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TRAVEL - INTERVIEW

Interview with Santiago Leon, General Manager at The Robey Chicago

When you go to Chicago, if you want to stay in a historic building from the 1920s in the Wicker Park District, your choice may be The Robey Chicago. I talked with Santiago Leon about The Robey Chicago.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

TRAVEL - INTERVIEW

by Melisa Kaya

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The history of the building that hosts The Robey dates back to 1929. You can see an extraordinary Chicago view from the rooftop of The Robey. Belgian designers Nicolas Schuybroek Architects and Marc Merckx have combined the historic office building with today's design touch to create The Robey. With its elaborately decorated 89 rooms, Café Robey, Cabana Club, and The Up Room, The Robey offers a different accommodation experience in Chicago. I talked with Santiago Leon, General Manager at The Robey Chicago, about his career, The Robey, and Chicago.

Santiago Leon, General Manager at The Robey Chicago

Santiago, before talking about The Robey, could you tell us about yourself?

Santiago Leon, General Manager at The Robey Chicago

I am originally from Mexico City, but have I have been moving back and forth from one country to the other since I was born. I started in the hospitality industry as a busboy and server at a casual concept in Downtown Dallas 21 years ago. I loved the fun environment and high energy and I became “addicted” to the industry. I worked my way up from a server, bartender, assistant manager, restaurant general manager, hotel F&B manager, and director and finally hotel general manager. I’ve managed everything from small cafeterias to corporate restaurants, five-star hotels, and several boutique hotels as well as directing the operations of some of the top restaurants in the world both in the U.S. and Mexico. I moved from New York to Chicago to open and manage The Robey back in June 2016. I fell in love with the hotel and the city. After moving cities over 10 times, I think it’s safe to say I have found the perfect place to reside.

I am very passionate about people (customers and employees) and I enjoy designing strategies to improve the guest’s experience and making businesses more profitable. I love being outdoors and enjoy snowboarding, scuba diving, and sailing but my favorite activity is spending time with my two great kids (ages 2 and 5) and my wife.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago Roof - Photo by Adrian Gaut

Could you tell us about The Robey and the overall concept?

Perched high above the big intersection of Damen, Milwaukee and North Avenues in an Art Deco masterpiece formerly known as the Northwest Tower - stretching 203-feet tall and the only skyscraper for miles - The Robey captures the storied spirit of Chicago: a bustling, ever-changing, big-shouldered town.

Taking its name from Robey Street, the north-south artery that would become Damen Avenue, it was the team’s objective from the start to honor the skyscraper’s renowned past while bringing a fresh, new perspective to the 89-room hotel. Originally designed by the firm of Perkins, Chatten, & Hammond as an office building in 1929, each of the hotel's rooms, lobby and roof spaces were transformed by Belgian design duo Nicolas Schuybroek Architects and Marc Merckx Interiors.

They began by combining two historic buildings with two very distinct styles. The first contains Tower Rooms, as well as a lobby and roof spaces. In the second building, the adjoining former Hollander Fireproof Warehouse, The Robey offers 20 multi-bed Annex Loft rooms and a multifunctional hall. Built in 1905, the industrial-style space is infused with boutique finishes and custom-designed furniture brought to life by DELORDINAIRE architects. With 180-degree views of the city skyline, including tree-lined streets and the steel girders of L train stops, The Robey welcomes guests to experience Chicago in a completely new context: where today's design meets yesterday's daring, with a little something always happening at night.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago Corner Suite - Photo by Adrian Gaut

What kind of different rooms and suites do you offer to your guests? Could you tell us about their features and design details?

The Robey is an 89-room hotel.

Tower Rooms:

- Landmark Queen: 235 sq. ft. room including a queen-sized bed and intimate seating area. Room has southern views of Wicker Park and Bucktown’s tree lined streets or Chicago’s Elevated train.

- Urban King: 330 sq. ft. room featuring a king-sized bed and sofa for additional seating. Boasts southern views of the iconic city skyline.

- Corner Suite: 390 sq. ft. suite featuring a king-sized bed, double vanity, sitting area, and work desk. Offers sweeping views of the city.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago Panorama Suite - Photo by Adrian Gaut

- Panorama Suite: 675 sq. ft. top-floor suite including a king-sized bed, double vanity, comfortable sitting area, work desk and living room with a private bar. Boasts 180-degree views of the Chicago skyline.

Annex Lofts:

- Double Queen Loft: 370 sq. ft including 2 queen-sized beds, extra bench seating, ample space, and a work desk. This northwest facing room brings in midday natural light and has streetscape views of North and Milwaukee Avenues.

- Queen + Twin Loft: 260-315 sq. ft including a queen-sized bed and 1 lofted twin bed, and a Satara easy chair for extra seating. This room has streetscape views of Milwaukee Avenue or North Avenue.

