An ex-base jumper and her cross-triathlete husband together open a boutique hotel in Grindelwald. How will that work out?
Justine Pyott, pert base jumper from Paris popped the question in Grindelwald’s Glacier Restaurant if the hotel above it was for sale. Her husband Jan Pyott wants to take over the restaurant, she said.
The owners, Margrit and Ueli Kaufmann looked at each other dumbfounded: they were preparing to publish the sales announcement the following week…we have a deal!
That’s how business is done in tranquil Grindelwald. They don’t mess around here in the shadow of the majestic Eiger north face, they move! After all, there’s lots to do in Switzerland’s famous Bernese Oberland.
After 70 years in the hands of the Kaufmann family, now these two young athletes would shape the future of the classic chalet hotel on the edge of the village of Grindelwald. But first…a little background.
How to position a hotel for success in Grindelwald
The young couple had lived in Grindelwald for some time already. As Justine Eddé, the Paris native had gained fame launching herself off mountains into the void in the nearby base jumper’s paradise of Lauterbrunnen. And her partner Jan Pyott from Biel, swam, biked, and ran competitively as a professional cross triathlete in the Grindelwald vicinity.
When Justine in the space of a year lost several fellow fliers, however, she opted for “retirement” — as she puts it. So, she traded in her wing suit for a business suit and, having dreamt for a long time already of owning a hotel, started searching for a suitable object. As for Jan, ever since childhood he had been fascinated by gastronomy.
A hotel with restaurant therefore was just the thing to make both their dreams reality.
Let it be said, while they each had studied business management and knew their way around tourism marketing, neither of them had a hotel or restaurant on their CVs. How would that turn out?
From business plan to grand opening
Their business plan for Grindelwald almost wrote itself: This spectacular destination at the foot of the Eiger north face is popular around the globe, but the local hotel industry has not kept pace with the times. What it needed was a decorative boutique hotel.
If it can happen, it will happen: they soon agreed on terms of the sale with the Kaufmanns. Then, in the summer of 2017, they completely renovated the antique hotel dating from 1864 that was one of the very first hotels in the valley to open during the 19th century.
In April 2018, the newly-anointed owner and director pair of Justine and Jan Pyott could finally throw open the doors to their brand-new pride and joy.
A successful launch…and then some
The hotel launched quickly, with just some online marketing. The modern design of the open year-round boutique hotel took the town by storm. No kidding!
The Pyott’s phone rang off the hook with every new online booking. But after the visit by a South Korean influencer, they had to take the phone off the hook… it was like a car alarm that wouldn’t stop, it just kept ringing!
The review on Naver Café, South Korea’s leading web portal, in the first hour after being posted brought them 300 bookings. Insane!
Year-round outdoor adventures
The young entrepreneurs never looked back. They are years ahead of their business plan already. Not that they only cater to Korean guests in the hotel, of course. Surprisingly, business in the summer is nearly on a par with winter season bookings. Will wonders never cease?
But, really, it is not puzzling, given all the summer getaways beckoning in these parts. For our part, we can confirm that we enjoyed our hiking excursion to the hilt: The mountain hike from Grindelwald First to the Bussalp is spectacular! Even at low visibility…
Jan Pyott amplifies:
The outdoor adventure already starts with the first look out your window, with the breathtaking view of the world-renowned north face of the Eiger.
“Icy” wellness in Alpine chic
Interior designer Francesca Alder of Bofor Design has translated the village history into her design: As the hotel’s address indicates — the hotel is located on the “Endweg” (end of the road) — this is where the road from Interlaken to Grindelwald ended.
Until the 19th century there was nothing here but glacier! Hence the name “Hotel Glacier”. The upper and lower Grindelwald glacier was taken down, great ice block by ice block, which were transported into the valley, among others, for the purpose of cooling beer in what still is today the Rugenbräu Brewery in Interlaken.
Design elements from that era, such as ice tongs on the lamps or the 50-foot tall ice waterfall luminaire in the stairwell recall the story of the ice workers in those days.
Today’s guests relax in a contemporary world of design of natural materials like stone and wood, cut into modern shapes and framed with a touch of gold.
Matching this also is the gold-plated cutlery. No less than 800 of the teaspoons have gone missing already, just in the first season! Taking the hint, Jan Pyott is putting in a shop so that guests can legally “give legs” to the popular dishware to keep the purloined cutlery company.
Spacious, smartly appointed rooms
The spatial concept of the rooms elegantly uses the clothes cupboard to function as a room divider when seen from the room door and at the same time from the bathroom side it serves for getting dressed.
Similarly, the round “desk” with corner settee is a practical solution that we encountered here for the first time. Bravo!
Each of the 29 comfortable rooms comes with a view of the legendary north face of the Eiger or of the Wetterhorn mountainscape all the way to the Bussalp.
Young lovers book the Honeymoon Suite, the rest of us make do with suites, doubles, or twin rooms.
Boutique wellness – relaxing by the mountain
The in-house Spa offers sauna, steam bath and the relaxation room that goes with them.
In warm weather, the terrace is a favorite for kicking back, and then there’s also the heated whirlpool kept at a comfortable 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It comes with the obligatory view of the Eiger and the glacier canyon.
In the spa, too, they used stone, crystal and wood. It turned out beautifully!
Glacier Restaurant with “foodlovesophy”
The kitchen team around Grindelwald native and chef de cuisine Jonas Messer works magic on plates with whatever the season has to offer, always in tune with their food-loving philosophy, expressed tongue-in-cheek as “foodlovesophy”.
It results in changing menus and dishes, such as bone-ripened beef steak strips with a fruity mango chutney, marrow bone, and smoked bacon. Or you can go for the 24-hour simmered Highlands pork belly simmered for 24 hours. But they also do justice to Frutigen zander fillets or cream cheese gnocchi malfatti.
Decorating the restaurant wall is an artwork by Kasia Mc Art “Glacier” of colored wooden cubes. It tells the guests all about the subject mountain world: blowing snow, icy cold, and warming rays of sunshine blend into an idyllic evening dining ambiance.
Things to do in Grindelwald
We began our stay with a visit to the glacier gorge. Located at the foot of the Eiger’s north wall, it was carved over the millenia by the white-water Lütschine stream fed by meltwater from the lower Grindelwald glacier. It is spectacular. A must-see! Here you can read our review.
To those who prefer scenery at higher altitudes, we can recommend the Alpine hike from Grindelwald First to the Bussalp. It is difficult in places, however, and is best left to hikers who are steady on their feet and definitely not afraid of heights. Depending on what shape the knees are in, it may be better to do the hike in reverse from the less-demanding rise of the Bussalp to the First mountain station.
Getting to the hotel by car via Interlaken presents no problems. The road is in good shape. Parking is right next to the hotel. Tesla owners can charge up on both parking spaces on either side of the hotel entrance.
Walking to the hotel from the train station is doable. But I’m sure that if you have enough baggage, the hotel will send the shuttle to pick you up ;-)
Our thanks go to…
Justine and Jan Pyott for the generous invitation and the engrossing conversation. Hearty congratulations on fulfilling your hotel dream. It turned out beautifully!
Many thanks also to Valérie Burnier of Burnier Communications for brokering our stay.