At a Glance
FF&E purchasing for the hospitality industry
Projects per year
Tell us a bit about your main clients and services.
Gerry Brown: We focus on four- and five-star properties. That’s definitely our niche. Three years ago, we did approximately 50 La Quinta hotels around the US. We’ll sometimes do three-star hotels, but typically in large volumes. Basically, we can supply everything other than food and beverage. We focus on what they call FF&E: furniture, fixtures, and equipment. That includes decorative light fixtures, carpet, furniture, and fabrics.
What prompted your decision to move GBA across the boarder?
GB: First, my wife got a transfer to the US. Also, I had started to do some business here, and the US was obviously a bigger market than in Canada. It was easier to operate here. We moved to Chicago in 1992 from Toronto, and I became a US citizen eight years ago.
What was important when it came to increasing your presence in the American market?
GB: It was really just trying to get in contact with some of the individuals that I knew down here, mainly interior designers. I sent letters to about 50 interior designers and some other clients and just tried to make contact. I did a big road trip in ’92 to talk to some designers I’d known from previous projects. The majority of our business comes from references from interior designers, so that was my emphasis.
When did the big break come?
GB: Believe it or not, it was the Hyatt Regency in Cancun, Mexico. That was my first big one. An interior designer, Wilson Associates of Dallas, got me involved with the owner. When I moved here in ’92, it wasn’t a great time in the industry. It wasn’t a depression, but business was hard to come by, and getting that property, being a Hyatt-recognized brand, helped a lot. We moved into a lot of other projects from there.
What do you consider some of your most important American projects?
GB: There’s a couple I’m quite proud of: the London Hotel in New York and the London Hotel in Hollywood, California. They were both conversions. Blackstone Group owns them. They were both particularly hard jobs, and they turned out to be really successful. We also did the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans, which is a 1,200-room hotel that was hit by Hurricane Katrina. We just finished that last fall. It was a long job. It had been operating, and Katrina blew out all the windows; they showed a lot of pictures of it in the news. They had to gut the building because of water, and new ownership took over. We were fortunate enough to be awarded that project. It took four years to complete. It was labor intensive, and funding was difficult to obtain. I am also proud of two Montage Resorts, which were new construction hotels in Laguna Beach, California, and Deer Valley, Utah.
How have you found that you’ve had to strategize differently in the United States?
GB: The US and Canada operate quite differently from the point of view of banking. The banks in Canada are more government-controlled and didn’t have the financial issues that the States have just gone through. However, when it comes to dealing with manufacturers, it’s a lot easier in the US because there are so many more manufacturers. With the Canadian dollar being on par with the US dollar, Canadian manufacturers are hurting; when it was 10 percent less, they could come to the States and sell their wares and services.
In spite of those differences, what has remained your goal when supplying a client?
GB: The important thing from our perspective is to provide the owner and the rest of the team with no surprises—to make sure that they are getting what they thought they were getting. There are so many pieces to this process, and a lot of people don’t realize how it all comes together. It’s a team that does it—from the ownership to project management to interior design to installation to us, doing the purchasing and coordinating of all facets of the various items required to furnish a complete hotel. We want to make sure that when the doors open, [the clients] see what they expected and what the ultimate customer—and the hotel guest—appreciates. ABQ