Recently opened hotel in Clemson University’s campus to hire people with intellectual disabilities and graduates from ClemsonLIFE
CLEMSON — Following ten years of planning and four years of construction, a boutique hotel on the campus of Clemson University that employs people with intellectual impairments is finally open for business and ready to serve visitors.
Rich Davies and Rick Hayduk, who were the co-founders of The Shepherd Hotel, referred to their establishment, which is located between College Avenue and Sloan Street, as being purpose-driven.
The target is to have approximately forty percent of the personnel comprised of individuals who are intellectually disabled as adults. ClemsonLIFE is a post-secondary program that helps adults with intellectual impairments become ready for the workforce and learn how to live independently. Some of those individuals will graduate from the program.
These employees are responsible for greeting customers in the hotel lobby as well as maintaining the guest rooms and common areas. A few of them will also work at the hotel’s restaurant, which is known as Delish Sisters, or in the kitchen.
Notable campus features like as Sikes Hall, the Tillman Hall clock tower, and Memorial Stadium are visible in the distance when viewed from the rooftop of the six-story, 67-room hotel, which may be booked for parties. According to Davies, the tributes to Clemson that can be seen inside the hotel are purposefully understated.
The walls and the furniture are either a neutral color or a shade of blue or green. The murals that cover the televisions in the rooms are abstract representations of Clemson, with Lake Hartwell snaking through the middle of the image.
The Thomas Bar, which was named after the man who established the school, features barstools that are upholstered in green fabric and lined with cadet uniform buttons to pay homage to the institution’s rich past in the military. On one of the walls behind the bar is an imprint of a painting depicting Fort Hill, a former plantation owned by John C. Calhoun that is now part of the grounds of the university.
The hallways are decorated with reproductions of Anna Calhoun Clemson’s letters. “Some ancient cursive writing on a wall,” as Davies put it, “may look like that to folks who aren’t familiar with Clemson, but Clemson fans will know.”
Additionally, in order to add to the atmosphere, students participating in ClemsonLIFE constructed one hundred twenty works of art out of tissue paper. Charlie French, a prominent artist who also has Down syndrome, was kind enough to give the hotel three of his works of art.
The hotel is currently taking reservations, and the going rate for a room for two people is approximately $398 per night. There are some suites that feature balconies, while others have multi-room connectors. Sloan Street, which is considered to be the first level, is where guests enter the hotel, while College Avenue, which is considered to be the ground level, is where guests access the restaurant.
Although most of the hotel is unavailable to guests who do not have key cards, the general public is welcome to dine at the restaurant that has its roots in South Africa for breakfast, lunch, or supper. The majority of the items on the menu are variations on sandwiches, salads, and soups.
They also have the option of drinking indoors or on the outside terrace of the Thomas Bar, which strives to appeal to an older clientele and maintain a more subdued ambience than the bars located on College Avenue below. The hotel’s bar and restaurant are located on different floors, but there is a spiral staircase in the middle of the building that connects the two.
In 2011, Hayduk pitched his concept for a hotel to Dabo Swinney, then the head football coach at Clemson University. This marked the beginning of early planning for the hotel. Jamison, Hayduk’s daughter, was born with Down syndrome, and with his history in the hotel industry, he always had a desire of opening a hotel that would hire individuals with various disabilities.
Swinney set up a meeting between Hayduk and Davies, a real estate developer. Davies was enthusiastic about the concept and had the ideal location in mind when he consented to it: a trapezoidal piece of property that was situated between Tiger Properties of Clemson and Poke Star restaurant.
Mashburn construction, a general contractor, was the one to officially start construction on the site in November of 2019. The timeframe for its completion was thrown off because of the pandemic. It was originally predicted that it would be finished in the summer of 2020, then it was moved back to April 2022, and finally it was postponed to September 2022.
According to Davies, the construction process was difficult due to the eight-foot elevation shift from Sloan Street to College Avenue and the myriad regulations imposed by the city. The hotel was constructed in separate locations, and then cranes brought the completed sections together at the site.
About a dozen different sponsors contributed to the project, one of which was Viscosoft Mattresses, which gave all of the mattresses that were used in the rooms.
When asked about his company’s involvement, Jason Alpern, Vice President of Marketing for Viscosoft Mattresses, described the partnership as “just kind of a wonderful marriage from day one.”
Thomas Bar was granted permission by Peppervine, a restaurant and bar located in Charlotte, to use one of Peppervine’s “hugely popular” beverages, according to Davies.
“Once again, because of the purpose-driven aspect of what we’re doing, individuals have really stepped up and said, ‘Hey, we want to be a little part of it,'”