Charleston lodging investors bet on demand for downtown B&B-style stays


Less than a mile apart, two nine-room bed-and-breakfast-style inns are joining the peninsula’s crowded lodging lineup.

The Ashley is the first of the two projects the Charleston-based Trouvaille Collection has in the works. The name of the firm is French for “lucky find,” which is how CEO Josh Hatter and his partners hope their properties will be perceived in the ultra-competitive market.

Their three-story B&B at Bee Street and Ashley Avenue kept its familiar pink façade and double balcony, but the interior was remodeled in a cost of about $800,000.

The Ashley has been in a soft-opening phase since its unveiling earlier this year, when the makeover was completed. Since then, the occupancy rate has hovered around 70 percent, with the weekend of Oct. 13 entirely booked.

The Ashley, built in 1852, was purchased by a Trouvaille affiliate for more than $3.7 million last year. The property had previously sold five times over the last several decades, with prices ranging from $155,000 in 1989 to $2.1 million in 2019, according to county property records.

Its future sister B&B, farther south at 126 Wentworth St., is expected to come online in December as The Nicholas.

Hatter described the two properties as “boutique, historic and elevated.”

Between them, Trouvaille estimated it has invested more than $9 million in real estate acquisition costs and remodeling expenses.

The renovation projects took structures built in the late 1700s and mid-1800s down to the studs and updated them for 21st century guest stays, with modern-day utilities, amenities and aesthetics.

Formerly operated as the 1837 Bed & Breakfast, The Nicholas changed hands in December for $3.4 million. The units in the structure between Pitt and Coming streets were converted from apartments in 2000, but they hadn’t undergone a major overhaul since, said Hatter, whose group spent more than $1 million in upgrades.

“I’m a longtime Charlestonian so it’s important to us to take these older properties and bring them into the current times while keeping the history associated with them,” he said. “You’ll see the old chandeliers, crown molding and pocket doors. The old cistern under The Ashley was converted into a living room for one of our guest rooms. What’s old can be made new.”

When the 201 Ashley Ave. property was listed, it appeared as a normal resale transaction. Hatter said when he and his partners discovered it had a B&B permit tied to it, they decided to restore it and bring that use back to life.

“When people think of traditional B&B’s they think of the retired couple running it themselves,” he said. “We want the guest to feel that same charm and connection with our staff in how we personalize their stay.”

While The Ashley’s daily rate fluctuates, Hatter said on average it has been around $300.

“We live in Charleston so we want to invest in the city we love,” Hatter said. “We are not a big institutional company or investor trying to come in and maximize the number of keys. That’s not who we are and not who we want to be.”

Charleston is driven by hospitality and filled with various lodging options — from national hotel flags and small boutique properties to short-term vacation rentals. Hatter said B&Bs fall in a sweet spot somewhere in between.

“We effectively combine the best of each category: the convenience of Airbnb, the size and personal touches of a traditional bed and breakfast and the amenities expected of a boutique hotel,” he said.

City records show about 30 bed-and-breakfast permits have been issued across Charleston, but not all of them are in use. Explore Charleston spokesman Chris Campbell said that’s not necessarily a sign that the business model has seen better days,

“There has consistently been an audience for B&Bs, especially in a market like ours,” he said. “Diversity in lodging types is a key component of a strong tourism economy, and it’s one of our destination’s top attributes.”

Hatter said operating The Ashley over the last seven months has inspired he and his partners at Trouvaille to take on a new business goal: to acquire 1,000 B&B keys across the Southeast in the next decade. They’re already eyeing properties in North Carolina and other neighboring states.

Original post by Megan Fernandes |
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