Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

How One Entrepreneur Is Bringing Back Old School Hospitality to the Hotel Industry

Hotelier Leo Grika shares his career journey, how he's customizing the hotel experience for guests, and his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Leo Grifka is a hotelier and entrepreneur who is passionate about bringing old school hospitality back to the hotel industry. Grifka, the founder of the Grifka Group, sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss his latest hotel and his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Jessica Abo: Leo, how did you get into the hotel industry?

Leo Grifka:
I stumbled upon a project in Culver City, an old, dilapidated, 49-room apartment motel, and the highest and best use was a boutique hotel. I loved the project and I loved the location. So, I started Grifka Group with that property as the first project.

How did you find your next hotel?

Finding a worthwhile and good project that's going to take several years to develop, takes time. I found the Farmer's Daughter Hotel, I started speaking to the owner, and he decided to sell the property to me. I loved the property because I live two blocks from the hotel so I walked by it all the time with my family. So, I was ecstatic to be able to take on a project like that.

What was that experience like during a pandemic?

It was a very, very scary time for hotel owners. That was a huge opportunity for me, being able to find a property like The Farmer's Daughter that was very prominent and well known in the area.

The hotel's new name is Short Stories. What can you share about the name?

The first meaning of Short Stories is in the '20s and '30s, there were many poets and authors living in this area, many of them working on short stories. Faulkner and Bukowski are two of the more well-known ones. The second meaning is when you stay at a hotel, you're not really creating a novel, you're just creating little short stories. I liked that. I liked that about the name. And lastly, it's only three stories, so it is literally short.

What can you share about the hotel in terms of the property?

The hotel has 66 rooms. There are three or four different room types, and we have a pool, which is great to have in Los Angeles. Short Stories restaurant is about 160 seats, and it has a really beautiful patio and courtyard area that is great for outdoor dining. Everything was overhauled. It's not too feminine, not too masculine, but just really pretty with very high-end materials. Almost everything in the room is custom-made. In the background there, you can see a Kenton Nelson print, who's a well-known artist, Los Angeles-based artist, which I think is very special compared to moat art you see in hotels today.

Given how important old-school hospitality is to you, how are you giving guests that experience?

With Short Stories the goal is to bring old school hospitality back because I saw, even pre-COVID, it sort of became the industry standard too, when you're checking in, they give you the key, and then it's like, 'We'll see you when you check out.' We started to see cost-cutting measures like mobile check-in and front desk kiosks instead of front desk attendants. At the same time, the ubiquity of Airbnb was coming onto the scene. The knee-jerk reaction from hotel owners was, 'Let's be more like Airbnb.' Which is pretty much like a stripped down, just, 'Here's your bed,' type of guest experience. So it really did something poor for the hotel experience, which at that point is no longer hospitable. The whole point of hospitality is to be hospitable. So with Short Stories, I'm bringing old-school hospitality back. So we're going to greet you by name. We're going to offer you a welcome drink. We're going to walk you to your room. We do turn down service, which is very unique for a small boutique hotel, and many other little touches like that, which really goes a long way for the total guest experience.

Why do you think it's so important for business owners to invest in local projects?

Someone who's local, who's developing in their backyard, knows the area better than anyone else. You're able to affect the end user the most. And that goes for any asset class, but specifically for hotels, because I know, for example, the Fairfax, West Hollywood, Beverly Grove area, I'm able to curate the guest experience more than a developer from across the country or even in another country.

Finally, what's your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I'll tell you what's worked for me. Never take no for an answer. I think it's important to listen, but if you let every 'no' stop you, there's no way that you'll be able to be a successful entrepreneur because there's always going to be naysayers. Hard work is extremely important. I mean, whatever you put in is what you're really going to get out in the end. Try to do something different. There's a lot of people who have been successful just doing the same thing as everyone else. But I think if you want to truly be in the upper echelon of entrepreneurs, you have to try to do something different and set yourself apart because people will surely take notice.


How to Unlock Your Company's Value in the 'Circular Economy'

Michael Smith of Regeneration.VC shares how the circular economy works and why it's good for business and our planet.

BBQ Icon Rodney Scott on Blazing Your Own Path in the Restaurant Business

Interview with famed pitmaster and food entrepreneur Rodney Scott of Rodney Scott's BBQ about every day being a good day, the truth behind "overnight" celebrity, and how cooking with soul is vital to sustained success.

3 Easy Ways To Be More Motivated

Want to tackle your to-do list in just two weeks? In this video, Ben Angel tells you how.

The Founder of Mindvalley Wants to Transform and Reinvent Education. Here's Why.

The founder of Mindvalley shares why he started his platform and discusses his new book, "The 6 Phase Meditation Method."

This Teacher-Turned-Entrepreneur Started Tutoring Kids in Parks and Churches. Today, She Runs an Education Company with Nearly One Million Followers

The CEO and founder of Big City Readers talk about why she's on a mission to make reading fun for kids and their parents. Plus, what to do if you're afraid to take a leap in your career.

Melissa Villanueva of Brewpoint Coffee on Creating Avenues for Café Owners of Color

Interview with Brewpoint Coffee CEO and Founder Melissa Villanueva about balancing community and larger ambitions, creating opportunities for people of color, and equity and inclusion in business.

4 Easy Ways to Make More Money By Training Your Brain

Mental rehearsal is a powerful psychological technique that's used by athletes, billionaires, and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals.

5 Tips to Help You Go from Camera-Shy to Camera-Ready

Media trainer Jessica Abo reveals her go-to production tips so you can feel more confident for your next on-air appearance, pitch, or presentation.

Shone Tran of Chicken Meets Rice on Stepping into Food Entrepreneurship

Interview with Chicken Meets Rice co-founder Shone Tran about pulling inspiration from tragedy, taking small steps, and thriving in business with your best friend.

Try This 15-Minute Million Dollar Morning Routine To Energize Your Day

Here are six steps you can take to amplify your energy and grow your income.

This Is Why Being a Podcast Guest Can Transform Your Personal Brand

The Founder and CEO of Scout's Agency shares why a "podcast tour" is the new PR strategy for thought-leaders.

Samantha Trottier and Hernan Regiardo of Mate Society on Creating Content People Like

Interview with Mate Society founders about authentic online connections, making money in the creator economy, and choosing the right brand deals.

9 Ways To Make 'Superhuman Focus' Work For You

In this video, Ben Angel shows you how to improve your focus and do more with your time.

Julian Cervantes of Super Taco Mexican Restaurants on Owning a Family Business

Interview with Super Taco Mexican Restaurants Founder Julian Cervantes about starting a business with little knowledge, having a Plan B, and balancing family and work.

Discover Entrepreneur Series

Whether you need advice on how to get your business off the ground or you’re just looking for inspiration, our video series have something for everyone. Browse our library below to find a series that speaks to you and your interests.