The Darling wakes to new management company

After two years of operating solo, The Darling Hotel joins Charlestowne Hotels to help them grow in opportunity, hospitality and logistics

VISALIA – There’s a new manager in town, and they go by the name Charlestowne Hotels. At the start of November, The Darling Hotel gave the new company full reins of its hospitality operations. 

On Nov. 1, Charlestowne Hotels took over The Darling Hotel’s management operations, according to Charlestowne CMO Michael Cady. This will not affect the ownership of the hotel as the company will only oversee hotel operations, accounting, marketing, revenue management and food and beverage operations, Cady said. 

Current Darling Hotel manager Michael Seaward said the off-site management company will provide more opportunities for existing employees, all while spreading the work over a larger management staff. 

“I’m super proud of what we did the last two years without [a management company], and I’m super excited to move forward with them, learn from them and [see] where we can go,” Seaward said.

Seaward said the hospitality company will help the Darling Hotel track their room rates with local competitors, which will aid the current management team greatly, since it was only Seaward and hotel manager Claire Caviglia. As far as food and beverage, Seaward said Charlestowne Hotels will help with menu development and pricing.

“They have a team and a system that’s tried and true, so that’s awesome,” Seaward said. “They also have a really good marketing team that we’re going to be working with, as well.”

Charlestowne Hotels is a hospitality company that manages over 50 hotels across the country, and has been in the hospitality business for over 40 years. The Darling is the only hotel that Charlestowne Hotels is now managing in California, expanding their territory to reach across 26 states. The Elderwood, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant and lounge, is also included in the new management and is part of the small pool of Charlestowne Hotels’ restaurants.

The owners of the Darling Hotel had little hospitality experience going into the business, so the plan was always to hire a management company similar to Charlestowne Hotels. The Darling is owned by Courthouse Square Ventures, a limited liability company composed of Bob Ainley, Matt Ainley, as well as the Mouw, Robertson and Largoza families. 

Additionally, partnering with Charlestowne Hotels is creating more opportunities for employees. Seaward said that employees can transfer to any of the 50 properties that are managed by Charlestowne Hotels. Also, if there is a staffing shortage, Charlestowne Hotels can fly someone out to help the Darling Hotel, according to Seaward.

Charlestowne Hotels seeks to address both “emotional and practical” aspects of hotel management, according to their portfolio. The company focuses on budget planning, reputation management and prioritizing guest experiences. They specialize in lifestyle, branded, soft-branded and condo properties, ranging from well-known hotels such as the Holiday Inn, all the way to boutique style hotels in rural California, like the Darling.

“We never tire of the excitement that comes with meeting new owners and supporting them as they evolve the visions for their properties,” Kyle Hughey, chief executive officer of Charlestowne Hotels, said in a statement. “The Darling’s historic ties and architecture transports guests back to California’s Art Deco period.”

The Darling’s four-story building was constructed in 1935 as an expansion of the original County Courthouse built in the 1880s. The 22,300 square foot modern structure is considered a gem of the Public Works Act of the New Deal with its art deco architecture and decor. The building housed the County Board of Supervisors, Treasury, Auditor, Assessor and Purchasing departments until 1952 when it became the acting Courthouse after the original courthouse was damaged by an earthquake, which was constructed in the 1880s at the corner of East Center Avenue and North Court Street in Visalia. 

Just a year after its opening, the Darling was already ranked No. 19 on Tripadvisor’s list of the “25 Hottest New Hotels in the World” in May 2021. The hotel was awarded as part of the 2021 Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best awards from Tripadvisor, the world’s largest online travel platform. The ‘Hottest New Hotels’ list is composed of hotels that opened July 2019 or later and celebrate the most highly rated hotels based on quality and quantity of traveler reviews.

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