COSTA MESA — Hotelier Donald Sodaro ran a successful Holiday Inn in the South Coast Metro area for 10 years before deciding that the market deserved more than just another chain hotel.
So he took a risk just as the economy started to decline. In 2008, he discontinued his contract with the franchise hotel chain and launched plans to reopen the facility as an upscale "boutique" hotel.
The Hotel Hanford, on Bristol Street near the southbound San Diego Freeway offramp, has 228 rooms and markets itself as an "unexpected boutique experience." It officially debuts this month.
"We knew it was going to be bad, but we had no idea how bad it would get," Sodaro said of launching the upscale brand during the economic downturn. "But, there's a very strong market here and it's responded very well."
While the hotel has had a soft opening since renovations were mostly completed in September, many were not aware of the remade hotel at first. Though reservations began picking up earlier this year and occupancy is full, thanks in part to the Orange County Fair.
Rooms, which range from $140 to $210 a night, were 98% reserved for last weekend as of last Friday morning.
"I've nothing against Westin or the Marriott — those are great hotels — but you go in one and you've been in them all," Sodaro said. "This is a different kind of place. This is not like your chain hotel — don't expect to come get your awards points. Expect to get something unexpected."
The décor of the Hotel Hanford is modern and sleek, using tones of gray and black throughout.
It was fully remodeled with new amenities, such as expanded room sizes, thermostat-controlled rainwater shower heads that can be set to specific temperatures, and flat-screen TVs. There is also 4,500 square feet of meeting space and a wine room.
The hotel's kitchen was also revamped. David Fune, executive chef of Los Angeles-based Vizzi Visionary Cuisine, was hired to create the Savoy Restaurant & Lounge.
Sodaro aims to utilize South Coast Plaza, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and other venues to draw in customers in the 25- to 55-age demographic who "want an alternate option to the franchise hotel."
"There are some very nice hotels in the area, but there is no true boutique hotel," Sodaro said.