The Thompson hotelier holds forth on his ever-expanding kingdom
When Jason Pomeranc and his brothers opened 60 Thompson, the first property in their impressive Thompson Hotels portfolio, they weren’t exactly planning on world domination. More than a decade and a dozen locales later—including four more boutique spots in New York, two in Los Angeles, one in Toronto and their most recent, the Belgraves in London—Pomeranc is now looking to open doors in Miami, Chicago, Cabo San Lucas and a sixth New York location at the iconic 5 Beekman building, all within the next two years. Pomeranc recently sat down with RL to discuss the new expansion, how the Thompson sensibility may just change the geography of Lower Manhattan and his role in choosing designers, artists, bellman uniforms and more.
The Thompson LES address features furnishings by some of the greatest names in contemporary art and design
RL: A few years ago you were opening Thompson LES and now you’re taking over existing hotels—with Sutton Place in Chicago and Hotel Victor in Miami—and Thompson-izing them, if you will.
Well, it’s partly that. What we’re doing in Miami with the Victor is a renovation process to update, redesign and Thompson-ize the existing space, as you put it. We have a new property in Cabo where we’re developing a whole new resort based on a Thompson sensibility: what our guests like, how they want to go on vacation, etc.
Five Beekman must be new territory as well.
Yeah, it will be different. The 1880s-era architecture is interesting; it’s very Gotham, very old New York, and when you walk around the streets, you get it. We want to preserve the historical structure and then add in some new spaces that could have been there during its cinematic fantasy life, like shops, restaurants and a residential tower. It’s a neighborhood-changing event, and it’s amazing to be a part of it. There are a lot of great projects, but ones that change the geography of the city are particularly exciting.
“We want to have a common DNA in our hotels, but guests should have a genuine experience wherever the hotel is.”
Would you say that Thompson has a certain consciousness or signature style?
The answer is both yes and no. We want to have a common DNA in our hotels, but guests should have a genuine experience wherever the hotel is. [A hotel] should be uniquely its own, but there’s still the vibe and casual elegance that goes back to 60 Thompson.
How involved are you in choosing designers, artists or chefs?
Integrally involved, for better or worse. These things are long processes, and they put the stamp on the hotel. When we get involved, it gets very personal; it’s hard to make these choices because of a certain level of commitment.
What’s your take on the artistic curating aspect of hotels?
It’s become really important, and it’s about trying to be consistent with the personality of [your vision]. Working with emerging and historically relevant artists related to the neighborhood or design aesthetic is the real challenge. When we did the Lower East Side, we ended up collaborating with artists who had ties to the area: At some point during their careers, they all had lived there. Peter Halley did a commission for the public spaces, and Gerard Malanga completed [a photo of Warhol] for the bottom of our pool.
(left) A hallway at the Thompson Beverly Hills hotel; (right) The pool at Thompson LES features an image of Andy Warhol
What about something as basic as uniforms?
Well, I’ve always liked bellmen to be dressed a little more casual and rough. We’ve been having them wear denim, boots and peacoats in the winter, and then front-desk people are a little more chic. At 6 Columbus we have a more mod aesthetic, so the uniform with skinny black ties is reflective of 1960s style. It’s all about finding the right mood.
Is there a hotel or place you’re going to right now that you love?
It’s very hard to go to other hotels, because you analyze everything to death. For me, places like Bali, Cambodia and Thailand are really relaxing. You learn about Zen design and the ability to use space differently in remote places. That pushes the reset button for me sometimes.
Would you see your new hotels being involved in music programming?
We’ve already done some big concerts at the Roosevelt with Prince, so it’s venue-specific. In the old days Hotel Costes put out CD compilations. Today everyone has some sort of mix, and we should definitely do it, because it helps define our brand.
Do you ever want to do products?
Yeah, but we don’t want to get crazy. I’d like to do a furniture line one day. Maybe linen and bath products, too, because I’d like to give guests the ability to take our hotel lifestyle home.
It seems like the hotel lifestyle is pretty big in the media right now, too, whether it’s through reality shows or something like Magic City. Do you watch that at all?
Yeah, I do. I like it. What’s great about Magic City is that it captures a period of time and an aesthetic that I’m fascinated by. We’re all a little enamored by the 1950s and ’60s right now. Shows like Mad Men have proven it. There’s sex, big events, and all kinds of occasion for drama. With the growth of our market, there’s a natural gravitation toward these glamorous venues.
Luxurious suite at the Smyth Hotel in Tribeca; poolside lounge area at the Thompson Beverly Hills; subtle, sophisticated design at Thompson 60 in Soho; the entrance area at Gild Hall in New York
Do you think there’s a way to encapsulate or concentrate that glamour in a hotel these days?
Look, we’re much more casual and easygoing as a society. But if you want that kind of vibe, you have to want it to happen organically. If you force it, it’s not real, anyway. It’s also the environment you create. If you’re putting forth a certain kind of aesthetic—cuisine, music and backdrop—you appeal to a certain demographic and clientele. It’s good to be inclusive, but you can’t please everyone all the time. You have to hold to some degree of artistic integrity and not bend. That’s what sets Thompson hotels apart from the rest.
Michael Slenske writes regularly for RL about art and culture.
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- Images courtesy of Thompson Hotels
- (Left and right) Images courtesy of Thompson Hotels
- Images courtesy of Thompson Hotels