The substantial commissioned oil painting of Camelback Mountain serves as the focal point of the lobby of the Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort. It also represents a victory for a small-business owner in a big conglomerate world.
When Valley native and real-estate veteran Mark Snyder purchased the property in 2014, he wanted it to feel distinctly Arizona despite its internationally recognizable name.
Part of this plan favored a familiarity and cozier feel in the lobby over generic ambiance. To do this, Snyder commissioned Utah artist Karl Thomas, known for his scenic renditions of natural wonders, to craft the 9-foot-by-22-foot painting of Camelback.
Hilton company policy requires that all wall art be contained in a plexiglass box. To Snyder, that was not a possibility. The piece’s gilded gold frame was another facet that faced protest.
“They thought it was too living room-esque. But that’s what we wanted to deliver in that lobby,” said Snyder of the piece that took a year to complete and can be lit to look like the mountain at dusk or dawn.
Today, the painting hangs unobstructed, bordered by a gold edge.
Snyder’s position of being a private owner of a property this size is rare, as most are owned by large companies or corporations, he said. Snyder’s goal: When a family returns home to the cold and snow of Chicago, for example, they’d recall that one of their best experiences that felt the most Scottsdale would be their time in the hotel.
“We wanted to come up with an authentic Scottsdale hotel experience. We wanted to be on the list of properties that come to mind when people ask where to stay in Scottsdale,” Snyder said.
The bevvy of touches — historical photos in the restaurant and rooms, paintings of local mountains and postcards from 1953, when it was its original incarnation, Paradise Valley Guest Ranch, displayed in the business office, photos from decades past of Arcadia and downtown Scottsdale — have given this resort with a chain name an indie feel.
It’s what Snyder envisioned when he put into motion a $25 million renovation that was completed in July 2016. Previously, it had been the Chaparral Suites since 1990.
Every piece of the resort has been updated and transformed to reflect the high-end design and local flair. This major revamp caught the attention of Hilton, which honored the resort with a Hilton Conversion of the Year Award this summer.
The property is exponentially larger than the typical Embassy Suites and required the massive undertaking. Snyder’s Embassy, one of the few in the nation to earn the “resort” distinction, offers 312 rooms compared with the typical 177 at other Embassy Suites, he said. 60,000-square-feet of meeting space dwarfs the others’ averages of 5,000 to 6,000-square-feet.
Over the past year, business has grown more than 14 percent in occupancy and experienced nearly 20 percent growth in its average daily rate over the past six months, Snyder said.
This puts Snyder, a hotel broker and owner of Snyder Nationwide Real Estate., on the other side of a buzzing $1.1 trillion industry, according to American Hotel & Lodging Association.
In 2016, demand for U.S. hotel rooms rose to 1.6 billion nights while supply rose to 1.8 billion nights, the highest it’s been since 2010, according to the data company STR.
Having the versatility to appeal to all visitors is also an asset, with leisure travelers responsible for 60 percent of national hotel room sales and 40 percent of business travelers, according to investment research and analysis firm Market Realist.
Jeneen Garcia, executive director for the Public Relations Student Society of America, has been coming to the property for years, and her organization has been using it for more than 20 years. She likes the location and meeting space and raved about the accommodating staff that has been a huge reason for their return over the years.
“He’s done a nice job of updating the hotel to make a modern feel without losing the old charm,” said Garcia, who is based in New York City and enjoys the new look of a familiar favorite. “I think he’s achieved that Scottsdale-feel.”
A graduate of Chaparral High School, Snyder and his wife are from a line of Arizonans. His wife’s grandfather brokered the 1953 transaction for the property to Ray Silverman, a Midwest transplant who moved his family to Scottsdale and purchased land that would host the first rooms of what eventually became the current incarnation of the Embassy Suites.
Silverman not only became one of the city’s first hoteliers, he also became known for his philanthropy. The generations followed suit.
Snyder’s interest to become a hotel owner was piqued while on a road trip with a friend, a fellow broker who told him the property was up for sale. His Arizona roots and love for his home state made the decision easy.
“The Silvermans have been an incredible family in this community with their philanthropy. To be able to own something as prime as that location … that’s when the light came on,” Snyder said. “Envisioning what it could become, this made a lot of sense.”
Locals often drop in, curious about what the renovation yields.
“Not a day goes by when I’m down here and someone says, ‘We love what you’ve done with the property,’” Snyder said.
The attention to detail, thoughtful layout of guest rooms and wet bar and other amenities put it in a category higher than other Embassy Suites and in competition with higher-end properties, Snyder said. Providing a better level of service also comes with this territory.
A lot of his jobs are out of state, so this gave Snyder the opportunity to do a project that’s close to his home and heart.
“It’s been a blessing and a dream come true. To be able to have this property is an honor,” he said.