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Getting Lit in a Gorgeous Hotel

Posted by Stephanie Dockery
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Pen Parentis, a nonprofit literary organization, aims to build a community for writers who have children. Founded by author Milda M. DeVoe, the organization inspires and motivates parent-authors to stay creative after beginning a family. Outreach is conducted through a series of monthly literary salons, hosting notable authors (such as Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan) and spirited discussions, which have built a loyal audience of published writers, readers, editors, and agents.

When the organization first hosted events in a boutique hotel, the fit wasn’t quite right. That hotel seemed mostly concerned that the organization boosted food and drink sales; meanwhile they continued to market the group as a “book club” rather than using the organization’s preferred term, “salon.” During this first, troubled, partnership, Toni Hinterstoisser, then general manager of the Andaz Wall Street hotel, courted Milda, encouraging her to host Pen Parentis salons at Andaz Wall Street. Toni and Milda frequently ran into one another while attending marketing and networking events held downtown. “When are you going to dump that other hotel chain and come over to us?” he would wheedle. “We love salons. We know what you are and what you need.” As fortune would have it, the first hotel underwent renovations, making it impossible to continue hosting Pen Parentis events. Milda walked straight into the lobby of the Andaz Wall Street, requested the general manager’s attention, and accepted his offer to host Pen Parentis events. With three authors already lined up to present, Toni and Milda formed an alliance based on a handshake agreement.

Andaz Wall Street, a Hyatt brand hotel, saw the sponsorship as a very practical exchange of needs and resources when they first partnered. The hotel aims to “bring the neighborhood to the guests and enrich the guest experience.” Pen Parentis' programs help fulfill that mission, and that's why current general manager Jeffrey Miller continues to support the organization. Pen Parentis attracts a multitude of downtown writers and Wall Street locals, which Andaz loves. Andaz Director of Communications Megan Montenaro believes “brands can go right or wrong when attempting something inorganic to their mission.” Because Pen Parentis’ programs align with Andaz’s brand, the hotel is happy to allocate resources for their events. As a result of this brand harmony, Pen Parentis programs have been able to expand, and in return, Milda has introduced Megan to downtown cultural councils and cultural leaders, allowing Andaz to expand its marketing outreach.

Because Pen Parentis has regularly scheduled monthly salons, the hotel is incentivized to market the events to their guests and “friends of the hotel.” The general manager sends emails to patrons inviting them to Pen Parentis events. To further encourage attendance, Andaz markets Pen Parentis on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare, and Andaz staff have live-tweeted salon discussions.The casual but intimate atmosphere of both the hotel and the salsons encourages guests to build a relationship with Andaz, enhancing the hotel’s brand.

November’s salon focused on food writing, so Andaz prepared to host 45 Pen Parentis attendees at the Chef’s Table, where the chef cooked select recipes from a featured book, The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat, co-edited by Caroline M. Grant, who conducted readings. With food at the centerpiece of the event, Andaz found a perfect way to further feature their business: guests enjoyed the creations of the hotel’s talented chef, and the food enhanced the literary discussion. Megan Montenaro emphasizes, “When you partner with the right people, it’s not hard to do the right events.”

 

In return, Pen Parentis requests that visiting authors stay at the Andaz, as the hotel is much more than just a corporate sponsor of the salons. Milda states, “They are our heroes, and we look forward to continuing our partnership for many years to come.”

Pen Parentis believes the partnership’s best outcome has been adding businesspeople who work on Wall Street to their audience. In part because of Andaz’s upscale location, culturally-savvy locals who are looking to upgrade their date night or post-work drink experience are attracted to the salons. One of these individuals happened to be a young lawyer from a law firm looking for a nonprofit to incubate. As a result of the partnership with Andaz, Pen Parentis developed a relationship with and received pro bono aid from that law firm, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP.

 

Pen Parentis and Andaz Wall Street are now entering the third year of their partnership, and they plan to continue it. Milda describes the hotel as “the most gracious, enthusiastic hosts imaginable, often providing unexpected treats for salon guests and panelists. Last May’s authors and guests were treated to a four-course dinner at the Chef’s Table. The more enthusiastic our hosts are, the more our audiences surge to the events. They are terrific because they understand and support what we do.”

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