Nestled in the heart of East London, next to Hackney's Dalston Junction, the Avo Hotel is an independently owned boutique family run hotel. What really sets the Avo apart is its emphasis on giving their guests an exceptional service, as well as their focus on the environment and eco-friendliness. The family work hard to support Dalston's burgeoning community and flourishing local businesses, and having lived there for many years, they are truly part of the fabric that makes up this nuanced area of London. #VillageLondon caught up with Sunny Kotecha to discuss the evolution of Dalston and what makes their patch of London unique.
Tell us a bit about what you do.
We have a family-run boutique hotel in Dalston. We try and be a little unique with little touches - things like pay-as-you-go mobile phones we loan to guests, and reusable eco-friendly water bottles they are encouraged to take out during the day while sightseeing. Being a small hotel we can also give guests personal attention - in the past we've taken jazz musicians to eat South Indian dosas and even given lifts in the rain to others!
How did it all start/where did you learn your trade?
My dad, Nar Kotecha grew up in a small motel in a tiny Indian village and it had always been his dream to run his own hotel. When the flavour of Dalston began to change he saw the opportunity to take his shot! Everything we've done we pretty much learned ourselves step by step as we didn't have the budget for hiring experts.
What was the process of setting up a hotel?
The process was complicated as we had to get council permission, design the plans and build the extra floor needed during a rough winter. None of us are professionals in the trade so figuring out how to create the website and set up an online presence was as important as sourcing design elements and physical materials for the hotel.
How is business?
We opened before the Olympics and were in a position to see East London bloom. Funnily enough, we weren't busy during the actual Olympic weeks but the summers have been strong for our hotel. It's quieter in the winters and we have to get creative sometimes! Some of the things we've done to boost interest include Yelp Elite events, fashion shows and charity teas - as well as taking on board volunteer interns from Hackney Community College to give them work experience.
How is Dalston and how has it played a role in your business?
We'd already lived and worked in Dalston for over 20 years so we felt very much part of the local community. We are proud to be in a position now to showcase local artists in the hotel and also host musicians and DJs for the Dalston hotspots. The creative elements are strong in Dalston and we've at various times carried a local chocolatier's goods and beautiful handprinted greetings cards.
What made you choose Dalston?
We already had a business in place - a newsagents and post office that meant we were an integral part of the local community. This led to tremendous goodwill as we weren't outsiders seen to be 'cashing in'... and there's something special about seeing the area get creative and develop in fun ways.
Are you hoping to bring a sense of character to the area?
We certainly have our own flavour but we don't think Dalston needs more character from us, as it's such an interesting place already. Some of our favourite places are the FarmShop and the quirky Eastern Curve Garden. We've also had people like Calvin Klein models and Benjamin Zephaniah stay with us!
How do you feel about gentrification in the local area? Does it have a direct impact on the hotel?
Yes, we do think that gentrification has given us a customer base that may not have existed a decade ago. A lot of local artists and hipsters don't have a lot of space in their one-bed or studio flats - and they use the hotel as a spare room when family and friends come to visit. There's also been a rise in young families and we feel like that's such a lovely thing to see, as it reminds us of when we moved here (I was five!) and brings things full circle.
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