What: The Oxford Hotel

What it does: Boutique hotel in downtown Bend

Pictured: Samuel Johnson, general manager

Employees: 56

Address: 10 NW Minnesota Ave.

Phone: (541) 382-8436

Website: www.oxfordhotelbend.com

From the seventh floor of The Oxford Hotel lies a vista that never ceases to amaze Samuel Johnson, the hotel general manager.

The 39-year-old said he wants to show hotel guests the visual beauty of Bend as well as the spiritual beauty.

People in Bend still say hello, he said. They enjoy a riverside park right along downtown streets with a view of snow-capped mountains in the distance.

“Bend is a magical oasis, a perfect blend of small-town feeling with big-city amenities,” said Johnson. “The spiritual beauty of Bend is a feeling. It’s coy and playful. It is pristine and raw. It is Bend.”

Johnson’s job is to make the visitor experience as seamless as possible from the moment guests arrive at the trendy lobby to the selection they make from the pillow bar.

“We’re off a major freeway, in the middle of Oregon, but we’re a destination,” said Johnson.

The 59-room hotel on NW Minnesota Avenue in Bend is the flagship of the Oxford Hotel chain founded by the Baney family. It now has 14 hotels in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California. The Oxford sets itself apart from other hotels not just by its ownership, but by the low-slung check-in counter in the lobby, a bee farm on the roof, solar panels that capture sunlight and turn it into electricity and a push to be as green as possible.

This year, the Oxford is No. 12 on the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for U.S. hotels, the sixth year in a row it has ranked in the Top 25.

As manager, Johnson said, he sees his main objective each day to ensure that both hotel guests and workers have a good time and that the spirit of Bend is preserved.

Johnson recently talked to The Bulletin about The Oxford Hotel. His responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: How did you get started in the hotel business?

A: My first job was working at a restaurant in Portland. It was the Canton Grill. It’s on 82nd Avenue. It’s been there since 1944. The family that ran it really knew hospitality. I started working there as a host/busser. I started managing by the time I was 17 years old. Later, a friend got me a job at a hotel. I started at the front desk and after three months, I liked it. Then I worked in housekeeping for a couple of years, director of operations, assistant GM and then got the opportunity to be the general manager of our Portland hotel, and I came up to Bend three years ago. So here I am.

Q: What role does the hotel play in the community?

A: We have always felt like a community partner. We partner with BendFilm, TEDx Bend, Oregon High Desert Classic; we host the Oxford Classic in Drake Park — those are the sorts of things we feel we need to be a part of. The owners, Curt and Robin (Baney), have made donations to the OSU-Cascades hospitality program.

Q: What makes a hotel successful?

A: I am fortunate to work with a wonderful team that consistently amazes me with their level of hospitality. The individuals here are kind, genuine and passionate about the guest experience. Not to mention they like having fun, too. We want to share that same feeling with our guests when they walk through the door.

For us, being a boutique hotel, what we try to set out and do is to have each guest who comes in the door have a unique experience. We do that by partnering with local companies. French press coffee, locally made mattresses, bottled water products, toiletries in the room — all come from local vendors.

Q: What is your management philosophy?

A: The most important aspect of my position is hiring people, especially hiring people who are genuine. There is no replacement for that. The part about my job I love the best is seeing the people I work with wow guests. There is nothing that my team can’t accomplish. I lived in South Korea, and over there I was a teacher. The amount of gratitude and graciousness the parents showed me for having the privilege to work with their kids, it was extremely humbling. It taught me the power of listening and how we have to understand first what the issue is.

Q: How does The Oxford Hotel fit in downtown?

A: Downtown, with all the local shops and boutiques, it’s a perfect blend. Drake Park and Mirror Pond in the backdrop, breweries along the way and many different shops and (a) stay in a four-diamond hotel, just park the car and go. We have bikes here that our guests can borrow and ride around town. People come here for the hiking and experiences that are varied. We can do a better job of marketing the community to newcomers, but we have to hold to our values and core beliefs, and that is Bend.

Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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