Meet Gary And Kathy Friedle, Owners Of The Charming Monkey Tree Hotel
The term "boutique hotel" gets thrown around quite a bit, but you won't be disappointed when you book a room at The Monkey Tree Hotel, a very private, 16-room oasis set on one acre. The hotel was designed and built in 1960 by the renowned midcentury architect Albert Frey and was meticulously renovated in 2015 by its current owners, Gary and Kathy Friedle.
The couple met at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where they both had campus jobs working at the print shop. "This was the one and only time we ever worked together—until now, that is," says Kathy. "We both have wildly different stories about who the boss was and that has probably continued until today."
After Gary finished college, he moved to New York City and started a 25-year career in the financial management world. Kathy, meanwhile, obtained her Master of Architecture degree at Washington University in Saint Louis and then began an architectural career in New York.
The couple moved to Palm Springs in August 2015 along with their two teenage sons Gary, 17, and Conor, 15. "Gary and I have always had this dream of someday running a bed and breakfast," says Kathy. "We had a series of events and life situations converge in the early Spring of 2015 and we started to seriously brainstorm about how we could make our distant dreams come true much earlier than we ever thought possible and by the Summer of 2015 we had moved!"
They decided to make their dream a reality in Palm Springs due to its robust tourist market and the many events that take place here, the beauty of the desert, and the city's unique architecture. Their renovation of the hotel took two months and they reopened in February 2016 just in time for the annual Modernism Week festivities.
"If you look at the before and after photos, the changes are dramatic," notes Kathy. "However, they were primarily cosmetic and consisted of landscaping, painting, and new furnishings. The place had really good bones and we just exposed a building that had been covered up and overgrown for 30-plus years. We built a Scandinavian Spa in an area that had been a patch of grass and we gutted the kitchen, which was not original, to a restaurant-grade kitchen."
Some the Friedle's favorite features of the property include the roofline of the hotel which is very dramatic and mimics the mountains in the background. Also, "the privacy of the hotel and the surprised look of visitors when they come through the door," says Kathy. "One guest described it as a Wizard of Oz feeling—the door opens up and all of a sudden the world goes from black and white to vibrant color."
Your stay at the hotel includes Wifi, a gym pass, use of the spa, breakfast, parking, complimentary snacks and drinks in your room, and a sangria happy hour all without any additional resort fee. "This is something we’ve always felt strongly about," notes Kathy. "We hate hidden costs."
Despite the potential pitfalls of starting a new business, the Friedles wouldn't change a thing. "We were newcomers to California and Palm Springs—we literally came here and knew no one," says Kathy. "The Tourism Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, and other business owners have [all] been incredibly welcoming and helpful with the start-up of our business. We’ve found Palm Springs to be a very friendly and helpful community."
The Monkey Tree Hotel, 2388 East Racquet Club Road, 760-322-6059
Captions (top to bottom): Owners Kathy and Gary Friedle; the hotel's classic midcentury modern exterior; the colorful pool area with views of the San Jacinto Mountains; the original great room with a stone fireplace
Photography Courtesy of The Monkey Tree Hotel