At This Hotel, a Vending Machine Serves as a Hyper Local Gift Shop

PORTLAND, OR—Kimpton Hotel Vintage Portland is embracing the locale in a unique way through its vending machines. Think of it as a hyper-local gift shop—with a cool backstory.

“Within Kimpton, it has always been part of our ongoing mission to deliver new, local experiences to guests. We believe our hotels should be a reflection of the cities and communities we’re located within,” said Rachel Jane Wilson, general manager, Kimpton Hotel Vintage Portland. “When we heard of Taylor Valdes and The Venderia, we were instantly attracted to what her company could offer to our hotel guests. Our custom vending machine was designed to match the decor of the hotel and offer gift-shop-type items—everything from fun impulse purchases for oneself, to takeaway gifts from local businesses and designers that have a uniquely Portland feel.”

Wilson and her team discovered The Venderia through Travel Portland, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

“I had seen her machines around town—before collaborating with Kimpton Hotel Vintage, she had focused on bars—but didn’t know the story or who was behind them until Taylor was featured in the newsletter spotlighting new businesses in the Portland area,” said Wilson. “It immediately piqued my interest and made sense for our hotel, so our team reached out.”

Valdes added, “They were looking for something fun and uniquely Portland for the Kimpton Hotel Vintage, while I was hoping to reach a new demographic of customers—travelers—with goods and souvenirs that embodied the Portland spirit. Travelers are ideal customers because they have fresh eyes and are seeking new experiences. We both wanted the machine to fit aesthetically with the hotel’s decor while staying true to Venderia’s signature style.”

The Venderia’s origin story began when Valdes bought a vending machine from a laundromat that was going out of business. Previously, she had planned to open a laundromat of her own.

“That dream died, and I had a big, old vending machine in my garage to deal with,” said Valdes. “I don’t like doing anything the conventional way, so I had no interest in filling the machine with snacks. I wanted my machine to be way more exciting.”

With a spirited initiative, Valdes asked her favorite local bar if they’d be interested in having a fun vending machine in their game room, and they agreed.

“I had my friend paint the machine glittery blue and pinstripe it in silver, so it looked like a retro muscle car, then filled it with friends’ art, mystery items from my odds-and-ends drawers, secondhand books, and more practical stuff (like Advil, hygiene products, etc.),” said Valdes.

“The beautiful paint job caught people’s eyes, and the wacky product mix took them by surprise,” she added. “The machine was an instant hit. The success of the first machine allowed me to place four more machines quickly, all in bars, but it took a few years before I expanded into other venues. I always thought hotels would make great locations, but I had to modify my product line to make it work.”

Today, the hyper-local vending machine serves as the gift shop for Kimpton Hotel Vintage Portland, which helps the hotel team save on time and resources.

“There’s a good amount of work that comes with maintaining a gift shop, from sourcing and ordering to inventory management. So, while we may still expand our ‘gift shop’ offerings to include larger items (like Pendleton blankets) that won’t fit in the vending machine, this was an ideal and immediate solution to bring local goods to guests,” said Wilson. “Plus, the delivery and presentation of Venderia is just plain fun. We know our guests like to take home mementos from vacation, so now they can purchase a handmade pair of earrings, secondhand book, or enamel pin and think of Portland and their stay anytime the wear or use it.”

It’s all about the location these days. Hoteliers and interior designers are inspired by the locale for hospitality projects; in this case, the hotel’s vending machine is stocked with all things Portland. The Venderia sells the works of more than 100 Portland artists from 17 vending machines citywide, Valdes noted, but in most of the machines, local art is just one part of the product mix.

“For Hotel Vintage, we put the art first,” said Valdes. “We added more jewelry options, more stationery and more postcards. We kept our signature oracle-type products (like the Find Your Inner Animal mystery bags), but dropped the necessities—because the hotel provides many of those products for free—and used media because most guests don’t travel with VCRs. We also custom painted the machine to fit the hotel’s style. Hotel Vintage has an edgy, graffiti vibe, whereas The Venderia is more retro. We used Hotel Vintage’s color palette and our own freehand pinstriping to make our machine blend in with its surroundings, but still pop. I love the way our machine looks inside the game lounge.” 

Wilson added, “Guests love it. It fits perfectly into the vibe of our game lounge, and we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it appeals to more than just leisure guests and group guests. Our sales team was leading a site tour and the clients were inspired to get their own custom vending machine for a convention in 2021.”

Valdes concurred, “First and foremost, I hope the guests have fun. I hope The Venderia contributes to their view of Portland as a creative, artsy and vibrant city.  And, I hope they find strength and encouragement from their inner animal fortunes.”

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