Conversations: Eric Valenzuela

When it comes to the question, “Who came first, Vitorrja or Eric Valenzuela?” the answer is, inarguably, Eric. Vitorrja’s General Manager has worked at the hotel for over 15 years — long before opening a hotel was even on the Gjelina Group radar. He even called 15 Rose Ave. home, living on site for 12 years.

As we’ve renovated the space and filled the rooms with vintage finds and one-of-a-kind art, Eric's stories have added extra patina — a je ne sais quoi that can only be described as “Venice Beach character.” So, of course, we had to ask him to tell us about his favorite parts of the hotel and share some of the stories that make Vitorrja what it is today: a hotel that only gets better with age.

Tell us a little about yourself and your history with the space. It's a long story, but I'll keep it quick, or this could go on for days: 15 Rose Ave (now Vitorrja) is a big part of my life. My hospitality career was born in this building. I started with the original family who owned this building, the Neal Family, under Jim and Charlotte, over 15 years ago. I've wiped the floors, done the laundry, made maintenance repairs, booked reservations, given surf lessons, and everything else (as a small operation requires). I also lived at 15 Rose for 12 years. Vitorrja is the fourth owner with me operating. I brought two of my three kids home to this building, and My wife is one of nine kids, all born and raised in Venice. This Hotel couldn’t be any closer to my life, career, and family.

What about the Rose Hotel (now Vitorrja) has kept you here as a manager for all these years? During my tenure, the building has gone through many phases — as an apartment, hotel, hostel, and now a proper boutique hotel. The different operations kept it exciting, along with the good people, and my connection to the building and Venice Beach, in general, kept me here. Also, it didn't hurt that I love to surf.

What's one of your favorite stories from previous eras? There are too many to start, but the best times — and the best stories — come from when I was running the property as a “travelers’ house” (hostel) with my buddy (and the owner) Scotty Schmidt. We were young adults managing young adults while learning the hostel game. I always find myself laughing at the fun and the stories of that period. I learned so much about people then, and Scotty was a massive help with learning the ins and outs of operation and also life.

Tell us about the woman with the dove. Jaynee, a 30-year Venice Beach and 15 Rose Ave. resident, lived in the main corridor when every room still shared the shower and the toilets (yes, that was a thing). Her dove's name is Dolly, and she built a what she called “The Crown of Peace” to carry Dolly on her head while walking around Venice. She had epic stories about Venice Beach/Muscle Beach and a fantastic spirit for our building. She will always be legendary to me — and an integral part of the space.

Do you have a favorite room at Vitorrja? Hard to say because I appreciate most of our rooms and the different styles and moods they have on particular days and at particular times. But, right now, it would have to be Suite 25, in part because I have a large family. Two king beds and two restrooms on the second floor with plenty of deck space and an ocean view. Doesn’t get much better than that.