Peter Lawrence, principal owner, the Wythe Hotel

How a visionary in the hospitality business launched Brooklyn's first boutique hotel and helped shape a famous neighborhood

Peter Lawrence, principal owner of the Wythe Hotel (Photo by Kate Engelbecht)

In the first episode of our series, we spoke with Peter Lawrence, the principal owner of Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel. The 70-room former cooperage opened its doors in 2012 as Brooklyn’s first boutique hotel and has since been part of Williamsburg’s transformation into a global destination. At the time he launched his plan a decade ago, Brooklyn was just beginning to emerge as a destination celebrated for its art, culture and entrepreneurship. “Brooklyn had long deserved a hotel that really reflected its energy and spirit, so we started searching for a building,” Lawrence told From Day One, “and we found that beautiful building in what was the edge of the world at that time in Williamsburg.”

Lawrence tells how his project survived the financial crisis of 2008, stalling for two years, and about the importance of his partnership with restaurateur Andrew Tarlow and real-estate developer Jed Walentas, both pivotal players in the Brooklyn business world. And he pulls back the curtain on the hotel’s coolness factor:  “As soon as you start talking about it, it’s not cool. [That’s] the only secret recipe that I know. As soon as you’re discussing like, how to make whatever word you want to use–cool or hip or trendy or of the moment–then you’re inevitably somehow going to miss the mark, I think. There’s all sorts of consultants cringing as I say that, I know. The only way I know how to do it is to make a real place. And that’s all about the people that you gather around you to build the thing, and open the thing and be there every day and share their curiosity and interest with the rest of the humans that walk in the front door.” Join us for an intriguing conversation with one of Brooklyn’s business pioneers. –By Kim Thornton