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Ryan Hurley 
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Re: “Durham’s new boutique hotels are selling the past. What do they say about the present?

To all those concerned at INDY Week,

Brian Howe’s editorial take down of one of our city’s new boutique hotels in INDY Week's The View From Below was a heart wrenching read. Howe pits one new hotel against another, and with myopia like Fox News catapults to a conclusion that the newer one is classist, retrograde and anathema to the Durham it seeks to embody. Careening through complex social terrain with alluring prose and no journalistic substance, this gifted wordsmith is felled by a lazy, harmful critique that masquerades as civic contribution.

Helmed by local partners, the newer hotel is a made-from-scratch, no-economies-of-scale, specialty enterprise. Born just two months ago, it’s barely crawling and its signature restaurant has yet to open, so it’s more than curious that the INDY thought it prime time to inspect it and hold it to account for its ‘community living room’ ambitions, which Howe stuffs with his own sanctimony about all that ambition should mean.

If he had written a review a few paragraphs long with his can-you-believe-it reflections on the hotel’s ‘tense waiters’, late to arrive drinks and ‘flawed systems’ – repeat all systems are not yet a go at this hotel – that would’ve been cynical enough yet soon forgotten. However, Howe throws a long ball diatribe and connects the hotel, its aesthetic, service, drink prices and overall experience to ‘the patriarchal mad men era when men of consequence looked down on the world untroubled by their supremacy’. Wow, what a whopper. And this piece with its searing title was the INDY’s cover story. How many thousands of Triangle residents consumed its divisive, reductive message?

You would think Howe was referring to a global hotel syndicate that demolished one of Durham’s historic buildings, replaced it with penny pinched, pompous, overly designed crap, and infused it with lifeless automatons and vacuous luxury all to suck out as much money as possible from our community and send it to its shareholders and c-suite fat cats.

But not this hotel, it’s headed by in-town entrepreneurs who have put their capital, careers and asses on the line to honor an historic mid-century downtown building, revitalize it with new beauty – a costly, arduous affair – re-open it as a hotel and rooftop bar, and do their damndest to serve first-time hotel guests and the public alike while getting their ground floor restaurant open. It’s a restaurant that will surely dedicate itself to elevating organic, sustainable food to new heights considering its chef. She is someone who has done so much to add to our region’s vibrant culture, creating meaningful jobs and careers, and delectable, inspiring experiences at her thirteen year old, award-winning restaurant. And yet Howe filets her and her partners for not delivering on their vision of making their hotel/restaurant a community gathering place. Forget for a moment that the restaurant isn’t even opened yet, Howe clips the ‘community living room’ quote by the restaurateur from another publication and inserts it out of context in his piece as a gotcha device used to sum up his sweeping analysis that this hotel is not for the community, in all caps.

The folks behind this hotel have dared greatly. We are so fortunate to have them expressing their talents and taking risks in Durham, and to have so many others here just like them. Passionate, conscientious, small business owners daring to create authentic, uplifting experiences that are an antidote to the ones the banal food, retail and hotel chains offer everywhere today.

Operating one of these specialty businesses in a small market without scale is a precarious, labor of love. Luckily, Durham’s progressive entrepreneurs have more and more people working tirelessly by their side who are committed to learning a craft and helping fulfill worthy visions. These owners and employees have played an enormous role in revitalizing our downtown and making a name for it. No doubt, the servers and hotel staff cited in Howe’s piece are among them.

The qualities of the people of our city that make all of us fortunate don’t stop there. In community meetings that I attend, with others from different classes and races, I am always uplifted and encouraged that by and large we all share similar values and vision for Durham’s future. We want the Bull City to be a more fully realized version of its open, diverse, scrappy, start-up self while maintaining affordability and overcoming its challenges. The question is always how do we make that happen, not should we.

We need the INDY to fulfill its own mission to ‘effect progress in the stories we tell,’ as its new editor recently affirmed. We need Mr. Howe to use his clear talent to provoke honest, informed conversations, illuminate thorny, complex issues, help us understand one another better, and work through the nuances of our self and community interests to create the Durham we all want. We live among exceptionally generous, talented and hard working people. We can do this.

Finally, let’s be clear, BOTH hotels in Howe’s piece have contributed extraordinary value to our city. Together, they make it far more interesting, culturally rich and economically vibrant. They attract out-of-town guests that support our local restaurant, retail and businesses, creating a virtuous cycle that hopefully with continued dialogue and honest debate will enable our city to be an even better, more animated version of its self.

Ryan Hurley
Co-owner, Vert & Vogue

Brightleaf Square & Five Points locations
Downtown Durham | 919-251-8537
6x winner Best Women's Boutique, INDY Week
4x winner Best Men's Clothing, INDY Week

39 likes, 19 dislikes
Posted by Ryan Hurley on 09/14/2015 at 2:51 PM

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