Big Brand or Boutique? When and why to choose the little guy (NYC edition)

The big guy.
The big guy.
The boutique.
The boutique.

So, let’s just say that Mary from Milwaukee is planning a trip to the Big Apple. And Mary from Milwaukee is generally accustomed to staying at Sheraton properties when she travels. She trusts the brand, she’s a member of the Starwood loyalty program, and she understands that hotels in Manhattan tend to be quite a bit pricier than hotels in other markets (or they used to be, anyway) – and so she’s prepared for this particular Sheraton to have slightly steeper rates than she’s used to paying.

So she surfs on over to the Sheraton site to find that a night at the Sheraton Manhattan Times Square is $233.10 for a non-smoking Queen room -- $270.98 with taxes – for the night of Friday, September 18th.

But wait. Mary can get a Queen Superior room at the swanky new Smyth Hotel in Tribeca (by Thompson Hotels), which just opened this winter with Sferra linens and a location that would be more likely to impress Mary’s snobby NYC niece (Times Square, where the Sheraton is located, would not) on the same night for $215.00, which comes out to $250.21 with taxes.

Let’s compare the two, with the help of our signature Pros & Cons and Bottom-Line assessments.

Sheraton Manhattan(7th Avenue at 51st)

Pros: Indoor pool; good fitness center with a view; three blocks from the theater district; free business center in lobby; 10-minute walk from 9 subway lines.

Cons: Stained carpets and dated rooms; $14.95 charge for Wi-Fi; overpriced on-site restaurant; room service closed for dinner (as of mid-July).

Bottom Line: “With worn, dirty rooms, generic, dated decor, and a weak restaurant, this 665-room Sheraton, located 10 short blocks north of Times Square, isn't pretty. But for the price, it offers some great amenities, like a large pool and free printing in the business center.”


The Smyth (85 West Broadway, near Chambers)


Pros: Brand-new property; everything is still immaculate; comfortable beds with Sferra linens; prompt, attentive service; convenient, safe, and quiet TriBeCa location; quiet rooms; room service available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Cons: Amenities include a small gym, and that's about it; Wi-Fi costs $10 a day; restaurant isn't open yet; limited menu in the lobby.

Bottom Line: "Built from scratch in TriBeCa and "soft-launched" in March 2009, the Smyth so far exhibits excellent service and lots of downtown style. There's no party scene -- yet -- and amenities are limited, but the restaurant and cellar bar are slated to open soon. The surprisingly low rates may evaporate then -- but for now, with brighter, newer, and cheaper rooms, the Smyth outshines its well-known neighbor, the Tribeca Grand.”

The Winner: The little guy. So long as Mary from Milwaukee is willing to be a little flexible with the location (and she’ll probably end up spending a bit more in cab fare than she would at the Times Square Sheraton), the boutique-y Smyth would likely provide a better experience for the price.

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