Cambria Plugging Away

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Cambria Suites celebrated its 13th opening last week in Columbus, OH. It's a respectable number for the upscale all-suite offering from Choice Hotels that debuted in Boise two years ago, especially considering the current economy, but everyone involved with the brand expected to have more open by now. Simultaneous to the grand opening celebration, the executive and development teams, including President William Edmundson and VP or Franchise Sales Brad LeBlanc, held a "roadshow" for potential developers.

Approximately 60 interested parties got an inside look at the hotel, not to mention a free lunch and dinner, and the chance to get to know the Cambria team. The show-and-tell attracted some major players and others looking for their first hotel project. The Cambria team, including the architect of the brand, Don Griner, gave tours of the property before Edmundson and LeBlanc went through a detailed presentation of the brand and its support from Choice. Just about everyone came away impressed with the offering, and many were extremely interested judging by the detailed and intense questions the execs got, but the big holdup or question mark was the usual: financing.

Edmundson said they weren't alone. The economy and frozen credit markets have slowed, if not halted, just about all development. He expects to have 25 locations open by the end of the year and another five to 10 coming online next year. “Everyone else is stuck in the mud, too," he said, but added Cambria was positioned to take off when credit thawed because of many projects ready and waiting to go.

It's never easy building a brand from scratch, but the timing couldn't have been worse during the past 18 months. Yet Edmundson, and all the way up to Choice CEO Steve Joyce, remain positive and committed to the brand. The numbers may not be what they wanted, but they continue to move in the right direction, a credit to the product and their perseverance.

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