|By Mike Corpos, American News, Aberdeen, S.D.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 5, 2004 - It started 30 years ago with two guys in a coffee shop in Aberdeen.
Now, Super 8 is the world's largest budget motel chain with more than 2,000 individual locations, including three in the Hub City.
Jason Welk, son-in-law of Super 8 co-founder Ron Rivett, and owner of the three Aberdeen locations said it's been, "A long 30 years of history."
Rivett sold the three Aberdeen motels to Welk and his wife Carrie last summer, said Welk, who has been involved with the motels for about 10 years.
"It's unbelievable what's come out of this little motel in little old Aberdeen," Welk said.
That first motel still stands at the corner of Roosevelt Street and Sixth Avenue Southeast, and it has recently undergone a number of upgrades.
In the 1970s Rivett, a former banking trust officer, and co-founder Dennis Brown, an Aberdeen attorney, would meet for coffee and discuss ideas.
They had talked about a new trend of low-cost, brand-name motels that was becoming popular with business travelers out west.
Rivett suggested building a motel, and the idea grew from there.
Welk said the first location has come a long way from the $8.88-a-night rate of 1974. Most recently, high-speed wireless Internet has been added in all rooms and public areas.
"It all started with just a bed and a TV," Welk said, noting that as travelers' expectations changed, the company added amenities, including waffles, exercise rooms and pools.
Brown died of cancer in 1988 at age 47 in San Mateo, Calif.
Rivett continues to make his home in Aberdeen.
"It's truly a great American success story," said John Valletta, current company president. "It was two local guys. One had an idea, and the other helped him develop it."
About 10 years ago Rivett sold the Super 8 brand and franchise system to the New Jersey-based Cendant Corp.
"They built a little motel in town, and 20 years later they sold a 1,000-unit chain to (Cendant)," Valletta said.
Valletta was in Aberdeen last week for the company's anniversary celebration.
"It probably would have been hard for (Rivett) to envision that he'd be in that room with all of us 30 years later, with the largest economy lodging chain in the world," Valletta said.
The president also said the future looks bright as the chain has taken root in Canada and China and continues to grow in the United States.
"It's pretty impressive for two guys sitting in a coffee shop," Valletta said.
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