Miami Hotel Personality: Marc Lawrence of Angler's Hotel

 

Get to know Marc Lawrence in our ongoing series highlighting the personalities behind Miami's most dynamic hotels

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By Shayne Benowitz | shayne@shaynebenowitz.com

It was during one of his regular jogs through South Beach that Marc Lawrence, 39, first noticed an abandoned property on Washington Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets. The Angler’s Hotel, originally built in the 1930s by architect Henry Maloney, stood out to Lawrence as a beacon of Mediterranean Revival architecture amidst a neighborhood saturated with Art Deco.

In April 2005, his curiosity piqued, he found out that the property was in litigation and essentially bought it off the courthouse steps. The Long Island native and University of Miami graduate cut his teeth working for developer Jorge Perez’s Related since 2000 and, along with his brother Eric Lawrence, an assets manager with Four Seasons Hotels, he was ready to strike out on his own as hotelier.

It was a two and a half year restoration process before Angler’s was ready to open for business, first as a hotel/condo and then transitioning strictly into a hotel. With 49 large rooms, duplexes and villas, privacy and tranquility is the hallmark of the lushly landscaped property tucked away from the action on Washington Avenue.

Poised for expansion, Angler’s struck a partnership with Kimpton Hotels this November to manage the property. “After an extensive search,” Marc tells us, “it was Kimpton that was the best fit to help build the additional tower next door without sacrificing the DNA that makes the Angler’s so special.” The planned expansion should create an additional 85 rooms.

We caught up with Marc shortly before the new deal was announced to learn more about the Angler’s and what exactly makes it so special.

What sets the Angler’s apart from other boutique hotels in South Beach?

I think what really separates us from the rest of the boutique hotels is our service. If you read on TripAdvisor, you’ll see everyone talks about our service. A lot of our employees have been here a long time. We have five or six people who’ve been here since day one. We give them the power to go above and beyond. They don’t have to check with someone to get approval, so if they see that someone needs something, they’ll go out of their way to do it. We’ve had a housekeeper notice something, and they have the authority to put a bottle of Champagne in the room without having to go through a few steps to do that. We have wonderful people. We get together everyday and talk about what’s happening this week or next, so people know who’s coming and they know what to expect. When people arrive, the valet will notify the front desk, and the front desk will already know who they are. That’s a nice touch.

We could’ve been 90 rooms. Instead, we’re half that amount and our rooms are really big, so people come here and they love the size of the room. They’re not overly sleek and super cool, they’re more chill and more approachable. It makes it more inviting. You can be in the action and then come a block away and you’re in a tranquil environment. I think that’s what people like, and I think that’s what separates us. We’re not trying to be anything we’re not. We stick to that and it works. Before The Betsy opened and The Dream opened, they came here to see what we were doing.

Who is the Angler’s guest?

Our guests are a little older than the norm. They’re not necessarily more sophisticated, but they’re looking for a different South Beach experience, something quieter. Our guests stay a little bit longer than most guests. A lot of them come from South America or Europe. They like our closet space. They like that we have a little bit larger of a room. I think they’re the type of guest that wants to feel the action, but they don’t necessarily want to be in the action.

Tell us about the concept behind your onsite restaurant, 660 Angler’s.

A lot of people were asking for Latin food. People wanted to know where the Cuban restaurant was or where they could get a mojito, so we embraced that. We made a Latin restaurant. It has Latin tones to it—it’s not necessarily completely Latin. It’s not just Cuban, it’s not just Peruvian, it has mixtures of all of it. Chef Carlos Torres is really talented. He does great stuff, like ceviches. Our brunch is something we’re really known for. People like our gardens outside. You can sit by the front or you can sit by the pool. It’s a relaxed atmosphere. We’re not just for tourists. A lot of locals come and visit us.

What are your favorite things on the menu?

I like the breakfast burrito. I keep it simple. I love breakfast. I also like the pancakes. They mix it with Nutella and fruit. And I’m a big fan of our ceviches. We have wonderful ceviches. I’m trying to eat healthy, so I might have to give up the pancakes.

What’s your favorite aspect of the hotel?

I really enjoy our landscaping, and I say that because we put a lot of effort into it. I enjoy the tropical-ness of it. When we first planted stuff, [Eric] was saying, I think we’re overdoing it, and I was adamant that we were not overdoing it. I fought it. I believe in it. That’s something that I really love. I love the tall trees that look like something out of Dr. Seuss. Even our ficus, it’s called ficus alii. Regular ficus is everywhere. The ficus alii looks more like bamboo. We have Buddha belly bamboo outside, which I really love also. People love the sky vine that’s growing all over out front overlooking the porte cochere. People come in here once a week asking what it is. It grows little purple flowers. We have beautiful jasmine growing on the back of the building. It kind of took over the building, so when the springtime comes, it smells amazing. I think it sounds so funny, but I really love it. We’re getting little placards to put around the property.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love CrossFit. It’s so much fun. It’s like gym class to me, like P.E. I love playing tennis. I love the new courts at Flamingo [Park]. They’re incredible. My buddy has a boat. We go on the boat a lot, although I’m a bad boater. I don’t know how to do anything. I’ll bring the beer. I’ll pay for gas. I like to do a lot of things. I’m very busy. I’m a big UM football fan, longtime season ticket holder. I have a 16-year-old Wheaton Terrier named Chauncey. She’s with me a lot. She’s a little, tiny, girly dog, but I don’t care. I’m in love with her. I had a yellow lab that passed away two years ago. I love animals. I have a great [saltwater] fish tank at home.

What parts of Miami do you enjoy?

I love to explore. I think the Design District is really cool. I even think Midtown is amazing. I remember when it was train yards. I really love my neighborhood [in SoFi]. I’m excited with what they’re doing [in mid-beach along Collins Avenue in the 30s blocks]. The Brickell area has become so hot and fun. People are like, all these different neighborhoods, don’t you think it’s going to take away from the beach? I don’t think so. It’s just nice to have something new to do. But we have the beach and people love the beach—and the beach, I love going to the beach. I think it’s the most amazing thing to get back to nature and get into the water.

What’s it like working with your brother?

We work really well together. Eric is a lot more conservative than I am. He’s an accountant by education and by practice, so he’s a lot more fiscally responsible and he keeps me more grounded. I’m definitely a lot more personable, more front of house. He’s more back of house. It works well. I love working with my brother. It’s really nice to grow something together. I’m looking forward to a long future doing a lot of stuff. We’re enjoying the process. We enjoy having a hotel. We enjoy the things that we’ve done, even just the day to day because it wasn’t that long ago that we were sitting there working for other people and saying, imagine the day…

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