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Meet the Maker: Margaret Johnson, COO

Leading the Next Generation of Paso Robles Hospitality

In 2003, Margaret Johnson joined the Martin Resorts team as a Guest Services Manager at the Paso Robles Inn. Today, leading as Martin Resorts’ Chief Operating Officer, Margaret is the brains behind the operation of opening downtown’s newest luxury hotel, The Piccolo. With 24 years of experience in the hospitality industry and the desire for a new challenge, Margaret wanted to do something bigger than she’d ever done before. So that’s exactly what she did.

Operating at a Level Above

For years, the lot behind the historic Ballroom at the Paso Robles Inn sat vacant after the passing of company founder, Tom Martin, in 1998. Three years ago Noreen Martin, President of Martin Resorts, felt it was time to finish the things that her late husband, Tom, had started. It was then that she and Margaret decided to transform the 12th Street lot owned by the Martin family.

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“We have discovered that Paso Robles really does have a demand for a higher-end property for many of our visitors, especially in the downtown area, so we’ve decided that we would stay small and develop the next chapter of the Paso Robles Inn where we already owned the property—so we formed this idea,” said Margaret.

That idea is to deliver service, accommodations, and experiences at an octave higher than any other Paso Robles hotel, while operating at a fraction of the size. An ambitious goal, there’s no one more qualified than Margaret to take the wine country experience to new heights.

Expert-Designed Experiences  

As the acting liaison between the hotel managers and staff company-wide, Margaret has refined innovative management techniques during her 12 years overseeing the operations of Martin Resorts’ five hotels and restaurant. And all the while, she has continuously led renovations at each of the properties to maintain their unique, boutique qualities—transforming former Best Western’s into beloved brands like the beautiful Shore Cliff Hotel.

It is this strength, creativity, and vast knowledge of the hospitality industry that made Margaret just the right person to introduce the next generation of Paso Robles hospitality.  

“[The Piccolo] carries over the history of the Paso Robles Inn but is new and fresh. We have used as much local artistry and craftsmanship as possible on the project, and that makes it very boutique. The [rooftop bar] Tetto is also the most unique to Paso and everyone is talking about it,” said Margaret, who worked closely with the architects at TenOver Studio in hand-selecting every little element of the hotel to bring her vision to life.

From the paint on the wall to the made-to-order chandeliers and everything in between, no decision was made without Margaret’s guiding hand. Her vision for The Piccolo is to give visitors a true taste of the Paso Robles spirit that’s defined the city since the beginning by incorporating custom-crafted art and décor by local makers throughout the entire hotel.

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“The fact that everything we shared with the architect about the vision is actually right in front of us now [is exciting.] I have so many ideas but can’t seem to interpret them into any sort of drawing.  To spill it out verbally and have someone get me is incredible,” said Margaret, “The rooftop views are beautiful.  The Courtyard and deck on the second floor are great intimate settings. The rooms are romantic, authentic and stunning. The Piper just so happens to have the same name as my granddaughter so that of course should be my favorite [space in The Piccolo.]”

A space designed to be your gathering place, Margaret hopes The Piccolo will be a place of shared and cherished memories for years to come.

Roots in Paso Robles

The Piccolo monumentalizes all that Margaret has given to the Paso Robles community, and we’ll never forget her contribution to The Piccolo. In addition to her role at Martin Resorts, Margaret serves on the advisory board for the Travel Paso Robles Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and the San Luis Obispo County Economic Forecast Committee. She also proudly holds 5 years of service in the United States Marine Corps near and dear to her heart.

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Margaret resides in Paso Robles with her husband, Ken, former Emergency Services Chief of Paso Robles. When she’s not building hotels or running them, Margaret stays busy as a mother of three daughters and her favorite role of all, “Nana” to four beautiful grandchildren.

“[I’m most excited] about the fact that my grandchildren will always look at [The Piccolo] and say, ‘my nana helped make that.’” Margaret concluded.