“To have every guest not question why they stayed here, but to question why they didn’t stay here before.” – Harry Handlery, Founder, 1928

Family owned and operated for four generations and counting

Founder Harry Handlery was an ambitious, fearless and clever entrepreneur who paved the way for the next generations of his family to continue his legacy. At 14 years old, Harry immigrated solo to New York not speaking any English and with no job opportunities lined up. 


Shortly after his journey to America, he moved to Boston where he met a man from Vallejo, California, whose descriptions of the state and its opportunities must have fired Harry’s imagination. He made his way to California where he discovered his passion of owning his own business. Little did he know that business venture would be in hotels.


Harry acquired his first hotel along with two investors in 1928. Knowing nothing about hotels, Harry spent all his time learning from his team members on how to clean rooms, check guests in and out, prepare for banquets, cook meals, and bookkeeping. He instilled this same work ethic, of learning the ins and outs of hotel operations, in his sons Raymond and Paul Handlery. Harry focused on expanding in San Diego, while Paul focused on the properties in San Francisco.


The Handlery’s business strategy revolved around the need for transient housing around military bases. By 1954, Handlery Hotels operated 26 hotels in California and was the largest family-owned hotel company in the world. In 1964, Paul opened the Handlery Motor Inn beside the Hotel Stewart that his father had purchased in 1948. This elegant 93-room hotel featured such luxuries as in-room coffee makers, bedside remote control for television and radio, an outdoor heated pool, on-site valet parking, a separate vanity area with lighted makeup mirrors, and outside balconies. These amenities are common today but were the first of their kind in San Francisco. In 1987, Paul’s son Jon Handlery merged the two hotels in San Francisco, the Hotel Stewart and the Handlery Motor Inn, and they were renamed the Handlery Union Square Hotel.


A traditional “American Dream” story, Harry Handlery was a poor immigrant boy who worked hard, married the girl, and found success in America. From hats to hotels to development, Harry had an eye out for opportunity. In keeping with the American Dream of providing a better life for one’s children, the entrepreneur educated his sons and brought them into the family business. Paul Handlery followed his father’s example, carrying on the business and passing it to his children. 


Jon continued to build on that legacy by involving his children into the business as well. Today, two of Jon’s children work at the San Francisco property and continue to carry on the legacy. Jon’s son, Jack Handlery, is the Hotel General Manager, and his daughter, Laura Handlery, is the Director of Sales. They are now the fourth generation of Handlerys to continue in the family business.