The first year of business is the most tenuous, no matter what, but add a pandemic to that year, and it becomes even more tricky. But if your business model gives your customers what they desire during such times, then you just keep on keeping on. That is what The Hive, a boutique hotel in downtown Wilmington, plans to do in 2021.
Kaylie O’Connor, one of the owners and managers of The Hive, knows the struggles of getting a business up and running. The hotel had to roll out its opening in phases since being forced to replace the roof on one of two buildings after Hurricane Florence removed it in 2018.
After fully opening in November 2019, O’Connor felt confident that 2020 was going to be a solid year. Then COVID-19 took hold.
“We were doing really excellent. We were totally sold out for Azalea Festival weekend; then obviously, COVID happened,” O’Connor said. “It was hard. There was a phase when it was just one cancellation after another, which was sad as a small business owner.”
The Hive was closed during the required quarantine phase, but once it was able to reopen, things started to look up for the limited service hotel, which allows guests to access their private suites via a keypad code without having to enter a lobby and check in at a front desk first.
According to The Hive’s website, “With only 14 private entrance suites and no front desk, lobby or elevator there are fewer encounters with other guests and staff members and each suite features a full kitchen, spa-like bathroom and separate lounging and sleeping spaces.”
This type of accommodation has proved to be sought-after amid a pandemic where people are avoiding close contact with others. Each of The Hive’s private suites offer living rooms and kitchens.
Upon the post-quarantine reopening, owners of The Hive quickly realized that it had what people were looking for in terms of safety and social distancing. O’Connor and her partners had unknowingly created pandemic accommodations.
“Since we only have 14 suites, we sold out pretty quickly, considering. People seek us out more than a traditional hotel,” O’Connor explained. “We did not plan our business model based on a pandemic, but it worked out in our favor. Many businesses have become touchless as a result, but we were already set up like that initially, so it helped out.”
O’Connor said she recognizes that if the pandemic taught them anything, it is that they cannot rest on their laurels.
“The biggest thing as a small business owner, you always have to be on your toes,” O’Connor said. “This was more of a wake-up call that any number of things can happen to a business and you can’t get too cocky or confident – you have to remain agile and prepared – and you must stay humble. This has made us a better business.”
The outlook for 2021 is a positive one for O’Connor and The Hive, encouraged by their success to do more of what they’ve been doing and add more of what customers desire.
“Before the pandemic, we were planning on adding a cafe on the first floor, but we have pivoted and decided to add another suite and a gym,” O’Connor said. “It’s been a blessing in disguise that we didn’t do the cafe, and it’s even better for customers. Many customers are not comfortable eating out and getting out.”
The fitness center is slated to open sometime in 2021. Peloton bikes will offer guests online workouts.
The Hive’s guests often are visitors to Wilmington who want to have the downtown Wilmington “experience,” according to O’Connor.
The pandemic has also changed the landscape of work, giving people the opportunity to work from just about anywhere. The Hive has welcomed many who choose to work remotely from Wilmington.
“We have also had an influx of people here on ‘workcations.’ Since they are working virtually and can work from anywhere, they choose to work here,” O’Connor said.
The Hive offers high-speed internet and laptop friendly workspaces.
With film production back on the rise in the Wilmington area, O’Connor said The Hive has been host to three different production crews.
Confident in what The Hive offers customers during both good times and bad, O’Connor is excited for what 2021 has to offer, but acknowledges that they cannot be complacent.
“Things can change on a dime, but we are pretty hopeful,” O’Connor said.