A downtown Charleston hotel has traded its corporate label for an all-local image to better compete with the swarm of boutique hotels heading into the city.
The King Charles Inn parted ways with the Best Western in November after 30 years with the corporate chain to rebrand itself as an independent operation.
Local management group Charlestowne Hotels Inc, has owned the 91-room hotel at Meeting and Hassell streets since 1980. It's undergone many renovations over the years, but its latest update is perhaps the most dramatic yet.
"We enjoyed our association with Best Western and thought that they were a good partner, but there came a time when we decided that this particular property was better off as an independent hotel," said Everett Smith, CEO of Charlestowne Hotels.
It took nearly eight years and $10 million to create a new image for what was once a standardized hotel.
The King Charles Inn now has a keen focus on locally inspired details, which is a key feature for many boutique hotels.
The tented awning at the entrance has been replaced by a wrought-iron marquee designed by David Thompson, the architect behind upscale restaurants such as The Ordinary and Fish.
The two-level lobby has a completely new look, with refinished wood floors and updated decor by local designers Haute Design.
The paintings on the wall showcase Lowcountry artists. The tables are locally made with reclaimed wood from Hampton Park.
And then there's BREW, the cafe featuring a new, full bar. Two years ago, guests would order drinks from a small booth in a corner of the lobby.
The hotel also has a luxury-grade price tag. An average night's stay costs about $415.
"I'm not sure we would have made those changes if we had been a Best Western," Smith said.
Boutique hotels, which emphasize local designs and personalized experiences, have emerged as a top trend in the hospitality industry in recent years. More travelers now prefer unique getaways to predictable, "cookie cutter" lodgings, Smith said.
The move away from the Best Western brand will help the hotel compete with its new nearby competitors. They include the neighboring Kessler Collection's Grand Bohemian Hotel, a $30 million, 50-room lodging that's expected to open next door in about a year.
"The recent enhancements to the property highlight the distinctive qualities that visitors to the area are seeking, and allow us to compete with some of the finest hotels in the city," said Maureen Sheridan, general manager of King Charles Inn.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail