The Chestnut Hill Hotel

by Paula M. Riley

In 2007, Lock Haven natives Ron and Abby Pete purchased the Chestnut Hill Hotel and Farmers’ Market (recently renamed “Market”) property. Their plan was to turn the 36-room hotel into an upscale boutique hotel.

After a total renovation of the hotel’s interior and exterior, the hotel portion of the project is complete. No stone was left unturned.

A self-proclaimed anal retentive guy, Ron Pete has overseen every detail of the renovation and is a constant presence on the property.

“We wanted to make something that we could be proud of,” he said. “What we didn’t realize was how much the community would appreciate what we did.”

From the new lobby to the fitness center, in each building and hallway in between, the Chestnut Hill Hotel has been completely transformed. Guests register in the eclectic lobby that has replaced floral wallpapers and homey décor with rich paint colors, zebra-print chairs and avant garde light fixtures.

Rooms now feature new furniture, beds, Simmons pillow-top mattresses, mini-fridge, totally renovated bathrooms with electric makeup mirrors, heated towel bars, heated mirrors to prevent steam from forming and, arriving later this month, brand new 300-thread count linens

The main hotel building hosts rooms on the second and third floors and other options are available in the adjacent buildings. Above the Post Office are five long-term-stay studios complete with kitchenettes, designed in a mid-century modern theme.

The “Carriage House,” the building hosting Jonathan’s Best Gourmet Foods, has four hotel rooms on the second floor.

As this building once served as an actual carriage house, the original carriage lift remains in the building, and the Petes have incorporated this into the design. Rustic décor and fireplaces create a great ambiance. Wedding parties often use all four rooms and the building’s common area during wedding weekend celebrations.

The Bombay Room, a gathering space adjacent to the lobby, hosts meetings, engagement parties and bridal showers for 40 sit-down dinners. During the mornings, hotel guests enjoy continental breakfast there, served on china with fruit, waffles, pastries and freshly squeezed orange juice.

“China at breakfast – this is what it means to be an upscale boutique hotel,” said Pete. “We want to be the nicest boutique hotel in Philadelphia.”

To achieve this, Pete explains, the service must be excellent as well. He praises his manager Tardu Last Name? and front house staff, saying each one acts as a concierge – calling guests by name and assisting with every need. Pete is a bit obsessed with service. While giving a tour for this story, he stopped a housekeeping staff member to show him the correct method of fluffing and positioning of bed pillows.

Most recently, the exterior of the entire property at 8223-8229 Germantown Ave., was repainted. This includes all the buildings owned by the the hotel: the Chestnut Hill Grill & Sidewalk Café (leased to Greg Welsh), the Post Office, King’s Garden, Jonathan’s Best, the Market and Follicles Hair. Pete consulted local interior designer and historical society member Patricia Marian Cove to choose colors that would maintain the buildings’ historical significance and blend with the community corridor.

“We had to choose a palate that worked with all the buildings but maintained each building’s originality,” Cove said. “We picked colors so that the architectural pieces on the hotel became the facade colors of the other buildings. When you look at the entire complex, each is different but all are coordinated and related.”

Residents stop Pete to tell him how much they love the colors as well as the new windows, shutters and balcony added to the building.

In the spring of 2013, even more is coming. Bardea, a brick oven pizza and wine bar, will occupy the first floor space that was once occupied by The Melting Pot, and new windows will be added to the wall facing Southampton Avenue.

In addition, a complete renovation of the open space between the buildings will be done in time for spring’s warm weather. Working with community members and James Morrissey Design, the Petes plan to create a community gathering space connecting the Avenue to the Market. They hope to make the walkway a promenade featuring open space, seating, a water feature, flowers and anything else the community would like to see.

“Please, give us an idea of what you want to use this space for and we’ll see if we can do it,” Pete said. “We want it to be a welcoming destination for people from Chestnut Hill and across Philadelphia.”

Community members are invited to participate in a naming contest for this space by submitting ideas to Chestnut Hill Business Association, Chestnut Hill Community Association and the Market by Friday, Nov. 16. One participant picked randomly will win a two-night stay at the hotel, dinner for two at Chestnut Hill Grill and a complimentary Market basket. The winner will be be announced Saturday, Nov. 17.

Pete anxiously awaits these submissions with the same excitement he has maintained throughout the entire renovation. Seeing his and Abby’s vision unfolding is thrilling for him.

“The other day somebody told me that the hotel brings ‘a little bit of New York’ to Chestnut Hill,” he said grinning widely. “Now that is a real compliment.”

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