Meet Kenny Osehan, Ojai’s queen of hip motels

What’s the difference between a tired old motel and a boutique hotel with pious people and loads of modern charm?

Apparently it was Kenny Osehan. She is a hotel “conservator” who runs two of Ojai’s most Instagrammed properties, the Capri Hotel and the Ojai Rancho Inn, through her company Shelter Social Club.

Both of these properties are Midcentury motels that were once aimed at families on a tight budget. Now, renovated to emphasize their history while bringing in a new boho-chic aesthetic, they attract millennials looking for design are willing to pay $250 or more per night.

Pink tiles on the bathroom wall with a small vase, and the same bathroom with gold faucet and pink tiles.

The honeymoon suite at the Ojai Rancho Inn features a pink tiled bathroom.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s all about how you feel when you arrive at a property,” says Osehan, sitting on the shady courtyard of the Capri Hotel. “You want to feel the character of the place.”

Capri is a property built in 1963 with 30 guest rooms, a swimming pool, whirlpool and grass area commonly used for relaxation and special events, and a Mediterranean-style stone wall that dominates so in the lobby. Most recently in 2017, with different paint colors and furnishings, Osehan said, rooms cost as little as $80. Now, with design overlays and Italian paintings by Mattea Perrotta and other artists, they make $300 to $490 per night.

Ojai Rancho Inn, built in 1950 and redone from 2012 to 2015, is a 17-room hotel with a more rustic, rustic atmosphere. With rooms enclosed around a car park and location facing the busiest street in town, this hostel is a motel in the bones. However, Osehan rewrote it as “adult summer camp”.

The poolside Chief’s Peak bar, added in 2014, is a small but popular gathering spot. One wall is a series of Kat & Roger’s earthy mugs. There are ceramic lamps by Heather Levine, paintings by Carly Jo Carson and armchairs and outdoor chairs by Eric Trine. Guest room rates start around $260 (free parking, no resort fees) and they book rooms quickly.

Plants grow on top of a bar at the Ojai Rancho Inn.

Chief’s Peak bar overlooks the pool at the Ojai Rancho Inn.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

As Osehan admits, part of this success is Ojai’s growing popularity as a destination.

But another part is that mysterious thing called style. Osehan says her approach dates back to childhood.

Osehan’s family immigrated from Indonesia when she was an infant and runs a budget motel in Santa Barbara called Travelers.

“We moved in when I was 9 years old,” she recalls. “We live in the manager’s unit. One bedroom, four of us. During their teenage years, Osehan and her older sister, Jessy, did the necessary chores around the motel, from cleaning to working at the front desk. By the time she moved into a UC Santa Barbara dorm and began studying sociology and art history, “I definitely didn’t want to be in the hospitality business. But when it’s in your blood, that’s what you know.”

Sure enough, after college, when she and a partner were looking to “bring a creative community together,” the opportunity they found was a grueling motel.

The lobby at Ojai's Capri Hotel features a stone fireplace, seating area and plants.

A fire heats up the lobby at Ojai’s Capri Hotel.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Two photos: the tree on the Capri hotel grounds and the bed in the wooden paneled bedroom

Trees thrive at Capri Hotel, left, At Ojai Rancho Inn, honeymoon suites overlook the event space.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Given the opportunity to take over the Presidio Motel rental in Santa Barbara, they jumped in, planning “to host art shows and live bands, to have a venue that still has a sustainable source of income.” “.

Among the initial challenges: “mushrooms growing out of the wallpaper” and a difficult set of customers. At first, “We called the police on guests several times a week,” she said.

But they made progress, renewing leases, buying new furniture at Ikea, and recruiting artists to decorate rooms. In an effort to “create an experience rather than just a place to sleep,” they found a niche in the area’s competitive motel market.

At the end of 2012, Osehan and her partner left Presidio to stay, founded the Shelter Social Club and came across “really good energy” at the Ojai Rancho Inn. They left a message for the owner, Steve Edelson, a longtime LA nightclub owner who also owns the Capri and Hummingbird buildings in Ojai. Soon they had a long-term lease.

Two photos: Buses standing on the left, and bicycles waiting to pick up guests at the Ojai Rancho Inn.

Exterior of Chief’s Peak bar at Ojai Rancho Inn with tall cactus, left. Bicycles are available for guests.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

A decade later, the Shelter Social Club group includes two Ojai properties; Alamo Inn and Bar Alamos in Los Alamos; Santa Barbara’s Agave Inn (formerly Travelers), where Osehan’s aunt Wendy Simorangkir was a partner; Solvang’s Hamlet Inn (managed by Osehan’s sister, Jessy Verkler); and Santa Barbara’s Sama Sama Kitchen (run by Osehan’s cousin Ryan Simorangkir). In 2018, Osehan acquired its partner.

Osehan, 42, completed the renovation of Capri just in time for the pandemic. She made it through, she said, with help from federal small business loans, a savvy landlord, and some long-term renters.

Osehan’s third Ojai property, which has not yet flown the Shelter Social Club flag, is the 31-room Hummingbird Inn. It was built in the 70s or 80s – Osehan not sure – in the Spanish colonial style at work. It remained open as renovations progressed slowly.

Products are on the shelves of the gift shop at the Ojai Rancho Inn.

Local items are sold in the gift shop at the Ojai Rancho Inn.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

When reviewing any hotel, Osehan says, she hopes for a space with purpose — “and when the attention to detail is done so well that you can’t see it but you feel it. “. She burns bright lights, intrusive music, and renovations that don’t respect the intent of the first designer.

As a latecomer to a property, she says, “You don’t want to honor a parquet that was brought in as a bad decision and not part of the original architecture.”

The lobby shops at both hotels (and at the Alamo) are managed by Eskina Space to include inventory such as coffee table books about surfing, bottles of Wonder Valley’s beautiful Olive Oil, and other items. Dad Grass pack (five pre-rolled CBD joints, “low dose, full toke, like your parents used to smoke”).

Wherever she works, Osehan says, “I wanted to make sure it didn’t feel pretentious in any way. I never wanted something to feel too precious.”
This is especially true in Ojai, she said, because of the community’s laid-back reputation.

“Coming to Ojai is to get away from feeling like you need to do something,” says Osehan.

People lounging on chairs on the grass outside the Capri . hotel

Friends hang out in one of the open spaces at the Capri hotel.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2022-05-26/ojai-kenny-osehan-shelter-social-club Meet Kenny Osehan, Ojai’s queen of hip motels

Russell Falcon

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