BY Ross von Metzke
January 12 2010 11:00 AM ET
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure—and few people know this better than Alex Calderwood. In 1999 he and friends Wade Weigel and Doug Herrick took a run-down Salvation Army halfway house in Seattle and transformed it into the Ace Hotel, which instantly became a hip boutique destination for budget-conscious travelers.
The Ace brand expanded to Portland, Ore., in 2007, and to Manhattan and Palm Springs, Calif., in 2009; the California property involved the renovation of a derelict Howard Johnson motel. “There’s a real creative challenge to taking something that’s considered a problem property and making something interesting out of it,” Calderwood says. “You wind up with these happy accidents, these quirky kind of places.”
Calderwood, Weigel, and Herrick—all gay, joined by straight partner Jack Barron in 2007—came into the hotel business with little experience. Calderwood, who’s done everything from planning events for Microsoft and Pearl Jam to opening the Rudy’s Barbershop chain in Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles with Weigel, doesn’t consider himself a hotelier but rather an entrepreneur: “We just kind of approached it with instinct. Because we didn’t have the baggage of traditional experience. We just wanted to create a space that spoke to us. We wondered, What kind of place would we and our friends like?”