Photo Credit: Stephanie Alexander
Inside En Soleil: New York City's New Black-Owned Luxury Commuter Lounge
Stephanie Alexander always knew she would move to New York City. The Florida native first came to the city as a teenager to watch her dad — a musician — play at the famed Carnegie Hall. She got the opportunity after graduating from Florida A&M University with a degree in business and a job offer in pharmaceutical sales.
“As a pharmaceutical sales rep, you don’t have an office, so I’ve never had an office,” Alexander told Travel Noire. “I’ve always been in the field, as they call it, going from doctors’ offices to hospitals. And being from Florida, I realized if you don’t have a car up here, there’s really nowhere for you to just sit down and take a breather or take a break in between appointments. Or in my case, I was going out to happy hours and mixers after work.”
In lieu of going home, Alexander would go into a restaurant, hotel lobby, or store bathrooms, and sometimes fitting rooms, to change clothes before heading out. She finally decided to do something about it after gaining membership in the American Airlines Admirals Club, which offered a lounge for passengers to change, refresh, relax, and grab something to eat.
It was similar to an idea that she had been toying with for people like her who needed a respite in the city. Following some advice from a trusted advisor, Alexander reserved three months of space at New York’s Refinery Hotel to create En Soleil, a concept designed to be a “commuter’s retreat.”
This oasis in the city targets the social professional or day traveler who needs a spot to take a break, make a quick change before taking in a Broadway play, or basically take a load off before wandering the city.
“They [guests] will have comfortable lounge seating with privacy screens to separate them from other people,” Alexander revealed. “They will also have changing rooms. So if you came from work, or you are going to an interview, you have a comfortable changing room. You will also be able to store your bags. A lot of people come to New York and you see them carrying rolling bags and a backpack— especially day travelers. You will be able to store your bag securely at En Soleil.”
En Soleil also offers on-the-go essentials for retail but there are items that will be complimentary. They have partnered with companies like Cora Organic Tampons, The Honey Pot, and Black Girl Sunscreen among others. Other offerings will be on the house as well.
“I plan on giving complimentary cocktails, like Mimosas, sparkling wine, sparkling water, coffee or tea. The things that make you feel comfortable, even though you’re out and about in the midst of your day.”
Like many businesses, the planned 2020 opening was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic and was rescheduled to this summer. Day passes start at $45. The day pass option, as opposed to per hour charge, is intentional to allow guests to enjoy a leisurely day rather than rushing to meet a time limit.
Alexander likens En Soleil to a hotel room without the bed and showers but she is already looking towards an upgrade.
“My goal is to have a flagship space with a long-term lease and to have shower facilities where people can actually take a full shower and get dressed. Maybe even a nap station. A lot of people have told me that they would pay to go somewhere and take a nap.”
Check out En Soleil at the Refinery Hotel in New York City.