I moved back to Austin from Manhattan in 1995 and stumbled on the San Jose, an old motel right off downtown. The property was for sale and inexpensive because it was in a run-down area. I bought it for $500,000, and it took two years to find the financing and start the renovations.
We opened on the first day of South By Southwest in 2000 -- right as a whole wing of the hotel flooded with sewage. It was pretty harrowing. For the first few months, we had a banner outside for half-price rooms.
I knew we were on track when a few months after we opened, the musician Patti Smith walked in with her guitar. She's the type of client you could only hope for. I still don't know how she found out about it, but it was a real turning point. These days, the San Jose runs upwards of 90% occupancy all the time.