The Perry Hotel, a new contemporary, maritime-inspired hotel near Key West on Stock Island, is a family project in every sense of the phrase.
The 100-room hotel was developed by brothers Brad and Warren Weiser, with the lobby, restaurants and public spaces designed by Brad’s daughter Blaire Weiser. It’s the first joint, ground-up development in recent years for the Weiser clan, whose history in South Florida’s hospitality industry stretches to the 1970s.
Since opening in May, The Perry, at 7001 Shrimp Road, has already drawn attention — and accolades. Architectural Digest recently listed it as one of the best-designed new hotels in the country.
So what is it about a boutique hotel built over a junkyard on a tiny, 600-acre island that has caught the attention of one of the leading authorities on design? The answer may be in the Weiser name.
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Patriarch Sherwood “Woody” Weiser brought Miami its first five-star hotel, the Grand Bay, a local haunt for celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Prince. Weiser and partner Donald Lefton built or managed at least 100 hotels across North America, the Caribbean and Mexico, as well as other well-known hotels in Miami-Dade County, such as the The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. Weiser died in 2011.
Weiser’s sons, Brad, Warren and Doug Weiser, all went into hospitality, playing key roles in their father’s business, Continental Companies. Brad Weiser also tried his hand at the restaurant sector as founder and creator of Café Tu Tu Tango, a tapas restaurant where local artists paint and display their art while guests dine.
Blaire Weiser started working at Tu Tu Tango in Coconut Grove when she was 15 as a hostess (the restaurant closed in 2008 but there is still a location in Orlando). Tapping into her grandfather’s love of the arts (Woody Weiser was a pivotal supporter of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and other local art and civic causes), Blaire Weiser went into interior design with a focus in — you guessed it — hospitality design.
Three years ago, the Weisers started discussing the possibility of building a hotel on Stock Island’s newly developed, 220-boat slip Stock Island Marina Village, the largest deep-water marina in the Florida Keys. The island itself, just east of Key West, had been growing in popularity as a development alternative to Key West, where waterfront real estate has been all but claimed, said hotel expert Max Comess, an executive at Johnson Resort Properties.
“Today, [Stock Island] is being transformed into an extension of Key West, just like how mid-beach became an extension of South Beach over the last decade,” Comess said.
But Stock Island also has its own distinct character as an industrial area home to commercial fisherman, setting it apart from the touristy gimmicks of Key West.
The Weisers hoped to tap into the area’s personality with The Perry, designing a modern two-story hotel that pays homage to the area’s fishing history but also infuses a resort feel. In the lobby, smooth wood floors are juxtaposed by concrete columns. A centerpiece made of a cluster of old, rusted propellers hangs on the wall behind the front desk. The sleek white pool chairs face the working dock.
We’ve been dying to work together for so long and when The Perry fell into [Brad Weiser’s] lap we felt it was the perfect project to work on together ... [especially] so close to home.
Blaire Weiser, interior designer, daughter of Brad Weiser and granddaughter of Woody Weiser, both hotel developers
“One thing the whole team felt when we started the process, one word we kept using was ‘authenticity,’ ” Blaire Weiser said. “I hoped that when people go to The Perry they would really feel like it fits with Stock Island. ... Instead of just going with the traditional Key West look.”
Still, the concept had to appeal to the Key West traveler — but with a Weiser touch, said Brad Weiser, principal at Hostmark Hospitality, which is in charge of the hotel’s day-to-day operations.
The private Marina and Village serves as a jumping off point for sunset tours, dive boats, kayaking, snorkeling, eco tours, paddle boarding and even cruises to Cuba in partnership with Harmony Yacht vacations. The marina also has two dog parks (the hotel is dog-friendly), a distillery and artists’ studios, a nod back to the Weisers’ long history in the arts. The work of local sculptor Daniel Seifert and local painter and photographer Leo Gullick are featured in the hotel.
The hotel plans to host a rotating exhibit of local artists, so that The Perry may be a gathering place for locals as well as tourists.
“Whether it was my father or Tu Tu Tango, we always believe in that connection to your local community and especially supporting the local artists,” Brad Weiser said.
Rooms at The Perry each have a balcony — some with an outdoor shower — with connecting room options available in some suites to accommodate large family groups. The “boat-to-table” style cuisine at the hotel’s two restaurants offers local staples like Key West pink shrimp and Key lime pie, but with a personal flair. The pie, for instance, comes in a jar with graham crackers on the side.
The property is one of about a dozen hotel projects to come on line in the Keys in recent years, said Comess, the hotel expert. Developments have included four motels that were upgraded, an RV park that was turned into a luxury resort, two new branded hotels in Marathon, the reopening of Amara Cay in Islamorada, and the grand opening of Playa Largo in Key Largo.
“The Weisers are without question among the most influential hotel developers in South Florida,” Comess said. “This development group understands firsthand the nature of the Keys and have delivered a contemporary resort with a strong sense of place in a uniquely Keys location.”
Brad, Warren and Blaire Weiser said the hotel was the final result of the combined teachings they learned from Woody Weiser in his years in the hospitality industry as well as their own decades of experience.
“We’ve been dying to work together for so long and when The Perry fell into [Brad Weiser’s] lap we felt it was the perfect project to work on together ... [especially] so close to home,” Blaire Weiser said.
One other benefit of working with your family? Telling it like it is.
“It’s funny because when you have clients that aren’t your father, you have to sugarcoat things a little bit when you are compromising,” she said. “[At The Perry], I had the ability to say, ‘No we’re are not doing that.’ ”