Check in at the Embassy Suites St. Louis-Downtown, Where Everything Really is Waiting For You
by Julia M. Johnson
These days, planning an event isn’t just about seating people in a room and setting up a projector. It’s about creating an enjoyable experience for attendees so they feel invigorated, inspired, and eager to return. That means feeding their senses with comfortable surroundings, stimulating social interaction, and excellent food.
Missouri’s Gateway City has a new gathering place where those activities seamlessly converge – the Embassy Suites St. Louis-Downtown, a 212-room, all-suite hotel with all the perks a planner prefers. The hotel just opened in 2011, but it’s already become a go-to spot for meetings, corporate gatherings, weddings and other events. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find the property closely connected to activities and local flavor your guests will savor.
Located at the historic Laurel Building in downtown St. Louis’ $250 million, mixed-use Mercantile Exchange development, the Embassy Suites provides elegant accommodations just steps from exciting restaurants, clubs and sports venues, as well as the St. Louis Convention Center. The hotel’s 1906 structure saw past lives as a succession of department stores; now, after $140 million in renovations, it’s an easy sale for meetings of all kinds.
CHECK IN AND CHECK IT OUT
“Our hotel product is unique – it’s definitely one of the newer designs, in a historical setting,” says Wade Thompson, director of sales and marketing for the property, whose redevelopment is a joint effort of Connecticut-based Spinnaker Real Estate Partners and Hilton Worldwide. “Historical reuse is a big deal here, but this is also an oasis of modern entertainment and specialty shopping. You’re just minutes from exciting new facilities such as the Lumiere Place Casino and great new downtown dining spots.”
Of course, there’s plenty to reward the senses inside the hotel as well. Thompson describes the property’s suite and meeting décor as “contemporary and urban but comfortable, with sizable spaces and warm, rich colors.” A host of amenities such as valet parking, fitness center, business center, wireless Internet, and audio-visual services make guests feel right at home too.
Meeting planners will gravitate toward the hotel’s 3,000-square-foot Laurel Ballroom, which can be divided into three sections, and its Mercantile Room, whose 1,500 square feet can be divided in half. There’s also a comfortable executive boardroom with seating for 12. Drop-down screens and flat-screen monitors are available in these rooms.
All of these meeting spaces are located off the property’s fourth-floor, naturally lit atrium, which also can be used as a gathering area. The two-story atrium is the location for the hotel’s daily complimentary breakfasts and evening manager’s receptions, which provide excellent opportunities for meeting guests to network and socialize.
And for those who prefer to convene in more relaxed surroundings, Thompson recommends the hotel’s six 800-square-foot “executive conference king suites,” each of which features a living room area with a board table seating eight or twelve. “These are nice quiet environments, with full food service available,” he says.
Speaking of food, that’s another specialty of the house, according to Thompson. “We have some standard event menus, but we can customize meals as well,” he says. “We have ideal offerings for everything from weddings and smaller meetings to seated dinners of up to 180 guests.”
BOOK IT DOWNTOWN
Thompson says the new Embassy Suites already has become a mecca for a robust variety of meeting groups. “We’ve been hosting a lot of business events and industry associations,” he says. “We held a great Mardi Gras-themed luncheon for the International Special Events Society, and a 150-person social gathering for the Downtown St. Louis Residents Association. We’ve also hosted 40- to 60-person lunches and events for groups such as Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.”
Fashion also has found a home at the Embassy Suites. Thompson says the hotel hosted the International Interior Design Association’s 2011 UnRavel Reveal event, which included a gathering of 150 people socializing and perusing garment displays in Mercantile Exchange storefront windows.
Corporate groups find the hotel’s offerings equally enticing. “I’ve held two district meetings for about 14 people at the Embassy Suites downtown, using the board room and one of the ballrooms,” says Clay Thompson, a Lake St. Louis-based district manager for Hill’s Pet Nutrition (no relation to Wade Thompson). “I book these meetings quarterly in four different cities. The Embassy Suites in downtown St. Louis has provided the best service of any facility I’ve used. Staff members are always available, and very knowledgeable. They remember you after just a visit or two, and are very accommodating.”
As an example of the hotel’s responsiveness, Clay Thompson cites his first Embassy Suites event in early 2012, when he accidentally left an audio-visual screen at home. To his pleasant surprise, the hotel’s staff quickly provided one at no charge. In another instance, his group realized at the last minute that a different table configuration would be needed. Hotel employees adjusted the arrangement promptly, without disrupting the flow of the event.
Clay Thompson says he also appreciates the hotel staff’s commitment to clear, up-front pricing. “They never nickel and dime us, and I’ve never had a surprise show up on a meeting folio when the event is over,” he says.
THINKING OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Wade Thompson says the hotel’s ownership group considers environmental responsibility just as important a focus as the creative reuse of historic property. At press time, in fact, the owners were expecting to hear news of the hotel’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
“We are fully immersed in recycling, and have one of the newest ‘smart’ HVAC systems in our suites,” Thompson says. “There’s a combined use of door sensors and infrared sensors that tell the heating and air conditioning system when a suite is not occupied, then adjust temperatures accordingly to save energy.” The guest suites’ light fixtures are set up on common switches to conserve power, too.
Everything at the Embassy Suites comes together for the satisfaction of planners and guests, according to Thompson. The building may be a historic property, but it’s light years removed from the old-fashioned model of meeting design, where comfort and enjoyment took a back seat to business.
“This hotel,” Thompson says, “is the kind of space where even smaller groups can feel like big fish.”
Embassy Suites St. Louis-Downtown
610 North 7th Street
St. Louis MO 63101