USA, CA: Handlery Union Square Hotel, San FranciscoNot only does the Handlery Hotel have such a distinct, personal service but it is so well located that within a few strides to the theatre district, a few steps to the right and you're on Powell Street where the cable cars that take you to Fisherman’s Wharf. Beyond the famous stores in Union Square you're in Chinatown.
AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2011
“To have every guest not question why they stayed here, but to question why they didn't stay here before.” Harry Handlery, Founder, 1928.
It’s rare to experience a genuine, family run hotel in the heart of a great city, but when a hotel puts on hospitality service with a respectful smile that’s says welcome all – then you know you’re staying someplace special. For many years now I’ve had a choice of hotels to stay at in San Francisco, but I keep going back to my personal favourite time and time again, the Handlery Hotel. I’ve stepped into their lobby many times and it’s not uncommon to be greeted by the General Manager himself, Jon Handlery.
Not only does the hotel have such a distinct, personal service but it is so well located that within a few strides in one direction is the theatre district, a few strides in the other and you’re right in front of the world famous Powell Street cable cars that take you to Fisherman’s Wharf. Walk a few short blocks beyond all the famous stores in Union Square and you’re in Chinatown or wandering along Market Street.
Handlery Hotels’ history exemplifies the notion of the Great American Dream: poor immigrant boy works hard, marries girl and with determination and an eye for opportunity, finds success in America. It all began with the founder, Harry Handlery in 1928.
In 1928, Harry Handlery was running a haberdashery store in Vallejo, California, when two friends and business partners approached him with a hotel investment opportunity. The three men purchased Casa de Vallejo and hired a general manager to oversee the operations. Unfortunately, the hotel didn’t do well during the first six months and therefore the partnership fired the general manager. Harry, without any hotel experience other than that of a guest, offered to temporarily oversee the facility. From the housekeeper to the chef, he spent the next few months learning the business from the bottom up by asking staff how they did their jobs. Harry elected to stay on and manage the property and eventually bought out the other two partners. Harry now owned his first hotel.
Building on the knowledge passed on to him by the employees, coupled with his own experiences as a guest, he began to lay the foundation for what eventually would become known as Handlery Hospitality. When Harry’s teenage son, Paul, wanted to work at the hotel, Harry required that he learn the business from front-line employees. Later, Paul would use this same philosophy when his children wanted summer jobs at the hotels.
Harry began to acquire other San Francisco Bay Area hotels: Hotel Alameda in Alameda, Lake Merritt Hotel in Oakland, Hotel Don in Richmond, and the Georgia Hotel in Vallejo, his second in that location. With the outbreak of World War II, Harry saw the opportunity to expand his chain by purchasing small hotels located near California military bases. During this time, Harry also purchased the Hotel Stewart in San Francisco and built the Stardust Hotel and Country Club in San Diego, which became the cornerstone properties of what is known today as Handlery Hotels. By the mid-1950s, Handlery Hotels had grown to 26 locations, which gave it the unique distinction of being at the time the, ‘Largest Family Run Hotel Chain in the World.’
Eventually Harry, and his son Paul, sold the hotels near military bases and focused on enhancing their properties in San Francisco and San Diego. In 1964, Paul, like his father before him, built his first hotel: the new Handlery Motor Inn in San Francisco, which connected to the Hotel Stewart his father had purchased in 1948.
In 1979, and again in 1981, Paul's sons, Michael and Jon, became the third generation to join the management of Handlery Hotels. In 1987, Jon successfully combined the Handlery Motor Inn and Hotel Stewart into the Handlery Union Square Hotel in San Francisco.
Jon's daughter, Catherine, now brings Handlery Hotels into its fourth generation of high-quality, family-run hotels. Catherine, part of the management team, started in the business like the rest of the family: working in the housekeeping department and learning the business from the bottom up.
If you’re looking for San Francisco lodging in the heart of the city check into the Handlery Hotel and you won’t be disappointed. You’ll quickly find four generations of hospitality truly does make a difference in your stay. As a family-owned hotel, they create great experiences for guests by offering personal service, comfortable rooms, and a warm and inviting kiwi-like atmosphere. The Handlery Union Square Hotel has set the bench-mark in affordable luxury for holiday makers, families, international travelers and business guests for over 80 years – a testament to their dedication and one which is hard to match anywhere in the world.
Handlery Union Square Hotel
351 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
T: +1 415 781 7800
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