Gwenn never thought she would be in the hotel business. With a degree from Brown in Literature and History she always dreamed of being a writer. In fact, writing has been a constant throughout her career, which began as a copywriter at a Boston advertising agency. But life never goes strictly according to plan and when she met her husband, his entrepreneurial zeal was infectious. They combined forces to operate the passenger railroad that Mark had founded on Cape Cod in the 1980’s as well as a resort community on Martha’s Vineyard begun by his parents.
Their love of travel lead them to build a full service beach resort on South Beach in Edgartown in 2000. Gwenn reflects on their first foray into the full-service hotel business, “ We knew what we liked when we went traveling with our young family and knew how hard it was to find. We wanted a place where we could relax and they could have fun too. Nothing fussy but also really nice.”
Gwenn decided to return to graduate school and got a masters in Gender Studies ten years after The Winnetu, their first hotel was built.
“I have always been interested in women’s lives and their stories. I wanted to get a deeper understanding of these issues and decided to do that by returning to school” At the same time, Gwenn started a blog on her site Tick-Talker.com where she humorously describes being the oldest student in class and the challenge of dusting off her academic brain. Just when school was getting almost too hard a new and fun project entered her life.
“We bought a hotel on Nantucket that we had our eyes on for a couple of years. The timing however of closing the deal and opening the hotel before the summer turned into a wild ride.”
Gwenn withdrew from school and began the most intense and creative 184 days of her life. Every day she was making hundreds of decisions with no time to back pedal.
“My days were spent in a maelstrom of details. For example, it was 3:30 pm and I was on Newbury Street in Boston looking at possible art selections for the hotel. It was so much fun to see and dream about where some of the work might hang. Suddenly my reverie was interrupted when my cell phone rang. One of our designers called to tell me we had one hour to select a new exterior color for the building.
Why only an hour? All of a sudden it was either, patch and paint the existing color or choose a new color for the entire hotel. I pushed the images on the canvases in front of me out of my mind trying to visualize the now green building changing to Newport Blue, Quaker Gray, Nantucket Gray or Main Street Yellow. The gallery owner was staring at me. I took a deep breath, promised to call back in a few, walked out of the gallery and made the decision.
I had to make hundreds of instant decisions as we were on countdown to get the hotel open on time. Who is going to do the finish millwork? What mattress is best, which brand of shampoo, conditioner, body wash do we want? What size bottle? What shape bottle do we want to sell the products in the gift shop? What color lettering do we want on the bottles? Who is going to make the bathrobes? Micro-fiber or Terry? How many do we need? Have we ordered swim goggles? What should the sign say for the cafe? Sankaty Cafe or Sankaty’s Cafe?
Bow tie or skinny tie for the waitstaff? Chuck Taylor’s or Sperry Tennis shoes? Ipads for the hostess or regular reservation book?
Every day with at least 100 people working, it was a veritable beehive. I was forced to walk under three different ladders to get around the workman. That didn’t make me happy. It was an amazing experience to be part of something so concrete (no pun intended).”
The hotel opened July 3rd, on schedule, much to everyone’s surprise.
Gwenn says that instead of a village it took an island to make this possible. In the lobby hangs a picture taken in May. In it are about 200 workers standing inside the unfinished swimming pool. Each is wearing a T-shirt designed by Gwenn that reads “I Survived” on the front and on the back “Building the Nantucket Hotel, 184 days,60 bedrooms, 5 floors,2 pools,2 bars,1 restaurant and one mechanical whale.”
Amazing! She really did it!