tucked away in a back drawing room of the greenwich hotel -- amid plush chesterfield sofas and well worn books, i met with hotelier and impeccably dressed, gregory day; at ease in his natural habitat of passing travelers and clinking trays. as the general manager of the boutique hotel, shutters on the beach in santa monica for the past five years, he has the look of a man with all the answers. and with over 20 years of experience within the hotel industry, he probably does. his passion and generosity of spirit extend far beyond the confines of the title. he lives and breathes his hotel and was personally responsible for bringing red flower to the shutters hotel experience.
red flower: how did you first get involved in the hospitality and hotel world?
gregory: i got into the business completely by accident. i had no idea what i was getting myself into, it was sort of right place at the wrong time, and it became something that consumed me, i loved it, and it's been a lot of fun.
red flower: you've been in this business a long time, what is the essence of hospitality to you?r
gregory: i think the essence of hospitality is simply to treat others how you would like to be treated. it's not a difficult business. when you think about what the hospitality business started off as, it was people renting extra room out of their homes, you know, a hundred something years ago...
red flower: the village inn.
gregory: [laughs] right, to make a little bit more money. the business model per se hasn't changed, the rooms have changed quite dramatically. you have rooms that do almost anything you want them to. but i think the essence of hospitality is to make people feel like they're home away from home.
red flower: what is your favorite part of your job?
gregory: my favorite part of my job is getting to know all the guests that stay at the hotel. i've worked at big hotels--more than 1000 rooms -- where it's impossible to do that. at shutters, with 200 rooms, it's quite easy. i have an opportunity to meet dozens of guests a week. and that's a lot of fun for me, to get to know them personally. i jokingly say that i end up being the reservationist half the time, because once they get to know you they call you and say, hey can you make a reservation for me? obviously i can easily say, let me transfer you to reservations, but it's just as easy for me to do it myself, and it just furthers my relationship with them.
red flower: you become a concierge of sorts, wearing many hats.
gregory: well, there's that old expression: jack of all trades, master of none. i might be a master of one or two, certainly not all of them. but the key to hospitality is, if you don't know the answer, find it. find a way to ultimately make the guests' experience what they want it to be.
red flower: in this business it seems like the devil's in the details. what are the little things that make such a big difference to guests when they stay here?
gregory: i think what makes a big difference to our guests is, what you get at shutters, you probably aren't going to get at too many other places. it's not just the level of detail that we get from knowing the guests by name and knowing what their preferences are, a lot of hotels do that, and do it pretty well. the thing that makes shutters so unique is that we take that to the nth degree. everything from the type of towels they're using to the type of sheets they sleep on. hotels, very good hotels, they love to put their logos on all sorts of things. we really don't logo anything. i think if you're using a good product, that product's brand name will say enough about who you are. we try to make the guest's experience as seamless as possible. and ultimately, there's the old expression, no news is good news. if we don't hear anything from our guests, that probably means things are going pretty well [laughs]. they're a very vocal group, and if something doesn't go right, believe me, i'm usually the first to get called.
red flower: you're staying at the greenwich this time around, do you always stay at this hotel when you come to new york, or is there a favorite place that you like to go to?
gregory: i almost always stay at the greenwich when i'm in new york, it's my favorite hotel in the city. i came across it truly by accident. my old regular hotel was full and they were unable to take me. then i had the opportunity to come to philip's truelove's hotel (the general manager, we've known each other for awhile), and i've really never left. i'm sure he'd like me to leave sometime [laughs]. it reminds me a lot of shutters. they do a lot of the same things here, and have a lot of the same principles. they make their guests feel very comfortable, everybody kind of knows you. new york, and to some degree, los angeles, are very pomp and circumstance cities. it's nice to be in a place where you find that balance -- where you're still treated with a great deal of respect, yet you also feel very comfortable.
