GREENVILLE, S.C. — Just how appreciated is a warm welcome at check-in? Well, Mel Hammonds and other guests at the newly opened boutique hotel Aloft Greenville Downtown are dewy-eyed enthralled. "We loved that the manager greeted our two shih tzu before greeting us," says Hammonds. Later, spotting two dog-themed prints hanging on their guest room wall was even more reason to gush.
Like the city itself — a revitalized former mill town that defies expectations with its resilience and entrepreneurship — everything is a little bit different at the Aloft, where the dog-friendly ethic far surpasses anything found at run-of-the-mill pet-friendly accommodations. "We're as excited by our four-legged guests as we are about our two-legged ones," says general manager Jonathan Brashier. This love affair with dogs comes straight from the top — proprietor John McKibbon lives with his two rescued pit bull/shar-pei mixes – and from the city of Greenville itself. (Myriad shops put out dog bowls and allow pets to browse the inventory with their owners, or snuggle at their feet when dining outdoors.)
Set in the very heart of a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly Main Street that evokes the vibe of a European village — thanks to streetlights, a grand canopy of trees, outdoor art installations, and blooming landscaping — the Aloft bubbles with a magnetic energy that everyone, from hipsters to boomers to pets, finds attractive. In the airy "lobby," a multi-use space referred to as the Re:mix lounge, the W XYZ bar throbs with live music some nights, and serves up creative Southern regional dishes like jalapeno-and-bacon-inflected mac and cheese, and hand-cut truffle frites with bacon aioli.
Hammonds and her husband appreciated being able to have dinner and drinks there with their dogs. "Cash, one of our shih tzu, made his first pickup attempt with a cairn terrier sitting in a woman's lap at the bar. He was soaking up the lively atmosphere and didn't want to leave," she says.
Scattered about the public spaces are a roster of contemporary acrylics, ceramics, wood sculptures — even the owner's dog, Charlie, is rendered as a mixed media collage — and other locally created works. The decor mirrors Greenville's infatuation with the arts, and stimulates conversations between Greenvillians and visitors alike. As will, no doubt, the Aloft's newest resident-to-be: a rescue dog who is up for adoption. As of March 1, the hotel is partnering with Let'em Live Upstate, a nonprofit focused on animal welfare, and hosting a dog in the Re:mix lounge until a (vetted) guest or resident adopts the dog, which they hope would be within a week or so. (The tempered glass and metal enclosure for the pup embraces the same airy, modern aesthetic as the hotel.) Guests can take the dog to their room for some one-on-one time or for a supervised walk. "We encourage bonding," says Brashier. Because Greenville embraces a locavore philosophy, the hotel is teaming up with a local pet food company that will provide food and — along with another Greenville company manufacturing dog beds and another that makes leashes and collars — contribute to the care package each dog takes home when they depart.
A buzzing property that defies tradition at every step, the Aloft encourages people and pets to get out of their rooms. "We want our guests to experience everything that's wonderful about Main Street," says Brashier. And there's plenty to choose from, especially the pedestrian Liberty Bridge that curves above a 40-foot waterfall tumbling in stunning Falls Park on the Reedy. Scenic dog walk anyone?
ALOFT GREENVILLE DOWNTOWN 5 North Laurens St., Greenville, S.C. 864-297-6100. www.aloftgreenvilledowntown.com