"We are spending two million dollars to replace all the windows in the hotel with mahogany framed, eco-friendly windows to reduce energy consumption," Enokido tells us. Enokido has been the Hay-Adams owner’s representative since 1989 when the Iue family of Osaka, Japan purchased the hotel. She now represents B.F Saul II, the Bethesda-based tycoon who also owns much of Chevy Chase Bank and bought the hotel in March of last year for $100 million.
While going green is certainly a major project, it’s nothing compared to the $14 million Tinseltown-worthy facelift the hotel underwent in 2001-2002. Under Enokido’s watchful eye, Thomas Pheasant, interior designer and native Washingtonian, eviscerated the hotel while managing to keep its old-world charm intact. Even the hotel letterhead got an upgrade during the transformation, but the hotel windows went untouched.
After that revamp was completed in 2002, the awards and accolades started pouring in. As the heavy mahogany doors fly open for guests, who are greeted like dignitaries no matter who they are, it’s evident how the Hay-Adams won a 2006 Condé Nast Johansens luxury hotel award for "Most Excellent Service."
The Jefferson Hotel and St. Regis, both located up the street also on 16th, are also in the process of being nipped and tucked. When asked if the two hotels could be considered competition, Ms. Enokido nods, but adds: "We are one of the few hotels in Washington to be both independently-owned and managed. We also have something that nobody else has: name, location and history." No kidding. The view of the White House is so fantastic guests have to remind themselves they are not the star of a hot political blockbuster. "To beat out the competition we focus on our strengths. We are always trying to reinvent ourselves without isolating the regular clientele."
Reinvention is something Enokido is well-versed in. A product of NYU, Columbia and Cornell’s famed School of Hotel Administration, she began her career at Citibank in Tokyo. Quite the polymath, she worked for several years as a free-lance journalist, and as an executive for CIG International, a real estate financing company, was a hospice volunteer in the Bay Area and penned a book about children with life threatening diseases. She remains active in philanthropy, serving as a board member of For the Love of Children and the Japan Commerce Association.
Besides the interior design restyling, from your grandmother’s gabardine to "Top Design"—worthy textiles, it is the changing face of hotel patrons that is most striking to Enokido. "It is amazing how the clientele has changed over the years. There are so many more women in the restaurant and in the hotel in general than when I started here 18 years ago. When I began at the Hay-Adams, I would look into the dining room and see one or two women among the dark suits. Now that has really changed."
Soon these patrons will be able to swirl their glasses to a different tune: The hotel’s elegant power restaurant, the Lafayette Room, is upgrading its wine list. "We hired a wine consultant and our wine lists are being individually handmade by a bookbinder. There will be more international wines, and more expensive wines available by the glass."
Ms. Enokido also has literary inclinations and spearheaded the hotel’s select author series. "The hotel was built on the site of the houses of John Hay and Henry Adams. Their homes were a center of intellect and culture. I would like to try to rejuvenate the kind of hospitality they created in the 19th century." Condoleezza Rice will be the honoree for the next such invitation-only event, this coming July.