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SPOTLIGHT ON Bill Petrella, Chief Executive Officer, Hotel Emma

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
14 April 2021
3 min read
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Insight into Hotel Emma’s fascinating history as a reimagined brewery and time proven resilience through the Prohibition and now the Pandemic.

Can you tell us a little about the history of your hotel and your concept for the renovation?
Hotel Emma is steeped in history and charm dating back to the 1900s. Originally a Brewhouse, we have since worked with Roman and Williams, the masters of historic conversions, to reimagine the space and unveil what is now our 146-room luxury hotel. Since welcoming guests on property in 2015, we have enjoyed seeing guests’ reactions as they enter through the striking exterior to then be greeted by interiors that blend old-world extravagance, South Texas grandeur and a shirtsleeve industrial aesthetic borrowed from the brewery’s heyday.

We also decided to name the hotel in honor of Emma Koehler who ran the brewery after her husband and Pearl president Otto Koehler died in 1914. As a dynamic CEO, Emma kept the brewery going and all staff employed during Prohibition through new revenue streams while other breweries were shutting down. We are fortunate to have mirrored this activity more recently during the pandemic by keeping Hotel Emma open throughout to serve our locally based guests.

How are you attracting local travelers and reimagining your offerings?
We cherish our local community and authenticity is always front of mind when creating new experiences. We are excited to have just unveiled Emma’s Provisions – a line of signature food products exclusively crafted by Chef John Brand and team, that provides a fresh way to connect with our beloved guests and community and bring Hotel Emma home to them whilst travel remains challenging.

We will also be introducing a new Best Friends Getaway package for spring encouraging friends to reconnect safely and be pampered for a weekend or more at Hotel Emma.

Can you tell us about your culinary representation and the concept behind your programming?
We are the proud flagship of the Pearl culinary community and thus food is at the heart of our offering. Our extremely talented Culinary Director, Chef John Brand, spearheads our three venues that each offer something different to hotel guests and locals alike: Supper – our take on an American eatery, Sternewirth, a dramatic tavern and club room that plays host to award-winning jazz, and Larder – a fine grocery store with a soupçon of Euro-sophistication.

As we look ahead to spring/summer and locals are keen to experience something new, we hope to ramp up our programming again working with esteemed partners who truly resonate with Hotel Emma.

What have you learned over the past year that you will take with you into the recovery?
It’s been an incredibly challenging year for the hospitality industry as a whole and we have all had to find new ways to adapt. The sheer resilience and passion of our staff throughout this challenging period has particularly touched me.