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The Czar Of Boutique Hotels

Let's all take a moment and raise a glass to the memory of Bill Kimpton, who died a few years ago, but only after single-handedly transforming the hotel industry with his line of small, personal Kimpton Hotels. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times when he was first starting to buy up old, derelict hotels in places like downtown Seattle and San Francisco and transforming them into the kind of charming, European-style hotels that he himself wanted to frequent. He practically coined the term boutique hotel, and saved us all from a lifetime of staying at 500-room megahotels with institutional food and hot-and-cold running conventioneers on every floor.

Bill made his fortune in the arbitrage business, which required an ungodly amount of travel around the world. He realized that what he wanted from a hotel was an excellent restaurant on the premises, a warm greeting and lobby, a glass of wine, a comfortable bed and no surprises. He put all of those elements into practice in creating small, intimate places like San Francisco's Hotel Monaco, Seattle's Hotel Vintage Park and Portland's Hotel Vintage Plaza. Those were among his first properties, and now there are some 42 Kimpton hotels in 18 locations from Boston to Whistler, B.C., with nine alone in San Francisco. Nearly every one of them has a lobby that is like a cozy living room with a fireplace and complimentary wine tastings for guests every evening. The art and décor are deliberately bold and eye-catching to serve in contrast to bland, corporate hotels. I try to either stay at the Monaco every time I'm in San Francisco or stop by its Grand Café for a meal, because it is a delightful place of high ceilings, original artwork and excellent French food, and seems to focus all of the excitement and energy of the city as you walk through its doors.

Nice going, Bill. I raise a glass of your complimentary wine in your honor.

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