very blessed by so many amazing, fun, conscientious and adventurous guests. We don’t often meet our guests in person, and yet still feel connected via our email or text messaging. Other times we may have a casual encounter in the hallway or sidewalk, and others-yet we formally meet to discuss things to see, do and eat in our beautiful downtown. It all depends on what our guests prefer for their experience, and we let them choose how that goes. Regardless, we anticipated that we would enjoy this process, but had no idea how much, we love being “hoteliers!”