In a previous post, I talked about a new boutique hotel in Philadelphia – Lokal. I had a chance to jump on the phone with Chad Ludeman, the co-founder of Lokal about the inspiration and lessons learned building the boutique hotel.

Lokal’s Grand Opening

The Old City location was hopping for the grand opening and exceeded Chad’s expectations. 500-600 people showed up causing them to hire a bouncer to keep things contained. It’s one of those nice problems to have. Too many people looking through a new boutique hotel.

In less than six weeks, the hotel has received well over 100 bookings. And so far, guests are enjoying the invisible service with little employee and guest interactions.

Lokal hotel

Inside each room is a field guide to Philadelphia. Chad wanted something distinct from your average Google search or Yelp page. Instead, it’s 150+ recommendations to get you familiar with Philly as only a local can.

Business Model

The similarities to Airbnb are obvious, and Chad mentioned in our conversation he wanted to model Lokal after the Airbnb managers. He saw owners of multiple properties easily manage them without adding additional overhead costs in employees, etc.

That’s where the idea of invisible service was born. It’s equal parts better profit margin, and a lot of travelers don’t need to have staff on hand at every moment.

Lokal’s Beginnings

Chad and his wife Courtney always wanted to start their own business. His light bulb moment came ten years ago when he took his love of real estate and architecture. Their business was born. Notice the ten years ago? Chad and Courtney started a real estate business during the housing crash.

Lucky for boutique hotel lovers, it all worked out. Chad credits Courtney for making sure the ventures make money. He comes up with the idea; she makes sure it gets into the black.

While the duo had experience with their other company, Postgreen, Lokal was a new challenge for them. The building in Old City was historic and had enough water and fire damage to make even the most hardened HGTV dreamer blush.

Then there was the Philadelphia historic commission permitting process. Ever known a government office to work with speed? Imagine a day at the DMV and then add the worst migraine ever. That’s permitting a historic building for renovations into a hotel.

Both areas blew through their initial budget, and Chad’s key lesson there are future projects will be budgeted accordingly. Thankfully, it all ended well, and the hotel is open for business.

Lokal’s interiors are courtesy of Chad working with the Jersey Ice Cream Company. Cool name and even better design work. Most of the pieces seen inside Lokal were either sourced directly from Jersey’s warehouse or found by their team. Once you get lost on the company’s website, you’ll want to remodel your home.

Beyond Lokal

With over 100 bookings and solid reviews, Chad and Courtney are already looking to the next project. Permitting for the Fishtown location is underway, and Chad expects it to open by the end of the year.

Currently, the couple wants to have 3-4 buildings in Philadelphia. I asked if there were plans to expand beyond the city, and while Chad wants that to happen, the team is focused on Lokal and the future buildings in Philadelphia.

Hey, it gives us an excuse to visit Philadelphia. Didn’t really need one, but at least I know I can stay Lokal.

Special thanks to Chad for battling a wicked cold and jumping on the phone with me. Photo credits – Rocco Avalone.

Gear. TV. Movies. Lifestyle. Photography. Yeah, I’m the type who sees a shiny object and is immediately captivated. Wait... There’s another. You can reach me at marcus@newsledge.com

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