|By Steve Tarter, Journal Star, Peoria,
Ill.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 16, 2008 - PEORIA -- Restoring a big full-service hotel like the Ramada Inn and Conference Center to its former grandeur in Peoria's crowded hospitality scene is like turning a battleship around.
Bill and Nick Fady, brothers who own the hotel at 4400 Brandywine Drive, feel they're up to the challenge.
The Fadys are working to raise the image -- and the occupancy rate -- of the third largest hotel in Peoria. With 240 rooms, the Ramada is the largest property outside Downtown, where the Holiday Inn City Centre provides 325 rooms and the Hotel Pere Marquette offers 287.
Built as the Holiday Inn Holidome in 1981 by developer David Joseph, the Ramada is trying to win over former customers, said Bill Fady. "We want to take care of our guests, especially those that may have had a bad experience here over the past four or five years," he said.
The hotel, once cited as the top Holiday Inn property in the country, has had several owners since 2000, leaving a lot to do when the Fady brothers bought the place last year.
One of the biggest hurdles is dealing with all the competition on the hospitality front in central Illinois, said Nick Fady. "You probably have 40 to 50 hotels in the area. There's not enough business for everyone," he said.
It's not just other hotels that provide competition. "The Peoria Civic Center added all that banquet space. They're taking weddings and even small meetings away from the hotels," said Kathi Williams, the hotel's director of sales.
But new hotels like East Peoria's Embassy Suites provide the stiffest challenge, she said.
"It's very hard to compete against new construction," said Nick Fady, adding that the Ramada uses price to even the playing field. While the price for a one-night stay at one of the new hotels is $130, the Ramada charges $80, he said.
"We might not have brand new rooms but we have people who care," said Bill Fady, noting the hotel's 50 employees -- most part-time -- are accustomed to providing customer service.
For Brent Lonteen, executive director of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the hotel building boom has been a plus. "What I tell people is that if you build them (hotels), we'll fill them. What the new construction has done is raise the bar. Rates are higher and that means more tax money," he said.
Newer hotels have had another effect, said Lonteen. "They've prompted existing facilities to remodel and renovate. We're seeing it across the board at hotels like the Ramada," he said.
The Fady brothers came to Peoria from Ohio, bringing different skills to the partnership. While Nick Fady has worked in real estate, Bill Fady previously managed a hotel in Columbus, Ohio.
Both men believe the Ramada has definite advantages to offer. "We have space that no one else does. With 10 different meeting rooms and the atrium area (formerly known as the Holidome), we can accommodate 700 people for a meeting," said Bill Fady.
Local ownership is also a plus, he said. "There's no corporation to go through. If there's a problem, we take care of it right here," said Bill Fady.
"If it's busy, we're here all the time. If something comes up when we're not around, we're just five minutes away," he said.
One of the biggest jobs is letting people know changes have been made, said Bill Fady. "If people do their homework, they'll see that we provide a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, games for the kids and a free breakfast for $80," he said.
Williams is helping local firms with that homework by getting information about the hotel out to the business community. "We want to remind them about our open parking, easy access to the Interstate and the atrium. We also want to find out how we can help them with their business needs," she said.
For the Fady brothers, running a hotel like the Ramada is anything but boring. "I walk in the door and wonder what I'm going to be dealing with today," said Bill Fady.
"There are always different challenges. Whether you're here here for one hour or 14 hours, there's always something to do," he said.
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