|By Brook Stockberger, Las Cruces
Sun-News, N.M.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 28, 2008 - LAS CRUCES -- The couple had a successful life in Phoenix, but felt something was off.
David Girle and his wife Elina Sihombing had been fairly successful in real estate in Arizona, but the duo decided they needed a change.
"Phoenix had gone up, we'd done well, but you look at it and say, 'This can't go on forever,'" said Girle. "The affordability indexes in Phoenix were always real cheap, but all of a sudden it wasn't real cheap anymore, and it's 115 in the summer."
Sihombing used to run her own business -- she worked in real estate in her native Indonesia and also ran a public relations company -- and had always wanted to run a hotel.
"We met a lady and she said, 'You got to come out here (to southern New Mexico). There's going to be a spaceport and this place is going to explode.'"
Girle and Sihombing purchased the Economy Inn at 2160 W. Picacho Ave. They have put about $600,000 into renovating the business and said that, when all is said and done, they will have spent about $1 million.
Also, they changed the place to an America's Best Value Inn.
"I said to my husband, 'This is the right place and the right time to invest,'" Sihombing said.
Girle reports that the couple's plan was to give the property a complete facelift. The rooms have been upgraded with new air conditioners, bathroom tile and fixtures, carpet and furnishings. They all feature WiFi, refrigerators and microwaves.
Sihombing, who studied at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, has xeriscaped the front of the hotel and the courtyard in the back. The pool, which had sat empty, was replaced with a smaller one and a gazebo with a running fountain was added.
The couple went through an exhaustive search for a parent franchise.
"We looked at the major flags, some were unavailable because of exclusion zones or because we had exterior corridors," he said. "We excluded a whole bunch of franchises because they wanted us to sign a 15 or 20-year contract."
The hotel used to have 120 rooms but has 50 available right now. The couple continues to renovate rooms as they are open for business.
"We never closed," Sihombing said.
Girle said the business had a lot of construction workers as customers, which worked out well.
"The thing that really helped us was there is a lot of construction going on in this town, and a lot of workers on per diem," he said.
When the renovation is complete, the America's Best Value Inn will have 100 rooms. There is banquet and restaurant space with the property. Sihombing said she hopes to lease the restaurant space.
Brook Stockberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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