The vision for The Shepherd Hotel is to provide a boutique hotel experience that employs adults with disabilities. When we started our partnership with the ClemsonLife program, my biggest concern was what would happen with the students who graduate from this very successful program at Clemson. The curriculum educates students with disabilities on the skills needed to live independently and the skills to work in many industries. I feared there was not enough in this community to employ these kids in a way that allowed them to stay in the community that supports them and with the friends they rely on for social interaction. I felt we might be setting them up to fail if they went to their hometowns and did not have the support they had in Clemson. As a past special educator, I knew this could be devastating. However, a few years ago, my concerns were quieted by the news the Shepherd Hotel would be opening, intending to employ up to 40% of adults with disabilities. Most of these employees would be graduates or students of ClemsonLife. And now that the restaurant, Delish Sisters, is open, I have seen some of my friends who are ClemsonLife graduates working and thriving!
When visiting recently, we had the opportunity to tour the hotel that opens on September 7th. Rick Hayduk, the visionary on this project, co-owner, and GM, gave us a glimpse into how unique this property will be. The details throughout make it evident he takes the passion and mission of this project and provides a unique luxury feel we did not have in Clemson until now.
There will not be a front desk in the lobby to have more of a community feel as you enter this space. Instead, a welcoming fireplace is the hub of the area. Still, my favorite is the retail space that will be somewhat like an Esty for artists with developmental disabilities with jewelery, soaps, and other items that highlight these artists’ crafts. Other areas you will see art are in the rooms. There are pieces ClemsonLife students created and signed hanging in each guest room. And the higher floors have pieces from the famous artist with Downs Syndrome, Charlie French.
The entire hotel feels open as a large spiral staircase goes up to the third floor, where you will find the Thomas bar. And as you walk towards that staircase, you can see the entry from Sloan street and the incredible chandelier.
The Thomas bar is an ode to Thomas Green Clemson with a mural of Fort Hill behind it and the back of the bar stools, as well as the servers’ uniforms having replicas of the buttons found on the uniforms back in that era of the late 1800s.
This bar will be the place to be as you overlook College Blvd from its rooftop terrace. On the cool evenings, there will be firepits and blankets to comfortably sip a glass of red wine or bourbon while watching the stars. One of my dear friends said of the Shepherd and the Thomas Bar, “This is our place. A place in the hub of activity where we can feel comfortable and sip on something more our style,” Meaning not screaming at each other over college kids and drinking pitchers in one of the other downtown college hangouts.
There is also a rooftop terrace for special events and private functions with an incredible view of the stadium and the Blue Ridge on a clear day.
The rooms are well appointed with beautiful furnishings and thoughtful touches like a safe in the drawer instead of a dark corner in the closet. The bathrooms are spacious, which can be challenging in a hotel this size. But one of the things that impressed me the most was the windows. The light in every room is incredible, with many windows, but you hear nothing from the street below. What resonated most with me is the soundproofing is apparent and will be appreciated by guests on those crazy college nights.
Rooms on-off special events weekends like home football games and graduations are comparable to the other nicer hotel in town. The difference between this hotel and others in the area is I would stay at this hotel wherever it is located. The good news is that the goal is to have more Shepherd Hotels and replicate what they are doing here. I am here to support it all. Rick says this is a place far more than a place to sleep. Their objective is for people to be inspired when they leave.
One of the greatest gifts of building a business is being able to give back in ways that align with your beliefs and values. We are so honored to be able to give back to ClemsonLife and see how the Shepherd is supporting this community. Follow us as we share their opening and beyond.