May 16, 2018


Candyland meets performance art at the Sweet Tooth Hotel

Imagine Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for the Snapchat age. In a world of pure imagination, you can explore a hotel inspired by cavity-causing delights while bellhops guide you toward hidden keyholes that unlock sweet surprises.

That’s the vision behind the pop-up art project Sweet Tooth Hotel, opening May 18 in Victory Park. The brainchild of marketing and social media professional Jencey Keeton and her creative director husband, Cole, the 1,200-square-foot exhibit is less influenced by Instagram sensation The Museum of Ice Cream than it is the Color Factory, a pop-up museum in San Francisco, and Santa Fe’s experimental art complex Meow Wolf.

The serial entrepreneurs’ previous projects include Trucky, a 1969 Citroen van turned mobile bar,  and the electro-pop band French 75.

“Since I married Cole I’ve had all these crazy ideas. Before I just didn’t have anyone to do them with,” says Jencey. “When I saw the Color Factory open, I started thinking: Why don’t we do something like that ourselves?

The Keetons approached Built by Bender—a three-brother design team specializing in woodworking, welding, and lighting—to help make their dreams a reality. Inspiration comes from the intersection of candy-making and films. The cotton candy-scented neon lounge draws its mood from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. The macaron bedroom recalls Sofia Coppola’s pastel-hued Marie Antoinette. The coffee-and-donut kitchen was design to display a retro Wes Anderson vibe.

“There’s a different spirit in each room, and that creates the story of the hotel,” says Jencey. “It’s sweet, but with a bite. There’s an edge to everything.”

The hotel’s Gift Shoppe will sell limited-edition offerings from local talents, including artist-collaboration bags from Leatherology and gummy-bear paintings by Jeremy Biggers.

“All the artists working on the installation are selling their work, and everything will be available on our website, too. People can buy anything in the space. If you want a giant macaron bedside table from one of the rooms, you can buy it!”

Although Sweet Tooth is slated to close June 30, Keeton hopes demand will keep it open  through July. And this could be just the beginning. “We’re hoping to sell everything and then create a new theme,” says Jencey. “It could be ‘Sweet Tooth Beach,’ ‘Sweet Tooth Holiday,’ or ‘Sweet Tooth Goes to Outer Space.’” —Kendall Morgan

The Details: Sweet Tooth Hotel. 2316 Victory Park Lane. $20 general admission; $40 for the “keyholder experience,” which includes a custom Leatherology keychain.