When 440 seniors graduated last week from Langley High School in McLean, quite a few grandparents came to town.
But the families who’d been planning to put them up at the new Staybridge Hotel in the central business center were in for a surprise.
“We are sold out. We have no rooms available,” said Cathy Peck, director of sales, early in the week before Langley’s graduation.
So much for the local “buzz” that the hotel, which opened last October in the aftermath of Sept. 11, isn’t filling up.
Government groups, training programs, and people being relocated are keeping the hotel’s 143 rooms occupied, Peck said.
What’s come as a surprise to the hotel staff, as well as community observers, is the Staybridge’s popularity as what Peck terms “the in-law hotel.”
“We have a lot of local traffic for bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings and christenings, Peck said.
Typically, in the hotel business, the weekends are the “down time.” But the Staybridge’s family atmosphere, suites with two bedrooms, and walking proximity to downtown McLean have kept it occupied then, too.
“It is very much like a bed and breakfast. We have a wedding [party] here now,” Peck said.
Other clients include people who are renovating their homes who need a place to stay; retirees who just want to live in McLean during the summer. Some people are moving in, and want to stay while they are house-hunting.
“If they are going to live here, for the Langley and McLean Schools, they can start or finish here,” she said. That includes diplomats who are assigned to Washington and bring their families to live in McLean.
“You can stay a day, or you can stay a year,” said Peck. “We don’t have a restaurant and we don’t have room service.
“We understand that if that is what you want, the Hilton [McLean] and the Ritz [Carlton] are perfect for you.
“But if that’s not what you want, then maybe you’d like this,” she said.
The rates are “tiered” according to the length of stay. A one-bedroom, at the center of the price range, rents for $139 for 30 or more nights, and $159 for one to four nights.
There are several other hotels in Tysons Corner, including the Doubleday, Marriott, Westpark and Sheraton Premiere on Route 7, and Marriott Courtyard and Holiday Inn on International Drive. Many offer lower weekend rates, when business travelers aren’t using the hotels.
But the Staybridge is the only hotel in the central business center of McLean, where you can walk to restaurants, park concerts, a library, a Little League field, dry cleaners, and Starbucks.
You can do your own laundry with no quarters required. The washers and dryers are complimentary.
Also complimentary: breakfast every day, including hot scrambled eggs, French toast and sausage.
Other “comps” include the business center, with computers, Internet access, and printers; local telephone calls, and the “sundowner” light dinner on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
It includes beer, soda and a light dinner.
There’s a patio with a gas grill, available to patrons. Some of the rooms have sliding glass doors that open to the patio.
The lobby doesn’t feel like a lobby. It feels like a family room. Even on a Code Red day in June, it’s welcoming to see the glass-walled, see-through fireplace that presents itself as guests turn from the registration desk to enter the hotel.
The room has an oversized television set, where guests gathered at all hours to watch the United States compete in the World Cup, and adjoins a game room with tables and chairs where children can read books from the bookshelf, play Monopoly, watch a Disney video, or do their homework.
For an extra fee, guests can bring their pets.
One couple uses the room to hold a cocktail reception for a World War II Air Force reunion.
“It’s your living room,” said Peck. “You can use it.”
Off the family room is a game room, a kitchen area with an all-day coffee pot, and a room with a large table for business meetings. There are four computers for guests in the hotel’s business center, all with Internet connections.
Upstairs, on the guest floors, there are locked, walk-in closets off the hallways for storage, so visitors aren’t surrounded by luggage during their stay.
The guest rooms have large windows, separate bedrooms, and kitchens with refrigerators, microwaves, and cooking counters. There are three televisions in the two-bedroom units.
They are decorated in muted colors like green and brown, nothing bright or garish.
“YOU HAVE TO GET IN THE MINDSET of the traveler,” said Peck. “It’s a hard life. They’re tired. They just don’t want any hassles. They are looking for that something that’s like home.
“They can walk out my front door and walk to the Giant or the CVS,” she said.
People who like the Staybridge tend to return, said Peck. “They check in on Monday, check out Friday, and come back in” the next Monday, she said.
“It’s not just ‘heads and beds’ to us,” Peck said. “We have a very intimate staff. They get to know their likes and dislikes. They like that.”
The staff gets to know the likes and dislikes of its regular clients.
“If we don’t have a one-bedroom with a king bed, we’ll find one,” Peck said.
“The staff is the same. They get to know the guests, and the guests get to know them.”
Local Ownership Pays Attention to Detail
<bt>Although it’s under local ownership, the Staybridge is franchised by Holiday Inns.
McLean Hotels, LLC, the owner, is operated by Grand Duke Hotels, LLC. Locally, the owners are known. Bob Oremland, the managing partner, managed a hotel in Crystal City for some 30 years, Peck said.
He brought several long-time staff members with him to McLean. “They came here not knowing if [the hotel] would go or not go,” she said, an indication of their deep faith in Oremland.
Steven Pence, another owner, and Bob Pence are also owners; his son, Brian, is a 1995 graduate of The Potomac School in McLean who earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Tulane University and a Master’s in hotel management from Virginia Tech.
“We’re really busy,” said Brian Pence, who works at the front desk. “We opened at a slow time in the entire industry. But the word got around.
“The citizens of McLean started using the hotel. Once they’ve stayed here, they return,” he said.
The Staybridge is the first manifestation of the revitalization plan for downtown McLean.
It brought to fruition the concept of a main street parallel and south of Old Dominion Drive that would transect the existing parking lot of the Giant grocery.
At the other end is Civic Place, where a development of 170 townhomes and condominiums is proposed along with some retail stores on the ground floor.
Both ends of Main Street were intended to encourage pedestrians to linger downtown after dark, walking to shops and restaurants.
Outdoor events were proposed for a small park at Civic Place, on the east end of Main Street.