About five years ago Bryan Glazer read in an article that the Vinoy might be for sale. He immediately called his friend and hotel investment guru Lou Plasencia. “What’s the story on the Vinoy?” he asked. Plasencia laughed, and less than a month later the Vinoy belonged to Bryan and his wife Shanna. The iconic resort hotel was never publicly listed on the market.
The Glazers, and the hotel’s general manager Vanessa Williams, were the featured guests at Wednesday’s St Pete Downtown Partnership luncheon.
The Glazers, who will celebrate eight years together in a few days, said they took on the project out of passion for what the Vinoy already meant to the community, as well as what it could become. Shanna said their investment in the hotel was a “no brainer,” while Bryan noted it was one of the only acquisitions they’ve made personally, outside of the family’s First Allied Corporation. “It’s a generational project,” he added, smiling: “We have two young children, 6 and 5, and in a couple years you’ll be seeing them working at the pool and working at the front desk. We’re here for the long term.”
Downtown Partnership leader Jason Mathis, the event’s host, asked about the vision for the bayfront landmark. Bryan Glazer answered that “from the start, the first thing we said is we want it to be a five-star resort.” But he and Shanna made sure that despite the massive renovations, “when you walk into the hotel, it still feels like the Vinoy.”
The Glazers were meticulous in the decisions they made and the people they hired. Still the nearly 100-year-old structure held some surprises. Removing the front staircase leading up to the porch revealed a secret room under the stairs. “The room,” Shanna noted, “had no access points for it so we can only speculate what it was used for.”
In addition to the physical changes, the resort is getting a refreshed brand. The team chose to switch its Marriott sub-brand from Renaissance to the Autograph Collection. GM Williams said the choice was made because “The Vinoy brand stands on its own,” and The Autograph Collection hotels are all properties with individually strong brands that don’t rely on the Marriott name to thrive.
“We always talk about the Vinoy being a front door to the community,” Bryan Glazer added. “Well, this is still a secret, St Petersburg proper.” He believes downtown has only reached a small fraction of its growth potential and that visitors will soon visit the area just as much for the downtown as for the beaches.
The trio shared a few points on what the future holds for the Vinoy.
- They’ve taken core samples of the concrete to determine the original color of the hotel. It will remain pink, though the shade of pink may change slightly when it’s time to repaint.
- The members continue to be a priority and the Vinoy Club is also getting a rebrand.
- When queried by Raymond James Senior Vice President (and tennis ace) Jeff Hearn, Bryan Glazer reassured him that “Tennis is an important part of this hotel” but …
- “We aren’t yet sure how the back of the property will change,” adding that with the advent of “Uber and Lyft, the need for parking has been taken down, even for events.” Thus the original plans for a new parking structure may not be the right way forward.
- The Glazers called the latest renovations just the first phase of a multiphase project. Next up, the famed Marchand’s restaurant.
One of the longest-standing hotels in St. Petersburg, the Vinoy will celebrate its centennial in 2025. Work began on what was to be known as the Vinoy Park Hotel in 1923. For a walk through its celebrated history, here’s our Vintage St. Pete story originally published in 2021.