Blue Flag Capital On Designing The Future Of Soulful Hospitality
How do you classify a company that’s not just in the luxury hospitality game, but setting out to change its rules? As a sector shaker-upper? A pathfinder? Putting labels aside, Boston’s own Blue Flag Capital is truly proving its mettle. In under a decade, the firm has rapidly climbed the ranks in the realms of real estate private equity and development. It’s carved out a corner for itself as a creator of unrivaled boutique hotel experiences in some of the most sought-after urban vacation spots in the U.S. At the forefront of their portfolio is the acclaimed Faraway Hotels, boasting two fanciful locations with more in the pipeline, along with a selection of restaurant ventures. These establishments stand as a testament to Blue Flag’s skill in crafting havens of luxury, individuality, and strong community ties. To truly appreciate Blue Flag’s expertise, one can visit the Faraway Hotels in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard—and soon, also. be able to witness Blue Flag take on the wild allure of Jackson Hole with a high-profile project set to further illustrate their innovative impact on the landscape of upscale boutique hospitality.
Switching gears to a not-so-distant past, Blue Flag was just budding in influence within niche market sectors. Fast forward to today, and it stands as a frontrunner in modern hospitality. At the wheel of this evolution is CEO Jason Brown, who’s navigated Blue Flag down the road less beaten, infusing each venture with stories that echo the local essence. Brown explains, “Ultimately, this balance is something we have prioritized in the past and will continue to do so going forward as we expand to new markets. It is one centered on stewardship, with a long-term view whereby we are focused on both the asset itself as well as the market that we are in.” This mindset underscores Blue Flag’s pledge to create properties that are not just spaces, but experiences in harmony with their environment.
Blue Flag’s upcoming overhaul of Snake River Lodge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, stands as a testament to its core principles. “Jackson Hole was a no-brainer for us,” Brown points out. “It’s right in our sweet spot: secluded, upscale resorts that are already favorites for locals and tourists alike.” Over the next few months, Brown and his crew plan to dive deep into collaboration with local experts and the Teton Village community. This move marks a departure from typical quick-fix renovations. Their aim? To inject fresh ideas into upscale hospitality, lining up with Jackson Hole and Teton Village’s forward-thinking outlook. Blue Flag is all about creating experiences that are both groundbreaking and in perfect sync with their settings.
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The success of Blue Flag Capital in redefining the hospitality experience is largely due to the design prowess of Chief Design Officer Brad Guidi, whose approach is deeply intertwined with each location’s unique narrative and emotional essence. Guidi remarks, “Inspiration at first sight is crucial for any property we consider. We seek a certain indescribable spark in each location.”
This approach honors the historical essence of properties while steering them towards a new trajectory. Take, for example, Blue Flag’s debut with the Faraway property in Nantucket. Here, they breathed new life into not one, but four historic downtown buildings in 2021. This success was followed by their 2023 launch in Martha’s Vineyard, revamping The Kelley House, a legendary tavern dating back to 1742. Guidi adds, “Most of the properties we buy have been owned by the same family for generations and over the years there has been inconsistent renovations to upkeep the properties. Our process involves stripping back to basics and letting the property’s true character lead the way. I like to think we are creators of experiences. Long after you check out of our hotels you should remember it for how it made you feel. If it does, we did our job.”
The ideal has become more commonplace. Industry veterans have spotted a major shift in the boutique hotel sector in the decades following the 1990s, with more big players and new banking views marked by shorter investment periods—as a result, encouraging Blue Flag to dig deeper into characterful, individual properties and their ties with the local area. To those in the know, these principles are similar to those enshrined by Soho House, which is celebrated for its skillful blending of properties into the heart of communities and cultures. Guidi elaborates, “For example, Soho House goes deep into the building and the surrounding community when thinking through design, experiences, and what the best mix of their overall brand and the local touches should be. As do we.” This profound attention to detail and dedication to local authenticity distinguishes Blue Flag in the fiercely competitive urban vacation market. The philosophy transcends mere space creation; it’s about weaving an experience that is intrinsically interlaced with the local environment, ensuring each property is not just a place to stay but a destination that resonates with its setting. “We often say, ‘the experience is the souvenir’—and we mean it.”
Stepping up its game, Blue Flag Capital is set to expand its market reach with a hefty $450 million joint venture with Bain Capital Real Estate, announced in November 2023. They’re targeting top-notch resort markets with strong growth and demand for cutting-edge luxury boutique brands. Jared Melnik, Managing Director at Bain Capital Real Estate highlights the synergy of this partnership: “This is a compelling opportunity to invest and develop high-quality hospitality properties in some of the most in-demand destinations across the country.” This alliance is rooted in a deep understanding of hospitality and consumer real estate, focusing on markets with solid basics and high entry barriers. This move marks a strategic leap for Blue Flag, blending their creative vision with Bain Capital’s financial expertise to redefine luxury hospitality, setting new standards in guest experience.
Looking ahead, Brown envisions Blue Flag as a key player in rejuvenating complex properties in standout markets, bringing fresh innovation. “We’re pushing the envelope, always aiming to offer something new to our guests,” he states. “We want to be known as reliable partners, exceptional people, and responsible investors in our communities and properties.” For Brown, this is the essence of heartfelt hospitality.