Super 8 Motels Founded in South Dakota
Did you know the first Super 8 location was in Persona’s home state of South Dakota?
Super 8 Motels, Inc., is one of the largest franchisers of budget and economy motels in North America. Based on April 2019 STR Census, there are more than 2,900 hotels on four continents. Today, there are more Super 8 hotels than any other economy brand in the world and it all started in the small town of Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Persona has been partners with Super 8 for more than 25 years. In the last 10 years, Persona has completed over 700 projects with Super 8. Persona is the top provider of hospitality signage to hotels and brands across the country.
Super 8 History
Founded in 1973 by Dennis Brown and Ron Rivett, Super 8 Motels was acquired by Hospitality Franchise Systems, Inc. (HFS) in 1993. HFS merged with CUC International Inc. in 1997, forming Cendant Corporation, which ranked as one of the world’s largest franchisers in the fields of lodging, travel services, real estate, and car rental. In August 2006 Cendant spun off its hospitality group as Wyndham Worldwide Corporation. The lodging chains that operate alongside Super 8 within Wyndham Worldwide include Wyndham, Wingate Inns, Ramada, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, AmeriHost Inn, Baymont Inn & Suites, Travelodge, and Knights Inn.
For the first Super 8 site, they chose the intersection of Roosevelt Street and State Highway 12 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The location was just down the street from a Holiday Inn. Situating Super 8s near Holiday Inns was the typical site-location strategy during the chain’s early years. It was also important that a restaurant or two and a highway interchange be nearby.
The first Super 8 was designed in a rather accidental manner, without the aid of an architect. The rooms themselves were modeled on those of the local Holiday Inn, while stucco was chosen for the exterior because Rivett’s father-in-law was a stuccoer. To make the property stand out, cross-hatching was added to the outside, providing the faux Tudor look that was the chain’s early signature. With the addition of the now-familiar yellow Super 8 highway sign, the 60-room motel was complete, and it opened in September 1974. Fun fact: their cabinet shape is now copy-righted and no other hotel brands can re-use that cabinet.
Keeping with Brown’s vision, the motel offered consistent, friendly service and clean rooms at the budget price of $8.88 for a single room (thus the chain’s name), $10.88 for a double. The rooms included beds, a bath, direct-dial phones, and television sets—just the basics that a business traveler needed—and the motel took credit cards. Although business was slow during the winter months, occupancy reached 80 percent in the spring of 1975 as the motel began to reap the benefits of repeat business from satisfied customers. Encouraged, Brown and Rivett moved ahead with expansion, opening new Super 8s in the South Dakota towns of Yankton, Mitchell, and Pierre in 1975.
For the cost-conscious traveler arriving by car and looking for a place to spend the night along the way, Super 8 is a national roadside lodging chain that provides convenient locations, clean rooms, and friendly service at a reasonable price.
Super 8 gained further management help in 1977, when Loren Steele, another Aberdeen banker, was brought onboard as executive vice-president. By the end of 1977, as the franchisees began proliferating, there were 45 Super 8 motels operating in seven states, including Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska. The following year the chain gained a presence on both coasts as motels opened in the states of Washington and New York. In 1979, by which time the single room rate had increased to $14.88 per night, Brown opened his first Super 8 in California, a 118-room motel located near the airport in South San Francisco. By the end of the year, 71 Super 8 motels, with a total of 3,722 rooms, were in operation. Growth was also evident in the 57,000 reservations that were placed that year through the Superline system Now, there are over 2,000 locations worldwide.
Persona hopes to continue this valuable partnership with Super 8 for years to come!