To Kenny Osehan, co-founder with Chris Sewell of the Shelter Social Club, it all started as “an accident.” Wanting to meet people and be inspired by artists, she admits, “It started to fulfill our selfish social needs.”
This need eventually created a boutique hospitality empire known for its design-centric properties that have generated cult-like appeal, including the renowned Ojai Rancho Inn, Solvang’s Hamlet Inn, Santa Barbara’s Agave Inn, and the Alamo Motel in the up-and-coming epicurean destination of Los Alamos, not to mention the California-meets-Indonesian restaurant Sama Sama Kitchen on State Street. All of the places in this extraordinarily chic portfolio are designed to embrace the surrounding community, engaging hometown artists and musicians to create an experience that is authentic, organic, and super-sexy. For example, the Ojai Rancho Inn embraces the spirituality of that magical valley, and becomes a centrally located jumping off point for people to explore it all.
Kenny is one of the most stylish and centered women I’ve met. She grew up working at her family’s motel, where she started taking reservations at just 10 years old. She considers herself a conservationist of motels and motor courts, and her business has remained a family affair; her sister runs the Hamlet Inn and her aunt, the Agave.
Here, Kenny answers the Proust Questionnaire.
Who do you most admire?
My mom and dad. Theirs is the perfect immigrant story of moving to the states with no money, no English, two kids, and my grandma. They started all sorts of different businesses until one stuck (the motel business) and they made a ton of sacrifices for the good of the whole (our entire family). No one was left behind. Everyone moves forward together and has each other’s back.
They are humble people who live their lives with the utmost integrity. Plus they are super funny now and they used to be strict and mean…probably tried to prove their Asian parenting skills, but I think they got tired of it.
What do you like most about your job?
I love that I get to be creative and work with artists who inspire me in a community that’s infinitely supportive, loving, and loyal.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I don’t know that I believe in perfect happiness, but I guess there are those moments when you feel a wave of clarity and contentment, when your heart feels full for the simplest reasons and you feel no need for anything else but what’s available to you in that moment.
What is your greatest fear?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Splurging on quality, I guess. I feel like if I’m going to spend money on something it should be of good quality and from a source I respect. I would rather pay more for something that really resonates with me than buy a bunch of frivolous things.
What is your current state of mind?
Trying to just do what makes me happy and not think about it too much.
What is the quality you most like in people?
People who are genuine.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
When people are not authentic to who they are.
What do you most value in friends?
Sincerity, humor, and knowing I can be who I am without being judged.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I guess that I’m sarcastic. Not the best thing to be. Working on it.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“¡Hijole!” I don’t know how. It just happened
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To stop letting my fears and doubts hold me back.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Having family and friends who I know will love and support me until the end of time.
Where would you most like to live?
Under the sea.
What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t think I have too much attachment to things since I always lose or break my stuff. My unattachment is just a defense mechanism, not enlightenment.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Anyone who has a dry sense of humor.
What is your motto?
Go with the green lights.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
On what occasion do you lie?
To angry guests when I’m trying to make them happy. Oh crap…I hope no one reads this.