Boutique Design - June 2017 - 28
DETROIT FOUNDATION HOTEL
MARIO M. TRICOCI
The sTarT-up: "We don't see ourselves as disruptors. We're not effecting
change for the sake of doing so. We're more entrepreneurs, catalysts," says Tricoci.
Named for his famous father, Chicago's hair salon and spa magnate Mario
Tricoci, this former college soccer star (his prowess earned him a scholarship to
Notre Dame University) turned attorney at two of Chicago's most prestigious
firms (first, at Altheimer & Gray and later at Greenberg Taurig LLP) turned hotelier understands exactly what it means to launch and nurture a business.
In fact, he tried the family business for a year. He lived at home, put a suit on
every morning, made sure he was the first one in the office every day and the last
one to leave. He also had the lowest salary of any corporate manager. "I left
because I wasn't sure I could bring something extraordinary to the company. I
didn't want anyone to think I expected to be handed anything simply because I
was Mario Tricoci's son," he says. That's what prompted the decision to go to law
school and develop a skill set that he could see benefitting his father's enterprise.
Along the way, he focused on the real estate deal that would be developed into
the Elysian Hotel (now Waldorf Astoria Chicago), which won numerous accolades
including two Michelin stars for its restaurant. He closed the door to his law office
and hung out a new shingle as the president and managing partner of the Elysian
Hotel Group. The young entrepreneur built on that success in 2012 when, along
with Kevin Robinson (profiled on page 30), he launched the Aparium Hotel Group.
Why the world needed another hotel company: "People who regularly
travel to New York, Chicago or LA want that same type of hotel experience when
they go to Minneapolis, Milwaukee or Cincinnati. They want that lifestyle in their
community. Many secondary markets don't offer that. Kevin and I saw an opportunity to fill that void. From the outset, we decided we didn't want to go into
major markets, nor did we want to develop big-box projects that catered
primarily to the SMERF (social, military, educational, religious and fraternal)
business. And, we wanted a group of individual hotels, not a 'brand.' It would
have been a great deal easier to leverage the success of, for example, The Iron
Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, which is managed by Aparium Hotel Group, by just
reproducing it in other markets. But, that would be saying, 'Hey, Minneapolis!
This is what we're bringing.' We didn't want to force a community to choke down
boutiquedesign.com june 2017
a hotel concept from another market that wasn't authentic or indigenous to that
city. For Kevin and me, every project starts with a white board."
What designers need to know: "Adaptive reuse is tricky. The designer
needs to learn how to build out billable hours. 'Overtime' isn't always about
things we as clients are asking. There are government regulations; issues with
the buildings and problems with on-site discoveries. If they're doing a project
for us, it won't be modular; the spaces won't be the same. So they'll probably
have to do more drawings, more CA, more RFIs. We point out to firms that they
have to be realistic in making their proposed budgets or risk losing money. In
some cases, we've suggested building out the original budget to make sure the
designer can deliver the work and still be fairly compensated."
How to get off the short list fast: "Don't suggest another green wall. Don't
put a shot of an Edison bulb on your vision board. Don't show us something's
that been on Pinterest. Everyone's seen that 4 million times. And, above all, don't
try to sell us a pet idea. Designers fall in love with certain things they want to
bring to a project. They want to find a place where they fit those round pegs into
square holes. They're so enchanted with their idea that they're not thinking about
what our project requires. We're open to new concepts, but when a designer tries
to push through a preconceived notion, that's challenging."
When designers should stand their ground: "When it supports the story.
We're not always right, for sure. If you can tell us what something supports the
hotel's story, we'll listen. Maybe that green wall is there because the hotel is next to
a botanical garden. Or maybe it creates oxygenation that energizes the lobby. Make
us think. Reframe a concept to help us understand. Challenge us with the 'why.'
That also applies to answering RFPs. We were looking for a small design firm
for our project in Des Moines, Iowa. We met with Staci Patton (principal, hospitality interior designer at DLR Group's Minneapolis office and a 2017 Boutique 18
honoree) at BDwest this year. She really rolled up her sleeves to convince us that,
while DLR Group may be big, its 40-person design staff works like a boutique
studio. She showed us a deep understanding of the community and the building
and their respective importance, then showed us concepts that flowed from
that-which demonstrated to us why we should give DLR serious consideration."
C O U R T E S Y O F A PA R I U M H O T E L G R O U P ( D E T R O I T F O U N DAT I O N H O T E L , T R I C O C I )
Mario M. Tricoci | co-founder and ceo | apariuM HoTel Group | cHicaGo