On a quiet, unassuming corner where Central and Hawthorne meet in Charlotte’s quirky Plaza Midwood, a hospitality concept like no other. Co-owned by life partners Nimisha and Jay Patel, and Anup Patel (Jay’s brother), Refuge is a five-room hybrid hotel that is many things: a place to stay. A place to gather and work. It’s also home to Humbug, the highly anticipated bar pop-up by industry veterans Larry Suggs and Andy Schools, opening on August 3.
What sets Refuge even more apart from other accommodations in Charlotte, let alone the country, is how it will be razed to the ground next year. And that’s because the Patels set up Refuge as a prototype to test what works and what doesn’t for their upcoming boutique hotel that will eventually occupy the same address.
Growing up in families that operated hotels and motels—a little-known fact is that more than 50% of U.S. hotel rooms are owned by Indian Americans—the Patels have a refreshingly people-oriented understanding of what guests might want on the go. They have also witnessed a recent shift in people’s perception of hotels. “There’s a hole in the industry right now,” Nimisha says of how the spate of overly filtered, “ambitious” social media posts can leave even experienced jet-setters feeling the need to conform, look and act a certain way. “It’s no different from what Victoria’s Secret did to female body image in the 1990s. At Refuge, we want people to be themselves, their whole self.” Jay agrees, adding, “Our property is beautiful, has soul and offers acceptance and connection for all.”
With that in mind, Refuge offers just five rooms with distinctly different configurations and designs – imagine a vibrant, original mix of Jamaican and Indian touches such as tropical leaf wallpaper and photos of Indian women playing cricket – by Jamaican-born interior designer Alicia Hylton -Daniel, allowing guests to choose what best suits their needs. For example: Room #1, The Residential Suite, offers two queen beds, a living room and a wet bar, while Room #5, Pack. And Play., is set up similar to a railroad-style apartment with its own nook, king-size futon bed, long workbench, and bathroom with walk-in shower.
What they do have in common is size. Refuge’s accommodations range from 196 to 271 square feet and are significantly smaller than the average 325-square-foot American hotel room, but their carefully thought-out layouts—the Residential Suite’s queen-size beds are cleverly arranged from toe to toe rather than next to each other. side – help them feel wider than they really are. In addition, the Patels take into account all guest feedback, good and bad, to further develop and refine their upcoming hotel. “I don’t mind public criticism at all,” Jay says. “By holding me accountable, there is more at stake.”
Ultimately, for the Patels, it’s all about hospitality that promotes inclusivity and the local community. “Conventional formulas tell us not to build hotels in these kinds of neighborhoods, but we believe that culture always comes from people on the margins,” says Nimisha. “Plaza Midwood is progressive and has such a strong sense of place. Hopefully we’ll bring out things that resonate with overlooked groups of people looking for a non-commercial experience.”