FORT LAUDERDALE, FL—When you think about intimate boutique hotels in beachy Floridian cities, sausage is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But for the Gzella Collection—which has three boutique properties here and a fourth in the works—sausage is where it got its start.
More than 30 years ago, Miroslaw Gzella and his wife opened a sausage/meat production center and retail space in Poland with a mission: to create a unique and high-quality experience that exceeds customer expectations. Now, the company has more than 200 delicatessens and Gzella’s daughter, Marta Gzella-Plata, has translated that mission to boutique hotels. Along with her husband, Pawel Plata, she started the Gzella Collection.
According to Plata, Fort Lauderdale held a Goldilocks-style appeal for the couple. “Miami is well-known worldwide. Everyone knows it, everyone wants to be there, but when you show up in Miami, it’s a very loud city with a young generation—everybody wants to party,” the co-founder said. Similarly, West Palm Beach “is very calm,” but skews older, he noted, adding, “Fort Lauderdale is something in between. When we came here, we found the peace and the vibe very family-friendly. It’s very close to the beach. The city is very charming, especially where we have the hotels. I think the city brings a great vibe and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. We see people around the world traveling to our hotels, and this is what we love about Fort Lauderdale.”
The collection recently opened Fala Hotel, following the 35-key Fortuna Hotel and 24-key Ikona Hotel in 2016. All three are located near Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Water Taxi on the Intercoastal Waterway. Fortuna offers a mid-century modern style, while the Ikona Hotel—designed by Hotel Impossible’s Blanche Garcia—has a sleeker feel. And, for its part, Fala—which underwent a renovation designed to restore key exterior features of the 1950s architecture while modernizing the interior design with new amenities—is meant to appeal to business travelers.
“The Fala Hotel used to be known as Seville Motel. We purchased this in 2013, then we changed the name to Seville Hotel & Apartments,” Plata explained, noting that at the time, there was huge demand for vacation rentals and extended-stay. “With the market developing and changing, we found the need to renovate it. It had never been renovated since it opened in the 1950s. We renovated from scratch. We changed the whole interior of the rooms, with new tiles, new bathrooms, new a/c system and new design. It’s more contemporary, modern, and also beach-friendly.” For instance, wood floors weren’t installed. Instead, tiles were used to mitigate issues with sand.
The hotel has a variety of room types, including 15 king- and queen-sized rooms, four studios with a kitchen, four apartment-style suites and a penthouse, with access to modern furnishings and fully equipped kitchenettes with refrigerator, microwave, cooking utensils and Keurig coffeemaker. The three-story hotel overlooks a community-friendly courtyard and outdoor spaces.
The hotel does not have a swimming pool, but it is located between two large branded hotels—one a Westin and the other a Ritz-Carlton. Plata noted that the branded hotels naturally attract a lot of business travelers due to the conferences held on property—and Fala is a good option for conference goers who want a more intimate experience. “After the renovation, we added it to the Gzella Collection because we want to have product for everybody, from people who want to pay a little more for more exclusive, to people who don’t need a swimming pool—for example, business travelers who just want to come for conferences and who don’t need amenities like a swimming pool because they’re concentrated on business. They’re coming just to spend the night.”
Next up for the collection will be the Mirra Hotel, which is currently under construction and—if the permit process allows—is expected to open first quarter of next year. “The Mirra is going to be somewhere in between Ikona and Fortuna,” Plata said, calling the style modern and contemporary. The hotel will also have both a swimming pool and a restaurant, “so it’s going to be a great spot for families that they can enjoy the swimming pool in a closed environment for the kids. Sometimes, the oceanfront properties are more expensive and families just want a day of rest in the pool area.” Mirra will also have similar amenities to Gzella’s other properties, such as Nespresso coffeemakers.
But, Plata said, what sets the collection apart is personalized service. “The whole story behind the Gzella Collection is people can meet the owners and creators of our collection because I’m on the property most of the time. I love to greet guests, talk to them and get personal feedback, and give them recommendations for restaurants or for the entertainment in the city. People love it. People love to talk to the owners.”
While ramping up Fala and getting Mirra up and running will be the company’s focus for now, Plata said the collection is definitely interested in growth. “Once the brand is recognized and growing in the environment of boutique hotels, we are very open for new investments and hotels around the states,” he said, adding that location would be the number-one priority.
“Definitely it has to be in an environment that attracts tourists coming and enjoying their vacation,” he explained, noting that properties should be true boutique hotels. “People are looking for something different. They really want to feel private, feel in a closed environment, and this kind of property we’re anticipating to invest in… We created this product that has a mission to be not only unique but to exceed customer expectations with a closed vibe and small properties so they can feel like they’re at home.” HB