“A lot of the time your hotel check-in is the first impression a traveler gets,” says Julie Schwartzenberger, one-third of the familial trio that owns Atlantic Beach’s Hotel Palms. To her point, if a visitor’s first impression of the 904 is the minimal, bohemian lobby of Hotel Palms–or better yet, if that visitor happens to be checking-in while the Palms is hosting a concert, a food or coffee pop-up, or any iteration of one of its curated cultural gatherings–their stay in Northeast Florida will be one they don’t soon forget.
In just three years since retrofitting a formerly austere motor court on Sherry Drive, Julie, along with her husband Greg and his sister Stevan Brown, have established the Palms as a destination for locals and visitors alike. With unique murals by surf-y artists like Ty WIlliams, Jason Woodside, and Ozzie Wright, the addition of a weekend coffee bar, and Thursday “Unlikely Local” happy hours, the hotel now fills several voids for residents of the beaches—cultural, gastronomic, etc. Meanwhile, for visitors to Northeast Florida, the Palms stands as a distinctive portal to the best the region has to offer.
We asked Greg, Julie, and Stevan to talk more about what makes boutique motels and the 904 number one in their hearts.
Does a great region need great boutique motels? Why or why or not?
Greg: In short, we say yes. Boutique motels are driven by design and experience, and when done correctly, should reflect the local vernacular. We strive to give our guests who stay with us the feeling that a resident of the community feels by living here. This is the same type of accommodation we look for when we are traveling.
Julie: A lot of times your hotel check-in is the first impression a traveler gets of an area. It gives our guests an authentic taste of what’s to come as they explore our area.
Greg: The secret is to give the guests exactly what they are looking for even if they can’t articulate that themselves. It’s a feeling or an emotion. Then they leave inspired. We couldn’t think of a better way to showcase a community and local culture.
Stevan: Boutique hotels drive community. Look at the ACE Hotel in New York and Portland; their combination of hospitality and coffee culture transformed hotel lobbies into communal work spaces.
What’s the best part about running a hotel in Northeast Florida?
Greg: Combining my lifestyle and my work seamlessly. Meeting new people everyday; everyone has a story. Also, telling our guests the story of our community and about the history of Northeast Florida.
Julie: I agree with Greg on the seamless integration of our work life into our day-to-day lifestyle. Also, seeing our guests inspired and enjoying a space that we spent many months envisioning and creating gives me such joy. When our guests experience The Hotel Palms, they are meeting a little piece of us.
Stevan: Bringing a passion for the boutique hotel industry to our local community and always looking for new ways to generate brand awareness locally, and nationally.
Why host music and art and pop-up food/beverage events at a hotel? In other words, why weren’t you satisfied with simply renting rooms to vacationers and stay-cationers?
Greg: It’s all layers of a cake. We want to get better every day and that morphs throughout many different contexts. We are so passionate and grateful for what we get to do and the opportunity to use the hotel as a platform for artists and creatives to offer their craft and talents to both our guests and the community seemed natural. It also goes back to offering an experience. Our community is very warm and welcoming to visitors, and mixing guests and locals just adds to the adventure.
Aliens have come to earth and are threatening to destroy the 904. As our chosen ambassadors, you must convince these hostile invaders that our region is worth preserving. You get two sentences. Go!
Greg: You get the family rate at The Hotel Palms, and we will throw in a Show Pigeon coffee and a new tee and hat.
If you had a magic wand and could use it to give the 904 one thing that it’s currently missing, what would that be?
Greg: A new concert venue at the beach.
Julie: A comedy cellar with legit acts.
Stevan: Turtle Island Market [defunct Neptune Beach vegetarian grocer]. I wish they would bring it back!
Here are the complete results of our #1 in the 904 Business and Services poll
Apartment / Condo Complex
SOLA Luxury Apartments
Bait and Tackle Shop
Bed and Breakfast
Biggest Heart – Charitable Person
Beaches Car Wash
Cell Phone Repair
10,000 Cell Phones
Lutheran Social Services
Happy Cat Electric
Rob Lassetter – Happy Cat Electric
Ashley Hanna (Titanium Yoga)
Estate Sale Company
Old Cool Toys
The Glass Factory
Congaree & Penn
Dan Abel – Abel Wealth Management
Home Builder, Contractor
HVAC Company (Heat & A/C)
Brightway Insurance Ponte Vedra
Katie Little – Allstate
Sabrina Kuruvilla – Three Oaks Law
Bank of England Mortgage
Mortgage Loan Officer
Beaches Go Green
Perdue Office Interiors
Pet Day Care
Physical Therapy Company
Place to work
Sweeney Remodeling & Reconstruction
Real Estate Agency
Real Estate Professional
Amy Terry-Bartlett w/ Watson Realty
Safe Ride Home
Jax Swagger Wagon
J. Riley Williams PLC
Tie: Forever Vets, Beaches Animal Clinic
Yard Services/Lawn Care