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Sunny Patel
& Vishal Patel
Building Something Real  

01 MBO The Tuxon Sunny Patel Vishal Patel
  • Words Allison Reiber DiLiegro
  • Photos Kate Berry

After years of traveling with a friend, a collective memory takes shape—one made of stories and experiences that are only meaningful to those who were there.

Sunny Patel and Vishal Patel have such a secret language. The creators of The Tuxon met at university and began traveling together: first to Peru, Costa Rica, and Japan and then, as they launched their careers, onward to eastern China, IndiaBolivia, and more. They began investing in businesses together and, along the way, began to imagine their own hotel.

02 MBO The Tuxon Houses Architecture

The Tuxon is set in the historic heart of Tucson

03 MBO The Tuxon Portrait Wall Sharp

“Everywhere we went, we had a shared view of what we like, what we didn’t like, what inspired us, what could be better,” Sunny explains. And the hotels that resonated most weren’t just places to rest your head after a long day of sightseeing,” Vishal adds. “They were the places that actually represent the community and the surroundings.” 

The Tuxon, their first hotel “but not their last,” Sunny says with a grin, is housed in a mid-century building in the heart of downtown Tucson that overlooks an expanse of desert, not far from where Vishal’s family once owned a hotel.  

“When we embarked on the project, we had one idea of what we wanted to do, but then it snowballed," Sunny says. “The Tuxon went from a hotel to a gathering place, one that incorporates the desert and makes meaningful experiences for guests and locals alike.” Here’s how they made it happen. 

05 MBO The Tuxon Sign
05 MBO The Tuxon Hotel Exterior

Who plays what role when you’re on the road?

Vishal Patel: I definitely take the lead on picking hotels and restaurants. Sunny is more into planning every minute of the trip.

 

And do you love that or not love that?

VP: It’s been a healthy balance. We don’t always necessarily stick to the schedule, but it’s nice because if I were traveling solo, I probably wouldn’t go see every art museum in every city we visit. 

Sunny Patel: I’m not going to disagree with that! 

06 MBO The Tuxon Sunny Patel Vishal Patel On The Road
07 MBO The Tuxon Landscape Sundown
08 MBO The Tuxon Landscape Cactee
09 MBO The Tuxon Landscape Sundown
10 MBO The Tuxon Cactus

The hotel abuts a stretch of desert that guests are encouraged to explore

11 MBO The Tuxon Sunny Patel Vishal Patel Cactee

Do you work together in a similar fashion?

SP: I would say so. Vishal takes the lead on ideas and sets a lot of things in motion. I like to focus on details. I think that’s always been the case. 

VP: It's definitely a good yin-yang. I think that, as Sunny said, I tend to get the ideas started, but Sunny is very process and detail-oriented and is great at executing those ideas. 

 

Youve called the hotel your passion project. Why did you open a hotel in the first place?

VP: In our day jobs we live in this world of papers, numbers, and spreadsheets. We’ve invested in great businesses and done some fun things, but they’re not tangible. Real estate has a very tangible feeling for me—the textures, the materials, even the smell when you enter a space. I think there’s something incredibly rewarding about transforming these spaces into places that people live in, laugh in, and cherish. 

12 MBO The Tuxon Exterior Bikes

Guests can take a cruiser bike to the trails, just two blocks away

13 MBO The Tuxon Sunny Patel Vishal Patel Material Selection

Sunny and Vishal were hands-on throughout the design process

Why did you choose to convert a historic building into The Tuxon?

VP: Restoring old to new is prevalent in everything we do, from real estate to cars. It’s something we take great pride in and, fortunately, we have built a great team around us: architects, artisans, and contractors who aren’t afraid of the challenge and can work with the old and new.

SP: Yes, we have a strong appreciation for what was done by those before us. We enjoy the challenge of taking “good bones”  and really working our design, architecture, and story to suit the context of the property, making it truly unique vs. taking cookie-cutter designs and concepts. 

 

What is something you once believed but now don’t?

SP: I had a statistics teacher in school who would always say “the more things change the more they stay the same.” Over time, we’ve been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things. When creating an individual space, the design is unique, the location is unique, the food is unique, etc. But how do we make it a great experience not just for the one, but for the many? As hoteliers, I think it’s about finding those common elements that are going to be true and enjoyable for most people even when they’re looking for the “unique.” 

14 MBO The Tuxon Sunny Patel Vishal Patel City Walk
15 MBO The Tuxon Food

Tucson is the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the U.S.

There’s a very proud heritage around how the locals live, what they eat, what kind of art they make—from weavings to paintings. Extending the experience just felt like a natural extension of what we were doing.

Sunny Patel

17 MBO The Tuxon Street Art
16 MBO The Tuxon City Bar Community

How do you bring the local community in?

SP: We have people living around us who have been in Tucson for six, seven generations plus. There’s a very proud heritage around how the locals live, what they eat, what kind of art they make—from weavings to paintings. Extending the experience just felt like a natural extension of what we were doing. 

 

What is inspiring you right now?

VP: I’ve developed this weird obsession with Spanish colonial architecture. The tiled roofs, the half-round arches, the doors, the tiles, the wrought iron. The stuff you see in Santa Barbara—I think that architecture is incredible. It took us a few years to find The Tuxon, and then create what we did here. I think the next project we do will be in that vein. 

18 MBO The Tuxon Houses Architecture
19 MBO The Tuxon Houses Architecture Facade
20 MBO The Tuxon Tree Fruits
21 MBO The Tuxon Houses Architecture Door Cactee

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