Hotel Dryce Is Jonathan Morris’ ‘Love Letter’ to Fort Worth

Jonathan Morris
Jonathan Morris

A former dry ice building in the Cultural District of Fort Worth, Texas, is slated to open as a 21-room boutique hotel early next year. Hotel Dryce is Jonathan Morris’ first foray into the hotel business. The entrepreneur and Fort Worth local says that this project is a “love letter” to his city. “In the same way that I’ve created other businesses, it grew from scratching my own itch—traveling to other places across the country and around the world, being inspired by hotel spaces, and thinking to myself, ‘Why don’t we have this?’”

When Morris and his business partner, Allen Mederos, purchase the warehouse in 2018, they felt that the area was missing a small, independent lodging option that reflected the unique identity of the city, which often “gets lumped into the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex,” Morris explains. He notes that many people both in and outside Fort Worth don’t realize that, with a population of over 900,000, the city is the 13th-largest in the United States. Despite its size, Morris says Fort Worth feels like a small, laid-back town. Hotel Dryce will carry that vibe throughout the property and its yet-to-be-named lobby bar that Morris hopes will attract both travelers and locals, including those who will eventually flock to the nearby Dickies Arena once large-scale events resume. “We want to give an authentic version of Fort Worth,” Morris says. “If you’re not from here, you may be surprised at just how funky it is.”

Morris also sees an opportunity to showcase Fort Worth as an inclusive city. “For me, it’s very important that our staff reflect the diversity and inclusion that we want for the brand to project in every way.” He adds that the process of getting Hotel Dryce off the ground has been a community effort. “This is a consortium of local makers, local artists, and local small businesses that are all pouring their own gifts, talents into bringing this small hotel to life,” he explains. “As we continue to design and develop the Hotel Dryce brand, a priority for me is to ensure that it represents not necessarily what the history of Fort Worth has been, but more importantly, what Fort Worth is today and what the future of Fort Worth can look like.”

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Considering the current state of travel and the economy, Morris says that the team is preparing for the reality that Hotel Dryce will open in an environment that is very different from the world of 2018 when he and Mederos first began developing the hotel. “We’ve shifted to thinking, ‘What are the things we need to do once we open to effectively communicate safety and cleanliness and to truly reassure guests that this small space has their safety in mind?’” Morris is reviewing what others across the industry are doing as they reopen and invite travelers back, and thinking proactively about how the property can adapt. “We’ve not completely rethought the design, but there are specific spaces in the hotel that we’re thinking, ‘Maybe this furniture layout doesn’t work in early 2021.’”

Hotel Dryce

Despite the current state of the world, Morris remains hopeful. “Ideally, we open up the hotel and in that time we have a vaccine and things are back to some sense of normalcy, but basically we’re just preparing to live in the world that we’re living in right now,” he says, adding that as a small, independent property, Hotel Dryce is well-positioned to stay agile in the current environment. “I think that our size is going to allow us to be creative in how we respond to the pandemic.”

When asked if he has any words of advice for aspiring hoteliers and entrepreneurs, Morris says if there is a need or a space that hasn’t been filled in one’s community, start by doing the research. “Figure out what it’s going to take to bring that dream to life,” he explains. “I encourage anyone who feels like they have a story to tell or something that they can contribute to wherever they are to do the legwork to bring it to light.”

 


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