Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants operates under a simple philosophy for its guests and staff: Stay Human.
“We want our employees to be themselves,’’ said Megan Coccitto, director sales and marketing at the five-hotel, Kimpton Key West (FL.) Collection. “If they are good employees – even have tattoos and piercings – that’s fine. We want our guests to feel comfortable, too.
“Key West’s saying is, ‘One human family.’ We’re accepting of everybody. And Kimpton, as a company, is open-minded. So, this is a great combination.’’
That Kimpton philosophy goes with the Key West lifestyle like “conch’’ and “fritters.’’ Perhaps nowhere else in the U.S. is a place as accepting of individual freedoms and lifestyles as Key West. After all, we’re talking about an island famous for six-toed cats; where roosters roam free; and that less than 40 years ago attempted to succeed from the union (complete with cannon fire) and establish the “Conch Republic.’’
Key West natives (yes, they do exist) are particularly proud of that final fact. And truth be told, a few are quietly sad it didn’t happen.
But times change. The quiet, laid-back ‘80s Key West, dotted by mom-and-pop hotels, has given way to brand-name hotels. To be certain, Key West still has a fierce and colorful independent streak, but hotel brands such as Kimpton are helping Key West create an entirely new tourist scene, while paying homage to the Conch Republic’s history and heritage.
The Key West Collection is Kimpton’s first foray into the Florida Keys, although the company has several other properties in South Florida, including Angler’s South Beach, EPIC in Miami, Kimpton Palomar South Beach and Kimpton Surfcomber on South Beach.
The Kimpton Goodland Hotel, a 96-room boutique property, opened this past April in Fort Lauderdale.
Angler’s South Beach and the Kimpton Key West Collection share some history as Angler’s was said to be a favorite Miami haunt of Ernest Hemingway, who made Key West his home.
The Kimpton/Key West combination began in 2018 when the former acquired the five hotels – then known as Historic Key West Inns – for a reported $109 million. Kimpton, which in 2015 became part of InterContinental Hotels Group, renovated and re-named each of the properties in the Key West Collection.
Spread across six blocks, no two rooms in the Collection’s 219 total keys are the same. Kimpton Key West debuted its new look and feel with the completed renovations of Winslow’s Bungalows on March 1, 2020, followed by Lighthouse Hotel (adjacent to the Key West Lighthouse and Hemingway House) on June 1, 2020.
Ridley House opened this past March, marking the official completion of the Kimpton Key West Collection. Elia’s Cottages and Fitch Lodge round out the Collection and cement Kimpton’s footprint on Key West.
Elia’s Cottages has 22 guest rooms, which blend cottage charm with historic character, thanks to each unit’s front-porch seating, secluded pool and communal terrace.
With its 44 guest rooms, Fitch Lodge – close to the Key West Ferry and deep seas fishing charter boats – is the most value-driven of the Collection.
None of the five properties are far from Key West’s more famous attractions (and saloons) and each has easy access to the Duval Loop, a free hop-on, hop-off bus service that makes 18 stops around the Old Town district. It’s an ideal way to get to know the highlights of Key West for future reference, and an easy way to get from one Kimpton Key West hotel to another.
“We can market (each hotel) the same or market them differently,’’ Coccitto said. “I try to market them more independently. Three of the properties don’t have bars and three have less than 25 rooms – more like bed and breakfasts. So, we try to break them out as to what each traveler might like.’’
Ridley House, for example, features 23 guestrooms spread across three historic homes – two Victorian and one Bahamian Eyebrow. Located on a corner of Old Town Key West near Duval Street, Ridley House – known for its picket fences and private porches – sits on the grounds of what was once the estate of 19th-century industrialist Richard Kemp, a merchant and furniture dealer who is also known for launching Key West’s sponging industry.
By contrast, Winslow’s Bungalow’s, with 85 guestrooms, is the Collection’s largest property. Immaculately landscaped and serene despite being only two blocks off of Duval Street, Winslow’s Bungalows is the Collection’s most popular property, mainly because of its bar and three private pools. The hammocks are great for afternoon naps before hitting the Duval Street nightlife.
“This is the first (Kimpton) project with the five hotels,’’ Coccitto said. “We’re Kimpton, but very different. We fit in with the culture of Key West. We have a twist – and it’s a good twist.’’
On Key West, there is no other kind.