Building the SML Brand

We’re finding out who we’ll be when we grow up!

I've always been a fan of branding. The choice of colors, typeface, icons, logos, tag lines, presentation, textures, materials, and more convey such an expectation of experience for someone. It's a super important piece of the puzzle, and I am obsessing over getting ours right.

I've started a few businesses from scratch. Some very successful, some not so much! But I can tell you this one has been the most fun and creative. My first experience with branding was as a Product Manager for Morgan Stanley, creating a national product that was focused on wealthy clients. I learned so much, but it was financial services - conservative, stodgy, BORING!

The hotel is anything but boring. We are blessed to have started with a property filled with potential and charm, which gives us so many options when it comes to developing a successful brand and identity. So, where do we start on our way to building a brand???

Let's start with the property itself. An old school motel built in the 1960's sitting on 3 tree filled acres. It's classic L shape takes you back to the time when the all American road trip was popular and people piled into their newly affordable cars to see a bit of the US. I can see a 1965 Ford Mustang pulling up under our carport with a young couple, looking for a break from the dusty Texas highway, and staying for a night on their way to somewhere exciting. We want to keep that nostalgia.


This motel has a bit of proud Texas history. Tillie Hahne, and her husband, Kermit, were great friends of President Lyndon B Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird (pictured below). They quickly realized a need to house the many visitors, including the Associated Press, Secret Service, celebrities and others who descended on Stonewall when LBJ would come down for time at his ranch, otherwise known as "The Texas White House". The AP had a standing reservation in our corner room, where a small attached area was built as a darkroom to develop photos quickly to be released to the wires. On Sunday mornings, they would eat in their cars, which faced the highway, so they could easily zip out and follow the President's motorcade on their way to church. I love this picture of LBJ with one of his grandchildren, taken at a local church in Stonewall during that time.

The beauty of the Texas Hill Country speaks for itself, and then we get to show off the booming wine industry that has changed the area so drastically in the last few years. There are now 50+ wineries within a half hour drive of the motel, giving wine enthusiasts no shortage of options to explore on a weekend. The motel sits on Hwy 290, right between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, which has become known as the Hwy 290 Wine Trail. This 30 mile stretch of highway is now home to a cluster of wineries of all sizes, distilleries, breweries, restaurants, and entertainment. The motel is literally at the heart of all of this.


So what is the vision for the rooms and the experience our guests will have? This is where the design decisions we make are so important. Most of our guests will be here to visit the wineries, relax for a weekend, be on vacation, so we want them to feel not only pampered, but also that they've had an experience. Bedding is key. We've focused our spending on great linens and sheets from Pine Cone Hill (via our good friend Cody Ables at, super comfy pillows, and a custom made blanket by Seek and Swoon that will be the focal point of our bed. We're sourcing upscale toiletries and towels. The decor inside the rooms will be a mix of clean, bright walls, crisp white sheets, colorful pillows and artwork from the 60s. Custom made headboards and mid century modern furniture will blend in with a bit of southwest (after all, we are still in Texas!).

So, we have a lot to work with when it comes to building a brand. We started with the name. We decided to rebrand from the Stonewall Motel to the Stonewall Motor Lodge. A motor lodge speaks a bit to the history and experience of a road trip ending at a quaint lodging experience where you can drive up to your room. We created a logo to get us going - a mix of a textured vintage font with a more contemporary complimentary font for Stonewall. We tied the history of the motel by including "Est. 1964" to the logo. This was a great start and always knew we'd hire a more professional branding firm to take us to the next level.

Enter Deux South, an eclectic branding firm in San Antonio. The minute I saw their website and work, I knew they'd do a great job translating our vision for the motel into a brand that will be memorable. It's an interesting process to work with a brand and identity firm. These are extremely creative people. I'm more of an analytical person with some creative streaks. Lots of discussions and sharing of design, colors, even an onsite visit to walk the property. We knew a lot of what we wanted, and then we turned them loose to add to it.


We're excited to share the progress on our brand. We've refined the logo and chosen our color scheme. Deux South has even given us the Stonewall Motor Lodge icon! LOVE! We'll be graphic heavy with signage around the motel and are starting to create additional marketing elements that give us a bit of the fun I was looking for.

So, without further ado, here's our updated logo and brand elements...




Next comes the standard stuff - business cards, invoices. Signs for around the property, our wine area map, and the website. We're growing up, and I like what I see,

Did we hit the mark? Let us know your thoughts below!!!

UpdatesTanner Freeman