With new amenities, J House staff hope more visitors check in to the boutique hotel and more nearby residents check it out.
The four-year-old hotel on East Putnam Avenue in Greenwich’s Riverside neighborhood has repurposed spaces to compete in the luxury hotel market and attract members of the community, General Manager Laura Gillis said.
This summer, the hotel has renovated the former cleaning staff headquarters into a three-room spa, slated to open Aug. 31, and turned its signature chocolate laboratory into a new coffee bar. Both are available to guests and the public.
“It’s really going to go hand in hand,” Gillis said of the spa and cafe.
The hotel is also renovating standard rooms into a 1,651-square-foot presidential suite and a 1,149-square-foot ambassador suite. The attached suites include a bedroom, living room, kitchenette, 10-seat table and two private patios. The room will be available for overnight guests, businesses meetings or private events.
Business travelers, families and community members already come to the hotel for its conference rooms, outdoor pool — day passes are available to the public — and J House Restaurant, formerly known as eleven14 Kitchen.
Ginny Kozlowski, executive director of the Connecticut Lodging Association based in New Haven, said J House, along with other boutique hotels that occupy smaller spaces, are trying to fill needs in their market and engage the community.
“Hotel trends, at this point, are starting to move toward being a part of a community, not just a place where people come in and stay and then leave,” she said. “They want to be a place where the community comes together for social events and also where businesses come for meetings, conferences and retreats.”
Luxury hotels near J House include the Hyatt Regency at 1800 E. Putnam Ave. in Old Greenwich and the waterfront Delamar Greenwich Harbor on Steamboat Road in Greenwich. These hotels also offer business services, spas and on-site restaurants. Delamar guests have been known to arrive via yacht at the hotel’s docks, while the Hyatt Regency’s atrium is a football field of water courses and tropical wonders.
Danielle Cervi, an esthetician and the full-time director of the J House spa since June, said she has known the owners of the hotel for a few years and suggested they open a spa about a year ago. They finalized the decision last winter after the holidays.
In the past, J House has had to outsource spa services like massages to a hotel in Stamford — to which it would then have to shuttle guests — or bring someone in on-call, she said.
“There’s probably no better amenity for a luxury property than a spa,” Gillis said. “People come for an experience.”
Cervi said clients will follow her to the spa, as she worked as an esthetician at Partners Salon and Spa in Riverside for 10 years, then managed the spa at the Equinox Greenwich club for four and a half years.
“The need in the community is there,” Cervi said. “There aren’t that many spas even though we’re in Greenwich.”
The 600-square-foot J House Spa includes a reception area with retail; three treatment rooms equipped with memory foam, hydraulic beds; and a private bathroom with a shower. It offers massages, facials — including a Hydra Facial done with a $30,000 machine — body scrubs and wraps, makeup, waxing and eyelash tinting.
Cervi will bring on 13 staff members, one of whom is full time. A Manhattan-based eye lash extension expert will come in for appointments once a month.
Cervi said guests and her own existing clients, mostly mothers, will frequent the spa. With later hours on weekdays to cater to business people, Cervi envisions guests returning to the hotel after a meeting, eating dinner, then heading to the spa for an evening massage.
Gillis said the spa will work in tandem with the coffee bar’s healthy options, which include Intelligentsia coffee, loose leaf tea, juices, smoothies and fresh, light meals. Homemade sushi will soon be on the menu. Clients can come in for a spa service, then grab something to go, or eat in the seating area. Cafe items will also be an option for guests to order from room service if they arrive after the kitchen closes.
Gillis said the staff decided to change the “esoteric” chocolate lab, created under the former executive chef, François Kwaku-Dongo, when he left for another job last year. The chef has his own chocolate company and made traditional dark chocolate. Gillis said, while Kwaku-Dongo spent time educating customers, they mostly preferred milk chocolate and the lab was not profitable.
According to Connor Horton, a J House chef, the coffee bar had its soft opening this summer, during which time the chefs experimented, gauging how people reacted to menu items. He said the staff is still finalizing the menu, which will launch in the fall.
“We’re trying to figure out what works before we really push it,” Horton said.
As for the chocolate lab, it is gone but not forgotten. Gillis said the staff is considering which sweet element to add to the cafe menu. She said staff is also contemplating moving the continental breakfast from the restaurant dining area to the high table in the center of the cafe. That way, guests can upgrade their meal with cafe purchases, like a croissant or a cappuccino.
“It’s a great way to consolidate a revenue center and maximize it,” Gillis said.