- Queen + Bunk Loft: 320-420 sq. ft. including a queen-sized bed and 1 set of twin bunks, extra seating, plus a desk or accent table and chair for work or reading. This northwest facing room brings in midday natural light and has streetscape views of North and Milwaukee Avenues.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago Queen - Photo by Adrian Gaut

Hotel Amenities:
- In-Room Dining
- Pool
- Complimentary bikes to rent
- Complimentary coffee served in the lobby from 5am-9am; coffee and homemade cookies available from 4pm-8pm

In-Room Amenities:
- Personal care amenities from Le Labo
- 400-thread count sheets
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth-enabled sound systems in each room with personal media streaming
- Waterworks bath fixtures
- Custom made terrazzo tiles
- Bold accents of oxide red and Calcutta marble tabletops designed for work or dining

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago Café Robey - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey is host to Café Robey. Could you tell us about Café Robey and Chef Kevin McAllister?

Located at the crossroads of Wicker Park and Bucktown’s spirited big intersection, Café Robey is always easy, but never simple. The elevated Midwest menus (brunch and dinner) by chef Kevin McAllister rotate seasonally and feature a community of local farms. Café Robey’s food and beverage menus are sophisticated, yet accessible. The restaurant’s 62-seat space is refined and relaxed. Showcasing a series of glass walls, which organically draws in the natural light and energetic streetscape of Milwaukee and North Avenues, the dining room is a blend of form and function with its open kitchen and double height ceilings. The atmosphere is approachable, and the service is polished and personable.

McAllister’s deep appreciation for food stemmed from his first job as a dishwasher in high school. Captivated by the energy he found in the kitchen, McAllister received a degree in Culinary Arts and has since held roles in many kitchens including Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, Trump Hotel Chicago and Michelin-starred North Pond in Lincoln Park.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago Lounge Boardroom - Photo by Adrian Gaut

What are the privileges that you offer to companies that want to organize their meetings and events in The Robey?

Undivided and unlimited commitment to guest’s satisfaction. We are not a cookie cutter kind of place. We listen to our customers' needs and offer privileges according to their needs or requirements. If it’s do-able we will do it while being generous.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago The Up Room - Photo by Adrian Gaut

How could your guests spend time at The Robey?

Guests can enjoy their time lounging in the beautiful rooms, sipping on a coffee, cocktail or savoring a light bite in The Lounge, enjoying the pool at Cabana Club in the warmer months or taking in some of the city’s best views with a specialty cocktail in hand at The Up Room.

Our guests can experience sophisticated food and beverage menus of Café Robey.

The Lounge, just upstairs from Café Robey, is the perfect place to order an espresso or a round of drinks with friends. Hotel guests and Wicker Park neighbors can plug in and log on with complimentary Wi-Fi or kick back when the workday is done.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago Cabana - Photo by Adrian Gaut

Cabana Club (6th Floor). The urban oasis features a rooftop pool and bar, as well as sweeping 180-degree views of the Chicago skyline. Visitors can relax with fun, chef-driven frozen cocktails and food while soaking up the sun. Cabana Club is open to all—because with 180-degree views of the skyline, they just couldn't keep it all to themselves. The Cabana Club is open from May through September.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago The Up Room - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Up Room (13th Floor), rooftop bar and lounge, is the Cabana Club’s more sophisticated sister. The intimate venue offers refined specialty cocktails and wine with indoor seating and a terrace showcasing breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline. The Up Room is open year round.

The Robey Hall hosts a wide range of private events in all of their restaurants, lounges and rooftop spaces. An ideal venue for private cocktail parties, meetings, get-togethers, company parties, brunches, and private dinners; The Robey Hall offers a unique event setting. All food and drinks are created in house by the hotel’s culinary and beverage team. All of The Robey’s spaces are available for private events. For inquiries, email contact@therobey.com.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago Corner Suite - Photo by Adrian Gaut

Do you have any advantage packs or loyalty program that you offer to your regular and long-term guests?

Yes, we are affiliated to Design Hotels, which is part of the Starwood portfolio. This means you can earn and redeem SPG points at The Robey. Recently, Marriot acquired Starwood and we now participate with Marriot Rewards Program which is the best and broadest loyalty program in the industry.

How can travelers make their individual or business/group reservations?

On the website or via phone.

What are the most famous attractions near you?

The 606, shops in Wicker Park, Logan Square neighborhood.

The Robey Chicago - Photo by Adrian Gaut

The Robey Chicago Roof Cityscape - Photo by Adrian Gaut

If you have only one weekend in Chicago as a first-time visitor, in this limited time, what are the best things to do?

Lakeshore Drive running path, The Bean, Magnificent Mile/Michigan Avenue shopping, Gold Coast, Navy Pier.

How do you describe Chicago in one sentence?

I see it as the girl friend who wasn’t the best looking, nor the most fun but had all the virtues of a great partner you want to grow old with. New York would be the beautiful girl that treats you like crap.

Anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked?

When are you visiting?

As soon as possible :) Thank you Santiago for this enjoyable interview.

For more information, please visit the website of The Robey Chicago





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