red flower: as someone that's surrounded by the culinary arts every day -- what's your idea of the perfect meal? gregory: well, i like food, obviously [laughs]. i think that would depend on the day. i have a five year old, and i often look at food now through her eyes. she's never had a chicken finger or anything like that, she grew up, fortunately, as someone who has a hotelier's palette. she eats things very simply, she doesn't have any sauce on it, it's just a little bit of salt and a little bit of pepper, and off you go. and that's true whether it's steak for her, or whether it's a seafood dish. i think that's something that's pretty important for a good meal: it doesn't have to be overdone or dressed up. if it's just a really high quality piece of food that's done very well, that can be a really terrific meal. and over the last few years, that's what i've leaned to. i had dinner last night here at locanda verde, and i had a steak. it was done in a brick oven, simply salted, pepper, and a little bit of butter. there was no sauce, no huge towers of anything on top, the food spoke for itself -- and it was excellent. red flower: what talent do you most covet? gregory: the talent that i most covet is what i don't have, which is i wish i had a bit more patience for things. i think as a hotelier, you constantly want things to be perfect every time, and when you come up with these grand ideas that are going to make such a profound difference in your business, you want them to happen instantly. of course, that's just not reality. so i wish i had a bit more patience. red flower: at shutters you have your own in-house boutique called shutters beach style. are you personally involved with picking out the products for that? do you consider yourself a curator of sorts? gregory: well, i consider myself a lot of things, i'm not sure if curator is the right word. when i was hired at the hotel five years ago, my boss said something very important to me that i've never forgotten it. you can never be successful at shutters unless you live at the hotel. at first i thought i had to actually live at the hotel, which i wasn't too excited about [laughs]. but after some time i realized that ultimately what he meant was, more metaphorically, you have to think about the hotel as a guest would. so, while i try not to impose my will too strongly on one thing or another, i am absolutely the first person to raise my hand and say, i don't think that's the right product for us, or, i've seen that product in a lot of other hotels. you're not going to find something typically at our hotel that you're going to find at other places. red flower: in working with red flower, how do you think it enhances the guests' experience, and why did you choose it? gregory: i'm the first to say i'm not really much of a spa person myself, so it was really rather ironic for me to come to our spa director and team and say hey, i think i've found a spa product. and after they stopped laughing [laughs] they said, wow, this really sounds like it could be really great. the more i learned about red flower, the similarities between our two brands are so parallel, in a way it was sort of a fated thing. when i met yael, and our own mutual admiration for one another, i knew this was going be a great fit for us. i think it really benefits the guest, because the guest is going get a super high quality product that isn't readily available everywhere in every market. what beverly hills was famous for was rodeo drive, it had shops you couldn't find anywhere else. new york had shops you couldn't find anywhere else. unfortunately--and it's just the way the world works now--a lot of those shops are everywhere now, in every city in america and europe. in a way it's made things a little less special. so i'm always excited when i find a brand that is very special. red flower: do you ever find that the hotel aesthetic ever carries over into your home decor, or does your home decor also influence the hotel? gregory: [laughs] my home? well, my wife and some of her decor choices might make their way into the hotel. i consider myself a learned person. i can learn a lot of things as i go along and one of the things i've learned is that there are some really unique things that are so simple that can make such a great statement. i learned that from shutters, because it's such an elegantly simplistic hotel. a little bit like the food we were talking about earlier, we don't do a lot to dress things up. a lot of those things do carry over into my home life where we're not very big on branding at our house... red flower: sorry, i thought you said "brandy", not "branding". gregory: [laughs] no, brandy, we'll drink brandy. and brandy, the artist, we listen to all the time [laughs]. red flower: speaking of artists, the hotel features a lot of contemporary artists, you have jasper johns, william wegman, etc. do you have any artists that you personally lean towards that you like? gregory: well, i like jasper johns. one of my best friends from back in san francisco, he really got me into jasper johns. he's a unique artist. i think some of the things he does are so classic americana, i really enjoy that. if i were independently incredibly wealthy, and could have my druthers for just about anything, i'm a really big van gogh fan, i've been to a number of his expositions, but the closest i'm ever going to get is a poster from the moma. red flower: i've heard you're a fan of travel, do you have any favorite travel memories or places that you've been to? gregory: i think the first time i went to paris with my wife was a really special trip. we hadn't been married all that long, we'd been together for awhile, but only married a few years. it's just such an amazing city to go visit. it's funny, i've traveled a lot, and the majority of places i've traveled to were before i was married. but i can remember very few of those. while i can remember every place i've been to with my wife, whether it's to the corner bodega, or when to france or england. as you get older, your most treasured travel memories are with your family. red flower: speaking of family, when you're traveling or just doing business, what reminds you of home? gregory: what reminds me of home when i travel, for one, is certain smells. we've been fortunate and have lived in a lot of places. i'll be in a certain city, and just the right bread smell will remind me of a great french bakery near our house in new orleans, that will instantly take me back there. a particular bottle of wine my wife and i enjoy, if i see it on the wine list i'll order it, because i know it's something she and i would have. i'm also a big fan of pictures, and anyone who has been around me for more than a day knows that i'm the first one to whip out the iphone and show pictures of my wife and daughter to anybody who wants to see them. red flower: one of the interesting things about the hotel is the hopes and dreams button for the guests, providing these unique and catered experiences. what would be your ideal experience if you were a guest? sky's the limit. gregory: wow. i have to be careful if these things aren't available at the hotel [laughs]. i think, one of the things i look for in a hotel, whether it's mine or any place else, i just really appreciate honesty. if i ask for something and you can't do it, i'll be fine with it. just tell me. i'd much rather have that than have somebody say, yeah i'm pretty sure we can get that done for you and then an hour before the reservation, they call you and say, we can't help you. that's something that i appreciate. i know a regular john q. public doesn't appreciate it, because they want miracles performed on a daily basis. and i think that's one of the things i'm so proud about; our staff at shutters, they really care. they really take customer service to a level i've never experienced in my lifetime.