Jay and Neil Shah, local sibling hotel empire owners, entered into headlines in December over their attempted acquisition of the Rittenhouse Hotel, the city’s No. 1 ranked luxury property by the erudite readers of Travel + Leisure.
If they succeed in acquiring the Rittenhouse — its manager David Benton could only confirm that “negotiations are ongoing” — it will only be the latest in a long string of successes for the Shah brothers. They have grown their family’s hospitality business, Hersha, to include ownership or management of more than 150 hotels. They have worked hard to insure that their hotels, concentrated along the Eastern seaboard and Los Angeles, reflect the neighborhoods where they are located.
To create the right ambience, their hotels are mostly furnished with furniture made right here in Pennsylvania. “When have you ever heard of anyone today manufacturing furniture in the United States, not China?” asked Neil Shah. “We do it because it offers us better quality, more control over the end product, and no delays in shipping.”
Father Hasu Shah started the business, part of which is now listed on the NYSE, with the purchase of one hotel in Harrisburg 28 years ago. “It was natural that my parents chose to buy a hotel,” Neil Shah said. “Hospitality is a big tradition in India.”
“I want [guests] to feel a part of the local community for the length of the stay, almost residential in atmosphere,” his brother Jay Shah added.
Their philosophy might be helping Hersha-branded hotels avoid the commoditization that many hotels chain are suffering in the age of Expedia and Travelocity.
“We encourage our guests to have a direct relationship with our hotels. The room prices on our corporate website is always the same or better than on the travel websites,” Jay Shah said.