The Hotel That Started as a Gift Shop [The New York Times: PRESS]

Jun 22, 2023 | In The District, Press

Photo via Naomieh Jovin for The New York Times. 

When she was growing up, Shannon Maldonado wanted to be a fashion designer.

After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Ms. Maldonado spent a decade on the design teams for several brands in New York, including Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and American Eagle. But by her early 30s, Ms. Maldonado said, she had become uninspired by her career.

While traveling around the world for work, she liked hunting for unconventional souvenirs in hotel gift shops (her first purchase was a speckled ceramic pen holder in Japan). She started to wonder what it would be like to choose such items for shops at the Ace or Standard hotels.

In 2015, Ms. Maldonado, now 39, recalled thinking, “What if I start a modern gift shop?”

Soon after, she started a website, Yowie, that sold housewares, like ceramic cups and bowls. (When considering names for the website, yowie, an Australian word synonymous with yeti or Bigfoot, emerged as a favorite and stuck.) Ms. Maldonado soon quit her job at American Eagle to focus on the business. She moved to her native Philadelphia, where she hosted a series of Yowie pop-up shops before settling into a tiny store in the Queen Village neighborhood.

Recently, she moved the store again, to a much bigger space on the ground floor of a new Yowie hotel designed and co-owned by Ms. Maldonado. The hotel is set to open this summer in Philadelphia.

“My dream was to be connected to a hotel,” she said. “I didn’t know that would be my hotel.”


Originally published by The New York Times.
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