Life

Family-owned hotel chains started small in the Midwest

Two family-owned hotel chains started small in Eastern Iowa and trace their roots to hard work and modest origins. Here are their stories.


Three Hotels, No Employees


When Bob and Angie Patel emigrated to the United States from India in 1980, they worked in fast-food restaurants and operated newspaper routes.


The couple saved their money and, in 1982, they bought a shuttered roadside motel in Mena, Ark.


Bob handled the physical renovation of the hotel and Angie managed the books and cleaned the rooms. The couple eventually bought a hotel in Hannibal, Mo., and later built a Comfort Inn in Burlington, Iowa.


?My parents thought a motel offered a home for their family while providing them an income from a business,? said Raj Patel, today Hawkeye Hotels chief development officer.


?We grew up in the family business, learning by their example and hard work. They operated their first three hotels without any employees and no job was too menial for them.


?I remember my father cleaning and repairing air conditioners and my mother cleaning guest rooms. They taught us to respect everyone, regardless of their job or position.?


Raj?s brother, Ravi, is president of Hawkeye Hotels and their sister, Sajni, is vice president of the company. Bob, CEO, and Angie, corporate director of payroll and accounting, continue to own and be active in the management of the rapidly expanding company.


Hawkeye Hotels owns and operates more than 50 hotels in 18 states with investments in an additional 25 assets. It also has 15 new hotels in construction and pre-construction phases. Its corporate headquarters moved from Burlington to Coralville in June 2017.


?We are a young company that has grown aggressively and we don?t plan to slow down,? Raj Patel said. ?We will continue to look at additional hotels in our home state of Iowa, but we also will look at other states.


 


The Cliff House


Kinseth Hospitality Companies of North Liberty company traces its roots to the late 1950s when Kenneth Kinseth, a general contractor, and his wife, Cyrena, bought the small Deluxe Motel in Decorah.


The Kinseths added a restaurant in 1963 and changed the name of the property to the Cliff House.


Cyrena planned weddings and special events for customers, becoming known as the consummate hostess.


With a lot of hard work and the support of their children ? Les, Linda, Bruce and Gary ? the Kinseths expanded the property into a 108-room hotel and restaurant. In 1977, the semi-retired Kenneth and Cyrena sold the hotel. A Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites now stands on that location.


?As my parents got closer to retirement and the kids got older, we really didn?t want to have a lot to do with the hotel business,? recalled Gary Kinseth, vice president and director of operations.


?A year or two after our parents got out of the business, we started a hospitality company in Council Bluffs when we bought a Ramada Inn, which we renovated into a Best Western.


?Two years later, we were looking for another opportunity and we purchased a Best Western in Clear Lake. Our father and mother came in as partners.


?We ran the two companies together until we bought our parents out a number of years later.?


While many of its hotels are located in Iowa, Kinseth Hospitality Companies also owns and manages venues in nine other Midwestern states.


The company also owns and manages restaurants, such as Twelve01 Kitchen and Tap in Coralville as well as Bennigan?s in Clear Lake, Des Moines and Rock Island, Ill., River Rock Kitchen and Tap in Dubuque, Kokomo?s Bar and Grill in Fairfield, and Green Mill in Overland Park and Wichita, Kan.


?We run our restaurants as a stand-alone business to bring guests in both internally and externally,? Kinseth said. ?A typical restaurant cannot survive on purely hotel traffic.?


From about 50 employees when Kinseth Hospitality Companies operated a single property in Council Bluffs, the company has grown to about 3,500 today. Kinseth said the company continues to add hotels, such as the Hilton Garden Inn on South Clinton Street in Iowa City and the TownePlace Suites on Seventh Avenue in Marion.


Earlier this month, Kinseth Hospitality Companies opened the doors of the 82-room, four-story Tru by Hilton at Westdale, the 12th Tru by Hilton to open in the nation. It will open additional Tru by Hiltons in coming months.


Looking to the future, Kinseth said members of the third generation of the family are active in the business.