Inside the New Yowie Hotel in Philadelphia

Inside the New Yowie Hotel in Philadelphia

When she was growing up, Shannon Maldonado wanted to be a fashion designer.

After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Ms. Maldonado spent a decade on design teams for several brands in New York, including Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and American Eagle. But by the time she was in her 30s, Ms. Maldonado said, she had become disinterested in her career.

While traveling around the world for work, he loved hunting for unconventional souvenirs in hotel gift shops (his first purchase was a ceramic pen holder speckled in Japan). She wondered what it would be like to have a selection of such items for shops in Ace or Standard hotels.

In 2015, Ms. Maldonado, now 39, recalled asking, “What if I started a trendy gift shop?”

Soon after, she launched a website, yovi, which sold household items such as porcelain cups and bowls. (When considering names for the website, Yovi, an australian word synonymous with yeti or bigfoot, emerged as a favorite and stuck.) Ms. Maldonado soon quit her job at American Eagle to focus on the business. She moved to her native Philadelphia, where she hosted a series of Yowie pop-up shops before settling on a small store in the Queen’s Village neighborhood.

Recently, it relocated the store again, to a much larger space on the ground floor of a new Yovi Hotel Designed and co-owned by Ms. Maldonado. The hotel is set to open in Philadelphia this summer.

“My dream was to be associated with a hotel,” she said. “I had no idea this would be my hotel.”

The 13-room Yowie Hotel, which will also feature a cafe, was originally two row houses on South Street near the Delaware River that have been combined. On a warm day in February, Ms. Maldonado stood in a sunlit corner room between two bay windows as she scrolled through her design plan for the unfinished space, pointing out that the custom side Where will the tables, colorful rugs and artwork go?

Ms. Maldonado describes her style as minimal but comfortable, with an emphasis on color. The hotel’s furnishings mix furniture from Bludot, Hay and other brands with pieces from emerging manufacturers, many of which are local. It’s a strategy that’s also on display at the Yovi Shop, where bold houseware from lines like Dusen Dusen and Fredericks & Mae sit alongside handmade ceramic bowls and planters.

Naj Austin, who hired Ms. Maldonado to design a co-working space in Brooklyn (now closed), said her aesthetic is approachable and attainable. “It allows the person to bring it into their own home, and it seems possible,” said Ms. Austin, founder of the networking website Somewhere Good.

At the Yovi Hotel, it will be possible to bring home items chosen by Ms. Maldonado: if guests are prompted to purchase a mug in their room, or the table on which it is placed, they may purchase the item from the Yovi store or directly from the manufacturer. Can Nearly all of the hotel’s decor is identifiable through the in-room catalog, including the fringed Llot Llov light fixtures and Sherwin Williams “Denim” blue paint in the hallways.

Everett Abitbol, ​​42, a partner at the hotel, met Ms Maldonado in 2017 at a Yowie pop-up shop. he was passing by and he saw a ceramic nike sneaker In the Window by artist Brock DeBoer. After buying three, Mr. Abitbol went to the Yovi website.

“What she was showing online didn’t exist in Philly at the time,” he said.

Mr. Abitbol, ​​a developer, later asked Ms. Maldonado to help him decorate the property that he had listed on Airbnb. After that, Mr. Abitbol and Bill Wessel, a contractor in Philadelphia, brought him into another project: rebuilding the city. Historical First African Baptist Church to be called a hotel and event space deacon,

Ms. Maldonado didn’t design the interior for a space of that scale. But Mr Abiteboul said he could see she had a vision for the project.

The Deacon opened in 2019. Ms. Maldonado kept some original details from the old church, including the stained glass windows and the Gothic arches, which she painted gold trim. She filled her eight bedrooms with modern furniture, books, and plants, and designed a bathroom using black-and-white basket-weave tile and halftone-printed wallpaper featuring Julius Erving, the former Philadelphia 76ers player who was best known for his career. Doctor. J.

