A pioneer in the export of Capitol Hill cool to the rest of the world, Ace Hotel and Rudy’s founder Alex Calderwood died Thursday
at the age of 45, according to the fashionable hotel chain’s blog. UPDATE: Calerwood was 47, the New York Times reports. The Seattle-born, accidental entrepreneur was one of three partners who opened the first Rudy’s Barbershop on E Pine in 1992.
The hotel did not provide a cause of the Seattle-born Calderwood’s death.
In 2012, Seattle Met provided this account of the business savvy behind Rudy’s:
Armed with no business education and $16,000, they and a third partner, David Petersen, started Rudy’s Barbershop on Capitol Hill as a lark. The cheap haircuts by tattooed stylists were almost an afterthought; the real goal was another hangout, one where conversations carry down the line of vinyl chairs. Today the chain is 16 shops deep in four cities.
And the big break in Belltown that led to the creation of the six-location Ace Hotel chain:
In 1996, the crew happened upon an empty flophouse in Belltown, a neighborhood then more overrun by homeless than hipsters. Some small rooms shared bathrooms—still do—but Calderwood embraced the rough edges. “What if we could make a hotel like someone’s Capitol Hill apartment?” mused Calderwood, who at 45 would still fit in on Pike/Pine, what with his wild black curls and jeans-and-blazer look.
UPDATE Sunday, November 17, 8:23 AM: The Seattle Times obituary includes more info on Calderwood’s influence on Capitol Hill:
In 1998, he teamed up with another Rudy’s partner, Jared Harler, to start the Capitol Hill dance club ARO.space. The club quickly became one of the most popular in Seattle.
Mr. Calderwood’s next project was even more ambitious.
He again joined with Weigel, who by then had worked to start the Baltic Room, with Derschang, and Bimbo’s on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Calderwood and Weigel turned to Belltown, converting a rooming house at First and Wall into what Mr. Calderwood called a “whole new hotel idea.”