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Das Brings Eastern Hospitality Home With Boston East India Hotels

Martin Desmarais

Boston East India Hotels founder, president and CEO Abhijit Das has made his dream of merging Eastern hospitality with Western process come true with his Troca Hotels brand. And now he has brought this home to fulfill another goal of connecting with the Indian American community in the Greater Boston area with the purchase of the iconic Stonehedge Inn & Spa in Tyngsboro, Mass.

Known as “Beej” to friends and colleagues, Das launched the North Andover-based Boston East India Hotels several years ago, but first turned his attention toward India. He wanted to nail down the kind of hospitality that India is famous for — always putting the guest first and making all feel as if they are the most important guest during their stay — while bringing the institutional efficiency of U.S. business in operating a property. To him, this is the best of both worlds.

“When we deliver a service to our guests we know how important culturally the experience is. We know how important the food experience is and how important connecting to local experience is,” said Das. “We take that warmth one feels in Indian hospitality and infuse it into our organization. If you go to one of our hotels, the warmth you are going to feel and appreciate is so much more than at a typical big-box, branded hotel.”

An Indian-American hotel owner is not unique, but an Indian-American hotel owner who took his company to India to develop its brand and mission in the heart of Indian hospitality is. And it is proving to be a winning combination for Boston East India Hotels.

The Boston East India Hotels experience began in early 2013 with the addition of The Sofala 15°74 hotel in Goa to the Troca Hotels portfolio. The 20-plus guest room property had a strong reputation for its style and architecture and under the Boston East India Hotels’ wing the hotel was revamped, updated and turned into a food, beverage and entertainment hotspot.

This early effort put Boston East India Hotels on the path to become the global hotel investment, development and management company it is today — a global collection of small boutique hotels that focus on service, food and beverage amenities that appeal to a global traveler that wants more out of their hospitality experiences.

Brought to the U.S. last year, the Troca Hotels brand has thrived at The Daniel 43°69 hotel in Brunswick, Maine. Under Boston East India Hotels, the 26-guest-room property has become Maine’s most interesting lifestyle luxury hotel.

The Daniel was converted from the Captain Daniel Stone Inn, a hotel based on a historic building from the 1800s. The reputation of the inn was strong, but Boston East India Hotels revamped and repositioned the property as an authentic food, beverage and entertainment destination.  A crucial move in that regard was the renovation, renaming and expansion of the restaurant to Coast Bar + Bistro. As part of the process, capacity was expanded to 80 people, a new culinary team put in place, and a new menu launched. In addition, the Coast Bar + Bistro launched the Thursday Night Live music series, which features local and nationally acclaimed artists for live music performances on Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to close, as well as select performances on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Renaming, renovating and expanding the Coast Bar + Bistro has turned out to be a crucial move to boost the presence of The Daniel in the area. Coast Bar + Bistro is a tremendous dining and entertainment experience, not only for The Daniel guests, but also for locals from Brunswick and the mid-coast Maine region,” Das said. “Under the inspired leadership of executive chef Donna Whelden, with a new menu, and an exciting new lunch starting soon, the Coast Bar + Bistro will become a dining destination for the area.”

Seeing just how successful the Troca Hotels brand can be in the United States — in creating a food, beverage and entertainment destination — Das and Boston East India Hotels jumped at the chance to buy a property north of Boston, between Lowell and Nashua, N.H., and in the cradle of the region’s Indian American community. Purchasing Stonehedge Inn & Spa this past August, gives Boston East India the gem of its hotel portfolio.  Located thirty miles north of Boston, Stonehedge Inn & Spa is a Four Diamond hotel situated on acres of New England woodlands on the banks of the Merrimack River, with 30 guest rooms, a DiRoNA award winning restaurant and full service spa. Frequented by celebrities and dignitaries alike, the Stonehedge Inn & Spa is renowned for having the largest wine cellar in New England and the second largest wine cellar in North America.

The hotel has built up a strong reputation as a destination for wine lovers, business travelers and guests in search of a romantic getaway in the classic setting of an upscale European country house. As part of its rebranding to the Troca Hotels brand, the rooms are being refreshed to update the color schemes, linens and window treatments, as well as an emphasis on discreet but progressive technology. All public areas will be updated, including the development of additional meeting and banquet space. The renovations will include a significant redesign of the bar, lounge and restaurant.

Boston East India Hotels believes that new entertainment programming — like that which really put The Daniel on the map in Maine — will make the signature restaurant more accessible to a new generation of guests.

“Stonehedge Inn & Spa is the only luxury boutique hotel of its kind built in the Northern Boston suburbs in the last 30 years. We are proud to have added it to our Troca Hotels collection and believe it will be the flagship property of our growing brand,” said Das. “With new spirited leadership and the Troca Hotels brand we look forward to the hotel becoming the finest and most interesting curated lifestyle luxury hotel in the region that will attract an intelligent, interesting and exciting clientele.”

While Das knows that the Stonehedge Inn & Spa must increase its profile to all guests, he is accurately aware that the hotel has the tremendous opportunity to connect with the Indian American community, which is closest to his heart.

And this means one big thing — weddings.

His vision is nothing short of making the Stonehedge Inn & Spa the top Indian wedding destination for discerning clients. Before the ink was even dry on the deal to purchase the property, Das and his Boston East India Hotels execs were already formulating plans to increase the Stonehedge Inn & Spa’s wedding capabilities.

Construction over this winter will add a state-of-the-art wedding pavilion to the property, increasing the wedding capacity from about 200 people to about 350-400. The goal is to have the new building up and ready by spring 2015.

“A wedding is one of the most important things that a family and couple will go through in their lives. It is fundamental. It is the beginning of the creation process for the next generation. We’d like to be a special part of a community’s special day,” Das said. “Stonehedge will become the community’s first choice destination for bespoke Indian weddings.

“It all ties in to Indian hospitality and the whole notion that the community created this place and nurtures it as a special one for celebrations and meaningful moments,” Das added.

And he has a strong message to the Indian American community.

“We would be honored to host your important, monumental event at a place that is meaningful and important enough to host it,” he said. “A place that has a history of creating memories that will last forever.”

In his quest to make the Stonehedge Inn & Spa the perfect Indian wedding destination, Das said he is establishing relationships with important caterers and vendors in the region, which will ensure seamless logistics for big events. He wants to make sure whatever the clients want they will get and that nothing stands in the way of this.

Das grew up in Andover and attended Middlebury College in Vermont. He has a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School and spent his early professional years as a practicing lawyer.

He was the founding partner of the Boston-based Tremont Law Group and also worked with law firms such as Goulston & Storrs. A lot of his law work was in hotel and real estate transactions and while a full time lawyer he also served as outside general counsel and chief operating officer of Priya Hospitality, a hotel development company in California. This experience led him to join hotel giant Hilton and he then spent several years — just prior to starting Boston East India Hotels — as co-head of development for the company on the Indian sub-continent.

While coming home to Boston with the new property is foremost on his mind, Das is still driving Boston East India Hotels forward with deals for additional hotels slated for signing over the next few months, including properties in New England, New Orleans, Spain, India and Sri Lanka.

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