Seven Questions for Siegel Group’s Michael Crandall

The senior VP on his passion for the Artisan, design aesthetics and lessons learned from past renovations

Photo by Jim K. Decker

Photo by Jim K. Decker

The Siegel Group briefly listed the Artisan boutique hotel for sale last fall at $4.6 million, pulled it off the market and then decided to re-invest almost $1 million in a renovation. What does the Artisan mean to Las Vegas, the company and you?

It was time to breathe some life back into the property, to freshen it up and give it some upgrades.  To the city of Las Vegas, the Artisan has become a staple over the years, especially for locals. We do cater to out-of-towners, but we’ve made it a point to also cater to locals, whether it’s a date, an overnight stay or just to hang out with friends.

Although [the Siegel Group’s] core business is our multifamily division and our Siegel Suites, we also have a hospitality division with five hotels. The Artisan was one of the first hotels we’ve owned in Las Vegas. Steve Siegel, the president and CEO of our company, and I used to frequent the place before we owned it.

I’ve been involved with helping to oversee the Artisan since the day we bought it at the end of 2009, and I’ve seen its transition from what it was when we took it over to the launch of our after-hours in 2010. … I still get a kick out of it every time I see someone react to stepping into the Artisan for the first time. The Artisan is just so different from every other hotel in Las Vegas; it’s just that much more cool and special.

Since the Siegel Group acquired the Artisan, which was built in 1982, have you made any other improvements to the property?

We’ve done pretty normal capital upgrades. We’ve had to replace carpets, change out certain equipment, added cabanas and a bar in the pool area. We’ve replaced furniture, painted certain areas—just trying to keep the place fresh and clean.

How would you characterize the current aesthetic and the new one you are going for in the redesign?

The best way to characterize the look and feel of the place is in the name—the Artisan. In general, it’s artsy, fun and unique. We’re keeping the property open the entire time during our upgrades to all 64 rooms. [There’s] nothing structural; it’s all going to be cosmetic—new furniture, changing out the carpet, painting the walls, new artwork. We’ll keep the vibe similar to what the Artisan portrays today, which is a little bit dark and moody, but with a sophisticated and more grown-up look and feel. It definitely has a European, boutique-hotel feel to it.

You’ll be adding eight video poker machines in the bar. What else?

We’re going to have a new entrance to the ultra-lounge area, which will create a new effect when you first walk in. You’re going to be closer to the actual bar now, not walking into what is currently our dance floor. We’re keeping the bar in the same footprint, but we’re going to make our back bar and everything around it look a little different, add cool art features and elements, add built-in booths and seating areas and different flooring and ceiling features that will make people feel like they’re still in the Artisan, but they’re in a totally new Artisan.

The Artisan’s dining options have included the 94-seat Mood Restaurant, patio and private dining room. What do you see happening there?

We are in talks with a really great chef, and he has a group with him that we think would be extremely exciting to have in the Artisan, and I believe everyone in Las Vegas would be extremely excited as well. There are actually a couple of different people who are very interested, but one group in particular that we’re pretty serious about partnering with. Italian still fits the property perfectly, and that would be the direction that we’d like to see the restaurant stay in … but I’d like to get the right person in there, and if that’s not Italian, then I’m comfortable with it not being Italian. The restaurant and bar will be the first things we do.

Who are other new tenants?

We’ve leased out space in the hotel—a small, private events space we called the Library—for a hair salon, [Brush Boutique Salon, now open]. [Owner James Fiala] has a great local following already. We have a chapel; we’re in talks right now with a few wedding companies that potentially will go in there. We also have what we call the Laundry Room, which is currently used as storage. We’re not sure what we’re doing with that yet. We’re still playing around with ideas—a possible bakery and a couple of other concepts.

What will remain untouched at the Artisan?

The footprint, the structure. It’s still going to be the Artisan. Our plans are to keep the exterior as is. You’re just gonna feel like you walked into a new, sophisticated Artisan.

The Siegel Group, owners of Siegel Suites, also owns and has renovated Rumor Boutique Hotel and the Resort on Mount Charleston. What lessons have you learned on renovations?

I personally oversaw the Rumor renovation from start to finish along with Steve. I was also very involved with the Gold Spike renovation in 2008. We like to come up with an idea and act on it extremely quickly, which a lot of times is a big part of our success, but sometimes maybe we shouldn’t jump in right away and [should] plan out a bit more. With the Artisan, we’re not going to start changing out paint colors and things until we have a definite, complete vision of where we want to go, and then we’re going to do it. One of the challenges with renovating the property the way we’re doing it—the way we always do it—is we’re not shutting down the property, so you have to have all your ducks in a row and a pretty good plan in place.

Do you have a mentor or partner in this process?

Steve Siegel—he’s the leader, and it always starts with his vision, and we have a pretty close team around us that kind of takes his vision and, with him, we make it a reality. Everything we do is pretty much in-house; we kind of just follow our gut feeling with these business decisions or remodels. We do have a company [Tandem] that we work with to help with the designs and put it on paper for us. But for the most part everything starts with Steve for our company and we go from there.

We have three divisions—hospitality, multifamily and commercial—70 properties, 1,000 employees and a large corporate office, but we were not a very corporately structured company. A lot of us are young, super passionate and have that entrepreneurial take-over-the-world mentality. We think something up, and we try it. We’re not scared to think outside the box.

What about staff buy-in? Are the existing employees on board with the changes?

We have employees who have been there since the day we took over. The staff there is one big family; they love the Artisan. They feel like it’s their home, especially our bartenders, front desk, our hotel manager, even the housekeepers and porters. Since we let everyone know that we were going to be doing some upgrades, everyone is so excited, and they can’t wait to see wait to see what it’s going to look like.