A simple family vacation changed Jaime Kowal’s life forever. It was Christmas-time 2012, and her and her family came to sunny-year-round Palm Springs to escape the cold Canadian winter. What was supposed to be a 10-day getaway turned into years for Jaime, who fell in love with the famous vacation town. It wasn’t just the weather that called to her, but the architecture, the people she met, the business opportunities, and the future she saw not only for herself, but for Palm Springs in general.
It was a quick and sudden move, but it felt organic for the young businesswoman, now 37. She had been successful flipping real estate in Vancouver, and at the time, real estate values were quite low in PS. She placed an offer on a five-unit mid-century complex, and immediately jumped into game mode when it was approved. She saw the value and potential Airbnb offered, and went in with that mindset. “I’m not the type of real estate investor that would want to invest in long term apartment rentals because there’s no touch point with my guests. There’s no creative outlet, there’s no cultural collaboration,” she says. She knew she wanted something she could put her heart and soul into, something that would allow her to interact with her guests, and something that she wasn’t going to flip.
She completely renovated the space and gave it that designer touch which she is now known for. Having a background in fashion and photography, but not necessarily design, she drew upon her photography background. “The design principles of photography use composition and color, balance and proportion. I brought those skills that I’ve been practicing with photography in two dimension to three dimensional interior design,” she explains matter of factly.
Once The Amado was up and running it didn’t take long for it to rise above its competition in the hotel industry and vacation rental market. Florence and the Machine rented it out for its inaugural Coachella, and now it plays host to a very creative culture that appreciates art, regularly hosting corporate events, celebrations, and retreats.
The Amado is not where it ends though. Jaime collaborated with her friend, Chris Pardo, the talented architect and founder of Arrive Palm Springs to open a coffee shop and tiki bar. They saw the need for a more hip coffee spot in Palm Springs and it just so happened the space they liked was connected to another space that had once been a popular Don the Beachcomber Tiki bar in the 50’s. Not one to go against Palm Springs history, they decided, why not? and opened both. Now Bootlegger Tiki has been called one of the top 22 tiki bars in the country by Conde Nast Traveler, and Ernest Coffee has given the cafe scene the boost the community needed. (Portland watch out!)
A serial entrepreneur, Jaime is not only interested in the planning, design, and execution of her projects, but also enjoys seeing how her guests utilize her properties. She explains, “I’m particularly interested in the psychology of space. What is it about a space that inspires conversation? What is it about a space that inspires rest or relaxation, energy, or a deep connection? It’s the backdrop to life.”
Always wanting to create more, she recently opened The Junipero, another Spanish Colonial complex that she did up into a Mediterranean wonderland with mountain views and a refreshing pool and spa. She even ventured back into Canada-land with The Ferg, a three-unit home built in the 1850’s in Prince Edward County’s wine country.
With plans underway to open yet another property in Joshua Tree (pssst… there’s talk of it being a yoga retreat), and more properties in the works she laughs, “It started to become difficult to explain what I did at a dinner party so I created this umbrella brand called The Desert Collective.” It’s all of her businesses in one; a hospitality group that employs over 30 people that care about the community, the neighbors, giving back, and sustainability.
“We are about providing a high quality service, experience, and caliber of design. We’re lucky to live where we do and to have the freedoms that we have, so The Desert Collective for me is about celebration, coming together, and just being really grateful for what we have.”
And we for one, are especially grateful for what she’s brought to Palm Springs. Jaime, can we come on your next family vacation?
Lindsay DeLong is the Managing Editor of The Fullest. She’s fairly confident Ms. Kowal is her spirit animal. Find her at email@example.com or on social media via @lindizzaster.