Hotel Ocho will soon join the ranks of Toronto's existing boutique hotels come June, but manager Kenneth McElheran tells me it will have a decidedly different vibe. "No one wants to go to that faceless Toronto place," he says as we sip Americanos by the Espresso bar. "I want this to be just like staying at my house," he continues, ABBA playing in the background.
"So, should I expect to hear Dancing Queen if I drop by your place?"
"Yeah," he says with a smile. "That's actually my playlist."
Hotel Ocho's rooms, restaurant, and lounge occupy a 12,000 square-foot former textile factory on Spadina just north of Queen Street. Family owned, daughter Louise Choi decided to ditch her New York finance job five years ago and move to Toronto to transform this space into a boutique hotel.
That's not to say that the building has lost any of its early-1900s charm. The original wood beams still gloat with handsome character, as well as exposed brick on several walls. But the guest rooms, for example, have been created using granite and marble in the bathrooms, as well as flat screen TVs and WiFi ready to go. I don't think that shiny espresso machine was there back when the building served as a cigar factory, but the charm, undoubtedly, is still there.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to check out Hotel Ocho's 12 rooms (interior design company Dialogue 38 has a stranglehold on the keys until the rooms are unveiled in June), McElheran tells me they're charming and comfortable, going for for $175, $225, or $250 per night. "You have everything you need in there," he says. "And Jamal will be there in his Hello Kitty housecoat if you do require anything else," he says of his overnight staffer. And yes, he really does wear a Hello Kitty housecoat.
While the guest rooms are getting their final touches, Hotel Ocho's restaurant and lounge has been open for about four weeks now. It serves an eclectic menu of starters, entrees, and desserts, each item costing under $18. Ocho has also added weekend brunch to the mix, serving the regulation eggs benny ($9), French toast and fruit ($9), and a delicious-sounding smoked salmon and goat cheese omelette ($11).
Word has started to get out about the café/lounge it seems, with a lineup out the door last Friday, according to McElheran. "Everyone loves a secret, I guess," he says. "We haven't done a lick of advertising."
Hm. Well, I guess the secret's out? Ocho hosts live music Wednesday to Saturday nights, with everything from jazz to live mixing. "There's this one pair," McElheran says, "they're just amazing. This guy plays jazz guitar and a woman sings. I think they're scheduled for Wednesdays."
McElheran found the guitarist, believe it or not, busking on Queen Street. "I just heard this music and thought, 'Wow, I need to find where this is coming from.' I found him--and actually, he's doing his PhD in economics--and asked if he would come perform." He agreed of course, and brought along accompaniment.
Live music can be enjoyed with drinks from Ocho's full bar, with several beers on tap, wines, specialty martinis and cocktails. Dress code, of course, is non-existent, so feel free to bust out that Hello Kitty.
Writing by Robyn Urback. Photos by Dennis Marciniak.
Ad Lounge, a volunteer-driven organization serving the marketing and advertising, marketing, digital media, and communication community, is launching its annual Next Gen Dinner to address the industry’s competitive search for new talent.
The Next Gen Dinner, a unique training, mentoring and networking program, will be pairing some of Toronto’s brightest new talent with future employers on March 21, 2017 at an upscale Toronto restaurant.
“We’re launching our 2017 program with a friendly call out to graduates from local advertising, media, graphic design, PR, marketing communications, and digital programs,” says Trina Boos, founder of Ad Lounge and president of Boost Agents, an industry recruitment firm.
Graduates can apply to participate in the Next Gen Dinner Series at the Ad Lounge website until January 26.
Ad Lounge's Next Gen Dinner Committee typically review and screen hundreds of applications to select 72 finalists to participate in the program and represent the year’s best grads.
“Agencies and marketers all spend a lot of time seeking their next stars,” says Boos. “The Next Gen Dinner, because it’s an exclusive, curated recruitment program, helps expedite the hiring processes for innovative businesses seeking “the dream of the class,” as well as top graduates seeking entry-level positions in the industry.”
The program attracts prominent and upcoming companies from across the marketing and advertising industry that are looking to hire. Past corporate participants have included Amazon, Google, Freshbooks, IPG Mediabrands, Jam3, TJX, Tag, Sid Lee, JWT, and FCB/SIX. 2017’s line up of companies is currently being finalized and will be announced in the near future.
Importantly, the Next Gen Dinner serves as a private forum for finalists to develop their personal branding and interview skills, meet with industry leaders from progressive agencies, and vie for highly coveted internships and jobs. Finalists are provided free training in preparation for the program by Leslie Ehm from Combustion, a training company dedicated to serving the marketing communications industry. Training includes interview tips, coaching on how to identify and communicate a personal brand, and learning about how to network effectively in the program.
Ad Lounge has organized the Next Gen Dinner Series since 2011 to help Toronto’s top marketing, advertising, digital media, and communications grads find employment, and assist companies in their competitive hunt for fresh, new entry-level talent. Further details about the program will be announced in February.
About Ad Lounge
Community, diversity and creativity — three words that describe Ad Lounge. Founded in 2001, Ad Lounge brings together forward thinking professionals in Toronto’s advertising, marketing and creative industries to meet, share and connect. Ad Lounge creates opportunities for thought leaders to accelerate their personal and professional development. Through a series of networking and educational events, we provide a social platform for members to stimulate ideas, build business alliances, and provide learning opportunities about issues and trends pertaining to the advertising industry. www.adlounge.ca
About Boost Agents
Boost Agents is a specialist recruitment provider to the Creative, Digital, Marketing, PR/Communications and Events industries. The Boost Agents team has a common mission — to create positive experiences during the candidate search and the job search process. Every day, we will work together toward this mission as we offer a people-centric, accessible, and connected customer experience to our clients and candidates alike. We know that exceptional talent is hard to find. We work with our clients to make it a positive experience throughout the process. www.boostagents.com