From every pore of the organization. Literally. Your brand should show up in your people, your products, your bathrooms, your employee break rooms, on clothes, bars of soap, you get the idea.

Last week-end my husband and I stayed at a place that oozes more brand than any other place in the universe. No, we were not at Disneyland (although they do it freakishly well), we were at McMenamins Edgefield Manor in Troutdale, Oregon.

The McMenamin brothers began building their kingdom (and they really do call it that) over 30 years ago. It began with one pub and micro-brewed beer in Portland, Oregon. Unheard of at the time. They made, on the premises, small batches of incredible beer — Terminator Stout, Hammerhead, Ruby Tuesday Ale….then in 1987 they opened Oregon’s first theater-pub, the Mission Theater. Introducing the people of Portland to the beauty that is beer paired with movies. They have since rescued the Bagdad theater and added burgers to the beer and the movies.

Their Kingdom includes over 50 locations today. Seven of those are hotels — or should I say rescued buildings turned into adult Disneylands. The “mother-ship” as my husband and I call it, is Edgefield (circa 1911) with over 100 European-style guest-rooms (means you share a bath), is a national historic landmark. Some people reading this may say, “Oh, I don’t think I’d like that — sharing a bath.” Let me put your mind at ease.

There are 7 bars on site at the Edgefield property. The Distillery Bar (where, you guessed it, they make their own gin, brandy and whiskey) The Winery Wing (yup — they make their own wine and have an amazing tasting room) The Power Station Theatre and Pub (watch a movie with a burger and a beer) Jerry’s Ice House (which is a freaking shrine to the Grateful Dead — the brothers are BIG fans) The Pool Hall (billiards, not swimming) The Black Rabbit House (tiny tiny bar — seats about 4) and my all-time favorite, The Little Red Shed (you’ll have to go yourself — too amazing to describe here).

Each one of these bars tells a story. A powerful branding tool. They tell the story of the Edgefield manor. It began as a poor farm after the war. The indigent were allowed to go there and become self-sufficient. After the government funding ran out, the building sat empty for a while and eventually became a nursing home. Each of the 100 sleeping rooms are named after a resident of the manor. And inside the rooms instead of televisions, radios or bathrooms, you get to read the story of that person. It’s painted on the walls. It’s beautiful and reverent. There’s a big white fluffy robe on your antique bed for you to put on while you pad down the hall to use the bathrooms. The ladies baths have a parlor you can sit in if the private rooms are in use. It’s all very dignified. PLUS, after you’ve experienced all seven bars (which we have done in one night) you tend to be less inhibited. In fact, this is where the magic begins. An adult slumber party emerges. You smile and nod to people you pass in the hallway. You often run into the same people at the different bars and end up joining them. And the next morning it’s hard not to recognize someone in the Black Rabbit restaurant for breakfast.

McMenamins has, on staff, historians and artists. All of their lodges are rescued buildings. From a grade school to Masonic Lodge to a Biker Bar/Hotel. They all have amazing stories to tell. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian McMenamin last year. He told me that the Oregon Historical Society can be a pain sometimes because they are used to people creating museums of their landmarks — not using them as hotels and bars! His response to them is so beautiful….. we want to be part of their history — because it’s not over.

I’m proud to be part of the history of Edgefield Manor.

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