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(Photo: Lark Hotels)

The Boutique Hotel Brand You Should Have on Your Radar

SmarterTravel

Founded in 2012, boutique-hotel brand Lark Hotels has 18 properties, mainly in New England, but with two in California. I got the chance to catch up with CEO, Rob Blood, and Chief Inspiration Officer, Dawn Hagin, to talk about what makes this still-young brand unique.

ST: Tell me something interesting about yourselves.

DH: “While I love living near the ocean, lakes are where my heart is and where I feel most relaxed. Whether kayaking in quiet waters or wakeboarding (which I’m proud to be pretty good at!) in the less quiet waters.”

RB: “My favorite place to spend time in our hotels is in the laundry room. Besides the therapy from repetition of folding sheets and towels, it’s a place where I can really put my finger on the pulse of a property by keeping open ears in the back of house.”

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ST: What gap in the market do you think you fill?

DH: “We like to say we target the ‘top of the middle’—not luxury, not cheap chic—but the sweet spot where folks feel indulged but are not paying an arm and a leg. Our focus is on an individual brand and distinctive interior design that embraces that brand, as well as modern amenities.”

ST: What sets the brand apart from other mid-scale boutique brands?

DH: “The touches of mischief you find at our hotels, which tie into each property’s distinct brand and the overarching Lark Hotels brand, really set us apart.”

RB: “I believe our service style is a defining characteristic of our brand. We hire great people with real personality and ask them to deliver authentic service with no pretense. No sirs or madams at Lark Hotels. We want real, genuine people to be part of the stay experience.”

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ST: What inspires you for new properties?

DH: “The location is almost always the first step. Then, finding really cool properties that are located in ‘heart-of-town’ spots in iconic destinations, but which need renovation. Rob is brilliant at sniffing these out. When it comes time to come up with a concept, name and brand, I let the property and the destination speak to me. I get inspiration from a different nugget of history (for example, Salem’s shipping and trading history, which inspired The Merchant), or the activities of the area (like our Stowe, Vermont, property Field Guide), or a unique spin on what the area is already known for (our Newport hotel, Gilded, and Oak Bluffs property, Summercamp, are great examples of this).”

ST: How do you pick new locations for properties?

DH: “We target iconic vacation destinations that are either fully realized or up-and-coming. We have a particular affinity for the coasts, but also hope to find unique opportunities in other areas of the country.”

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ST: How do you think the digital age is impacting travelers’ expectations of traditional hotels?

DH: “Wi-Fi must be spot-on and must enable guests to stream content, not just browse. The website and booking process must work seamlessly on mobile, and some of our amenities that cater to the digital era—Smart TVs, onsite iPads loaded with area information, our partnership with an e-book company—really help to set us apart. In addition, having a strong presence on social media, which can be followed at #onalark, and developing relationships with social media influencers is a vital way to market the hotels and the brand.”

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ST: What are your favorite properties?

DH: “I really don’t have a favorite. I love them all for different reasons! I do have a favorite room right now though. The Lark Suite at Blue is simply one of a kind.”

RB: “I am in love with all of them! In the fall, I love to be in Stowe, Vermont, at Field Guide or in Napa staying at White House for crush. This summer I’ve spent a lot of time on the Vineyard at Summercamp, which is so FUN, and at The Christopher. I was just out at Blue, Inn on the Beach on Plum Island the other day, and I really can’t think of another place on the New England Coast where the natural setting is so spectacular.”

ST: What’s next for Lark?

DH: “We are opening The Hotel Salem, which will be our second property in Salem, Massachusetts, next summer. Located in the site of a former downtown ‘anchor’ department store, the brand and design of the hotel will embrace that particular history and the vibe of the early mid-century era (1950s and early 1960s) when these anchor stores where in their heyday in New England.”

RB: “We are also actively scouting southern locations right now. While we are not done with New England by any stretch, we feel that we’re ready to expand our footprint into other regions of the country as well.”

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi stayed at Summercamp courtesy of Lark Hotels. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for more advice on travel hacks and destination ideas.

(Photos: Lark Hotels) 

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