Today we’re buzzing with Reetu Gupta, Vice President, Sales and Marketing at the Easton’s Group. While you may recognize the Easton’s Group name from their successful portfolio of hotels, you should be racing to familiarize yourself with their new condo development, King Blue, on Toronto’s King West strip.
It’s the developer’s first foray into the condo development industry and Reetu is spearheading the move along with Easton’s Group President (and her father) Steve Gupta,
We chat with Reetu about the impact her father had on her career, what King Blue will bring to King West and what it’s like balancing her passion for fashion design with her work at the Easton’s Group.
BuzzBuzzHome: How big of an impact did your father have on your career path?
Reetu Gupta: That’s an interesting question because he is the impact on my career decision. And everything that he’s done has impacted me. He’s taught me and inspired me and motivated me. So the answer to that is growing up and wanting to follow in his footsteps, he would be the impact on my career path.
BBH: And because he had such a significant impact, did you always kind of know you’d be involved in the hotel business that he started?
RG: I always had a love for the hotel business. It started a very long time ago. We went to a Marriott conference. I was very young – maybe six or seven – and we stayed at the JW Marriott in Orlando. When you’re young, this hotel just seems like a huge playground. Looking at this hotel…I remember the front desk when we checked in and from behind the front desk, they gave me a colouring book and crayons and the girls were just tall and beautiful and so friendly.
They really made sure that my sister and I were taken care of and at that point, I thought, one day I want to own this hotel. I dreamed big I guess. It wasn’t even that I wanted to work here, but I want to own a hotel like this and I told my dad from that day that I want to own a hotel that has palm trees! And I think I’ve always known in my heart that I would be in this business.
But I do have to say that at one point, I did want to be a Bollywood dancer. *Laughs*
BBH: So a little drift in the career path?
RG: Just a bit, just a bit.
BBH: You went to business school at Schulich, but was there anything that your father taught you about business that you wouldn’t have learned at business school?
RG: Definitely. He has taught me so much since I was very, very small. I think that the one thing that has stuck with me, especially through my university years than doing my MBA, was dealing with anybody that you deal with — whether it’s in business or in life or in relationships, you always conduct yourself with honesty and with integrity. The one thing he’s always said is business is about relationships and relationships are built on trust. If you don’t have a good reputation, if you don’t conduct yourself with integrity, you won’t have a good reputation and you cannot go forward in business this way. He’s always said you can have all the money in the world, but if your reputation is poor, then you have nothing.
And I think that’s one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned. At the end of the day, you do everything above board. Your reputation is the one thing that can bring you the most success.
BBH: Shifting gears a bit, I wanted to talk obviously about the Easton Group’s foray into the residential development business. What motivated the move towards residential development?
RG: You know what, it’s strange because in our eyes it wasn’t really a complete shift. We’re in the business of hospitality. And we treat all of our guests when they come to one of our hotels as though they’re coming into their own homes. So it seems like a natural progression to go into residential because we already treat our guests that way — they’re coming into their own home. So now it was sort of this shift of okay well, we’re already doing this in a commercial sort of way, what can we do for an actual home for our guests, quote unquote.
BBH: The team that you’ve assembled to work on King Blue is pretty star studded as far as the design world goes. How did you go about picking and choosing the designers, the architects that you’d be working with?
RG: Oh that’s easy — we definitely went with the best in the business. When you’re centre stage and going on King Street in the theatre district, you have to go with the best. So working with IBI, Page + Steele and Munge Leung was just a natural choice to choose the best of the business. And the people, the team that we have are so great and they think out of the box, like rooftop terraces in the middle of downtown. There’s no other team that could put something like that together.
BBH: I remember back in October when King Blue first launched. You had that event at the presentation centre — it was packed and a lot of media people were out there and people from the industry. But how was the reception to King Blue been from the buyers’ perspective? Have you had a lot of people through the sales centre? How have the sales been going so far?
RG: The sales have been going very, very well. We have had a lot of people through our sales center. The second that they walk in they’re already floored. The hallway at the entrance sort of brings that energy of King West into the sales centre and they love it. Once we take them through the model suite, they really see the value that they’re getting and all of our beautiful features, which are standard, they absolutely love it. The reception so far has been just amazing.
BBH: We spoke with you and your father about this back in the summer, but obviously there’s going to be a big retail component to King Blue. We wanted to learn more about your vision for the boutique retail space at King Blue?
RG: Right now retail is missing from King West. And I find that people come to go to a restaurant or go to a lounge. I want to make this place and our King Blue district a place where people can work, live and play and stay. Retail’s just a natural thing that King West needs right now. So the shops that I would like to bring on board would be, by our logic, chic, sophisticated and just reflective of the energy of King West.
BBH: Do you have a sneak preview of what to expect?
RG: I have something in the works right now so as soon as I’m able to, I will definitely let you know who… I’ll give BuzzBuzzHome a first peek of who we’ll be seeing on King West, for sure.
BBH: You’ve experienced a lot of success with King Blue thus far. Are you planning on any more forays into the residential development world?
RG: We are actually. We have another site downtown that we’re looking at. Again, when things are confirmed, I will definitely let you know. But we do have a couple other sites where we will be doing residential developments.
BBH: What’s your take on the health of the Toronto condo market?
RG: There was an article in the Toronto Star recently that was mentioning that sales in January 2013 were increasing — it looks like first time buyers are back. It seemed like for the past couple of months people took a break, but now it looks like everything’s coming back into full swing.
BBH: You’re also a fashion designer and you had that fashion show at the King Blue launch last year. How are you balancing your career in the development industry with your passion for fashion?
RG: To me, it’s always a balance. They’re both work, but I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like I’m working. Fashion, for me – I’ve always loved it. Even as a kid, I’d take old clothes and cut them up or make them into new dresses or skirts. This is something that I’ve always just wanted to do. And my line, which’ll be called Maya will be launched at the end of this year. It’s probably something that I do in my off hours when I’m not physically in the office. In the weekend or what-not I’m drawing or looking at fabrics and it’s just so much fun to me I don’t consider it work.
BBH: Also, another thing that I found interesting is that you also work with your sister at Easton’s Group. Is that right?
RG: Yes, we do.
BBH: How does that sibling dynamic influence your day-to-day over there?
RG: You know it’s interesting. My sister Shelley has been working in finance and we have a great relationship. And I think the best thing about working with your family and working with your sister specifically is you already have a great understanding of each other. We can bring ideas to the table and we’re going to be very honest. So whether the ideas are completely not going to be used or they’re great, we can be honest with each other. And I think that just makes our work together that much more efficient.
Thanks for buzzing with us Reetu!