In late 2020, after Ms. Maldonado, Mr. Wessel, Mr. Abitbol and his wife, Valerie Abitbol, ​​launched another project – a boutique hotel in Rhode Island called dye house – Mr. Abitbol and Ms. Maldonado were at the Yovi Shop discussing what the team might do next. He said the answer was clear to him: a Yowie hotel.

Yovi Store had by then become a destination covered by design websites, national magazines and including local publications Philadelphia Magazine,

Yovi gained more attention in 2020, amid that year’s Black Lives Matter protests. Ms Maldonado, who is black, put up posters in her window expressing solidarity with the protesters wrote about the House Beautiful experience, Later, the store was featured on lists of Black-owned businesses and its Instagram followers included celebrities such as actresses Julianne Moore and Alison Brie.

Olivia Kim, senior vice president of creative merchandising at Nordstrom, also discovered Yovi through Instagram. Ms. Kim sent Ms. Maldonado a DM after seeing the shop’s post in her feed. “I remember refreshing, refreshing, refreshing,” Ms. Kim said of waiting for Ms. Maldonado to respond. She did, and that conversation eventually led to Yowie pop-up shops in Nordstrom stores.

“I thought what Shannon was doing with Yovi was reminiscent of when we started the opening ceremony,” Ms. Kim said, referring to the fashion company. “It feels inclusive. It feels multidimensional.

Heather Hanowitz, a Vice President and Senior Lending Officer PIDC, a public-private economic development group in Philadelphia that provided funding for the Yowie Hotel, met with Ms. Maldonado in 2020. “We loved his story,” Ms. Hanowitz said. “We loved that she was coming back to Philadelphia to reinvest in the community she grew up in.”

“My team, when we were introduced to Shannon, really felt like we were working with a local celebrity,” Ms. Hanowitz said.

Mr. Abiteboul said that as word began to spread about the Yovi Hotel’s location on South Street, some people were surprised that its owners had chosen that area. Last June, three people were killed in a mass shooting on a street where shops and restaurants had already closed due to rising rents and the pandemic lockdown.

But since the 1970s, South Street has been home to galleries, sneaker and streetwear stores, vintage shops, restaurants, bars, and many other local businesses. Ms. Maldonado, who grew up nearby, used to roam the street as a teen, grabbing cheese fries at Ishqbible’s, checking out folk art at Eye’s Gallery or visiting the punk boutique Zipperhead.

“When I was a kid it was a really cool, quirky, vibrant corridor, and I love coming here,” Ms Maldonado said, adding that she is proud to have brought Yovi to a street History of Black-Owned Businesses, Earlier this year, Ms. Maldonado joined the board of the South Street Headhouse District, a business improvement group, for which she works on projects to connect entrepreneurs with vacant storefronts in the area and make South Street more pedestrian-friendly. are working

“Some people see the problems,” said Robert Perry, owner of Tattoo Mom, a popular South Street bar. “She sees potential.”

To convert the ranchhouse into the Yowie Hotel, Ms. Maldonado had the 1970s vinyl siding removed from the bay windows and cornices, restored Victorian details and painted the exterior steel gray. At the suggestion of Mr. Wessel, yellow light fixtures similar to the Yovi logo were installed to illuminate the façade.

The cafe, Vim, is next to the Yowie store; A gate connects the two spaces so that people can move between them without entering the hotel.

The rooms, which start between $229 and $548 a night, each have different furnishings and distinct personalities: a yowie “Fern Alley”-inspired modernism in the other.

Most rooms have kitchenettes with stone counters, where guests can cook with caraway pots and pans provided. In the bathroom, the walls are covered with matte pool tiles in shades of pistachio green, dusty purple, cobalt blue and yellow.

When decorating the hotel, Ms. Maldonado first turned to some of the Yowie store vendors, such as ceramic artist Sarah Acua Todd, to create the furniture. Ms. Todd, who specializes in tableware, was commissioned to design a funky lavender clay table for one of the rooms.

In April, before the hotel opened, Ms. Maldonado closed the original Yowie store. Its last days were emotional, she said, as customers stopped by to wish her well with the next chapter of the business.

“This place brought so many great people into my life,” Ms. Maldonado said. “I can’t believe I made it, and it means so much to people.”

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