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SPOTLIGHT ON Sarah Eustis, CEO, Main Street Hospitality

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
21 July 2022
5 min read
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Three generations of family hospitality leadership managing historic properties were built on the founding principle of ‘building things that last and preserving things that matter.’ Sarah Eustis has held her vision as she expands their portfolio while balancing community-led development and honoring the historical value of a place. 

Can you tell us about the ethos behind Main Street Hospitality and how three generations of family hospitality leadership guide your decision-making?

Main Street is built on a commitment to preserving things that matter, building things that last, and creating places that enable people to connect in meaningful ways. I grew up working at our family hotel, The Red Lion Inn, where my mother and grandmother did this intuitively and expertly. I started as a housekeeper when I was 14, working in the summer to earn money and then into college. I did almost every job at The Red Lion. It was always ingrained in us that hospitality is a noble and important trade and can be a rewarding career – we have always brought it to everything we do, both inside and outside the family. Starting as a housekeeper also gave me a deep appreciation of this role in the business, it is literally the backbone and deserves the utmost respect.

Sarah Eustis, CEO, Main Street Hospitality

 My mother and grandmother focused on bringing pleasure to people through thoughtful touches, attention to detail in all things, and preserving traditions that are meaningful to guests, even if it is simply the position of a rocking chair in front of the fireplace. They both instilled a strong sense of graciousness and manners in our culture that continues and deepens. While Main Street has grown out of this foundation, I still hear them both in my ear when I am making decisions about everything from new projects to updating wallpaper, to advanced new technology that we might be deploying. 

How do you reflect the community and honor the history of a place in each of your unique properties?

This is another foundational part of who we are, and something that reflects our roots in Stockbridge. Our family and our business have a strongly held belief that a good place to live is a good place to visit. If the cultural, social, and economic foundations of a community are strong, then businesses like ours can thrive. When we open hotels in any community, we feel accountable to contribute to that foundation, not just to benefit from it. We do this in many tangible ways ranging from economic support, access to and use of the hotels, artistic and cultural programming, and more. We are focused on synergistic relationships that create positive outcomes in our markets.

History and the storytelling opportunities that come from it are things that we celebrate in our properties. We find that references to the past, while not getting too nostalgic, remain relevant to modern travelers who are looking for connection and authenticity to a place. We express this through design, programming, branding and just letting things develop character and patina over time! 

How do you balance organic, authentic growth with aggressive expansion? Can you tell us about your plans?

This is what I wake up every day trying to figure out! In my many years in large corporate environments, I had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented leaders, developers, and creators on a global scale. I saw growth happen fast and experienced both the positive and challenging effects of that growth. As Main Street opens our eighth property this summer in eight years, we are really proud of both the organic and strategic growth we have manifested, and the balance of our portfolio to include diverse types of hospitality. Iconic historic hotels, design-driven boutiques, destination luxury, affordable fun-design properties – all of these fit within the Main Street universe. As long as the partners are good people, the project has meaning to the community, and the economics make sense, we will look deeply at the opportunity.

As our identity and value proposition in the market has deepened, opportunities are coming our way naturally which is great, and we have an ambitious plan that has us growing significantly and thoughtfully over the next five years and beyond. I lean on an incredible leadership team to keep me honest and “ not fall in love with the project” that may not be right for us. Growing too fast, veering away from our values and mission, and stretching our teams way beyond capacity, is not the path we seek.

Our new openings this year are pretty exciting, the Canoeplace Inn and the Hotel Downstreet

How have your guests evolved over the last two years and what are they looking for?

Oh my. Well, obviously there has been a paradigm shift. We have seen both deep appreciation for our properties and what we do to keep them thriving, as well as exhaustion and frustration from guests who are just weighed down by the stress of this period we have been living through. Our approach to hospitality focuses on empathy and connection and finding ways to provide guests with an experience that is memorable and reassuring in this crazy time. 

We have seen a remarkable rebounding in demand which is of course exciting, and have only been challenged to be sure can meet expectations from a staffing and resources standpoint. Communication has never been more important and our job is still to exceed guest expectations no matter the circumstances.