Portray catches up with Sexton Garcia in our “Best of” series, with the most gregarious guy in Miami!
If there was an avatar for the word charisma, Sexton Garcia’s picture would be along side. Sexton has this unique ability to instantly connect with human beings when they walk into Urbanica, a chic boutique hotel in Miami Beach, voted #1, by the people on Trip Advisor for two years running. Transcending titles, he has few rules or parameters, nor does he follow the traditional approach to customer service. We caught up with him on the long, communal table in the lobby (his office). Put aside the rule book, and observe a people master in action.
How did you start in the hotel business?
Charlie the owner, asked me to be his partner here in Miami. He needed someone in the States who knew the American market and he called me up one night and said, I have something for you, if you are interested. I said, I have no idea about the hotel industry and he said, you will be fine. The rest is history.
What is your routine?
I get here in the morning, do my rounds, make sure that everything is alright, that the place is clean and then start greeting guests and answering e-mails.
What do you think the key is to make people come back to the hotel?
Make them feel like they are home. The idea is to make them feel like they are part of something, and I think the staff conveys the same message. Everybody believes in the same philosophy. At the end of the day, people feel good, it makes you feel good. It’s a cycle. Everyone feels great.
This lobby is your office, correct? Do you think this has anything to do with your success, because you don’t go into an office somewhere?
Absolutely, that was one of the reasons that we gave up the office to begin with.
When people walk in here, the first thing you say is?
Welcome home! People laugh and then they get it. By the time they leave, they are like, Wow, you know, you guys feel like family. Recently there was a couple that stayed with us. They were here two weeks. The last day they were here, the entire staff, even the people that were off that day, came to take pictures and say goodbye.
We had another couple, they came and spent some time with us here. They left back to Russia. They decided to get married and spent their honeymoon here and they invited a lot of the staff to their wedding. That says it all!
So, if you could have one guest come back over and over and over, who would it be?
Thats is a tough one. You know what? There is a guy that owns a Pizza Antico. They have pizzerias in Atlanta and he is just a character, I love the guy. He is, yeah, just a lovable, burly, big teddy bear! He is a good guy!
If you could recommend a book that you would lend someone what would it be? As you think , As a man thinketh was the original title. James Allen. It’s Life changing, if you are ready for it. It is about being a better person and figuring stuff out. What you think is what you are. Always think positive and good and you will be good. Don’t be a dick!
What is your favorite thing to spend money on?
Food, booze, clothes.. I think food and clothes are neck in neck!
Are you still learning all the time?
Absolutely! I know nothing. As my wife puts it eloquently, I’m an idiot. She reminds me constantly of that fact! (Laughs) Yeah, I am constantly learning.
What are you exciting about learning right now?
Self-Organization. I have lists in my head, I just don’t follow. I have a million ideas and I do many of them, just out of order.
Do you think sometimes, the universe just sends you what you are supposed to be learning and are you aware of that? Yes, yes! You know, I am lately learning not to procrastinate, to do it at the moment. No time like the present and its been working out.
What do you think is the most important contribution you have made here?
The Brand. The atmosphere, the friendliness of the place, and the happiness of the staff.
I have a happy staff. Inner Peace is the new success. Its hash tagged outside the bar. Some kid wrote it with a marker and it stayed there.
Who is your hero in Life?
Why? Because he is awesome. He is constantly learning and always making himself better, getting better, surrounding himself with people that are better than him. So that he can take something away positive. He is a song writer, I’m a song writer. I met him. I was star-struck. I just said, “What’s up man?”
If you could have one person come and stay at the hotel, who would it be?
Who would make you say, Wow, look who just walked in the door!
Man, Johnny Rotten, from the Sex Pistols. I may not know what to say to Sting, but I’ve been thinking about what I would say to Johnny Rotten, my whole life. He is so irreverent.
What do you think he would love about his place?
The fact that nobody cares who you are, nobody would know who he is. The anonymity, the laid back attitude.
Is the glass half empty, half full, or malformed?
Half a glass. (chuckles). #itiswhatitis
How are you at remembering names?
Terrible, I forget my kids names.
Its an anomaly, because in customer service remembering names is usually regarded as one of the most important things so, it’s got to be everything else you are doing. You have such an interesting name, do people usually remember it?
No, usually they don’t. I just say “Sex-by-the-ton”, which is usually how they remember it.
You were born in Miami?
Baptist Hospital, born and raised. This place used to be a cow town. Where I went to school, which is now considered Miami Lakes, was nothing but dairy farms, flatland, prairie and cow farms.
This hotel, Urbonica has been #1 for?
Two years on Trip Advisor, according to Trip Advisor customer reviews for two years.
Of all the hotels in Miami Beach…
214, 214 hotels to be exact.This is a boutique hotel South of Fifth, in a quiet neighborhood and you get the peoples choice award. It’s the staff, the staff is amazing, its good energy here.
Tell me a favorite Quote you have? “Solve e Coagula” Dissolve and concentrate. I think you should dissolve daily.
So when you go home after a busy day, how do you defrag?
Drink! (Laughing) Im pretty light hearted. Just always stay light hearted, don’t let anything go too deep.
Where would be your dream vacation, because people come here all the time?
Thats a tough question. NYC with no agenda, just lost in the city. In the Fall, just after the summer when its still warm but cooling off.
What is your favorite form of exercise?
Running, I love running, its therapeutic. I Won’t go out if its raining, but I love getting caught in the rain running. I run about 40 minutes.
Who is your mentor?
I never really had a mentor. Hard knocks, I have learned by hard knocks. Sting has been a big influence.
What would be the name of your autobiography?
A journey through time.
What are you excited about now? Thread Nectar! Threadnectar.com I’m launching a t-shirt line. I am branding it to the very last detail, from the website to the inside label. I’ve taken my time with it, and its my hobby.
You just opened up a new place aptly named “Minibar” in the Hotel right? How is that going?
Phenomenal! Better than we expected. Its such a great name.
Who thought of that name?
Flip, we were throwing names around, and he said, “Mini Bar” completely off the cuff kind of deal. Its very cool.
#1 of 214 hotels you are not even on the sand!
No, this was supposed to be a corporate hotel, but people just gravitated toward it. Its close enough to everything but far enough, where you can still retreat and its still an oasis. Its in the neighborhood, so it feels like it’s more of a home than a hotel. Its like a big bnb, thats not so invasive.
What do you think makes you the best host?
My Grace, my poise, my boyish charm… Empathy. That’s what makes me a good host. I think that’s what makes me a good person. I am a very empathetic person. I put myself in other people’s shoes. It gets me into trouble at times, but, yeah..
Who is a friend in your head?
Amy Winehouse. Theres something about her. When I see her, when I hear about her story, her music. It reaches me. She is a friend in my head and we hang out all the time! We are usually drunk. Poor girl, sad story but she was great! Tony Bennet was a fan of hers. He said he saw so much of Billy Holiday in her. He said she was a true professional and he’s done duets with everybody and he’s never said that. Amy Winehouse was the real thing.
If you could throw a party here for anything at any point in time, who would you invite?
All my friends and family. Well, not all my family, some family (laughs). All my friends, and I want the Police to play. A police reunion. Sting, Andy and Stewart. I am a Police fan. Amy Winehouse, Sting, Alister Crowley, Anton Lavey, Did I say Sting? Andy and Stewart. I want to hang out with Stewart, that’s a friend in my head too.
Regardless of whether or not that party happens, we know Sexton is having a good day regardless, making somebody feel at home!