Kelsey Bunker J.D. ‘83: Taking Flight With the Jupiter Hotel
August 06, 2008
Jenna Bush stayed there. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, the Ranconteurs’ Jack White, and Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro partied there.
These are just a few of the famous guests who have frequented Kelsey Bunker’s hip Jupiter Hotel in Portland’s lower Burnside district–the stretch between Grand and Sandy avenues, dubbed LoBu. Transformed from a seedy Travel Inn, this 80-room boutique hotel with its attached Doug Fir Lounge combines cutting-edge design with an indie ambience that offers “a new experience in urban hospitality.” In 2005, the hotel landed on Condé Nast Traveller’s coveted hot list.
Bunker, however, leaves the celebrity tracking to her business partner, Ted Breslau, while she concentrates on the more organic, relational elements of the space and its visitors.
“We don’t really offer a tranquil spa-like hotel experience,” she says. “We think of it as a high-energy, fun environment where you never know what’s going to happen next.”
When she travels, Bunker finds that it’s the people she meets along the way telling stories and offering a different outlook on life who leave her with meaningful memories. Her goal at the Jupiter is to create an environment that gives people from diverse backgrounds an opportunity to meet and mingle.
“On one hand, we cater to rockers and a highly tattooed clientele. On the other, we attract politicos, architects, and designers,” she says. “We want people to feel comfortable, whether they arrive in a limo or by skateboard or bicycle.”
And when an event takes place on the property, Bunker encourages the host to invite hotel guests to join in.
Before partnering with Breslau, Bunker envisioned opening a comprehensive yoga center combined with a boutique and macrobiotic cafe. When the “doors didn’t open” for that project, her broker introduced her to Breslau, and their plans for the hotel fell into place. To handle the day-to-day details, they hired talented, experienced hotel managers.
“I had the good sense to ask a lot of questions–continually,” she says.
Strengthened by her legal background, Bunker’s business acumen is also guided by her spirituality. After briefly practicing law, she gave it up and become a “hyper soccer mom.” When her 19-year marriage crumbled, she looked for inspiration at a workshop based on the 1997 book The Four Agreements (be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best).
After nine years of study with author Don Miguel Ruiz, a descendent of a long line of shamanic teachers and healers, she’s achieved a sense of freedom and joy, a strong faith and trust in herself, and a willingness to take chances and learn from her mistakes without being attached to the outcomes of success or failure.
Bunker sees herself “playing in the business world” for another 10 years, then honoring her artistic side and opening her own studio.
“Then again, you never know,” she says. “I could be in business 20 years from now if I’m still having fun.”
–by Pattie Pace