21 September 2007

From dreary to Drury

Greetings and howdy and such from the sixth floor of the Drury Inn of Montgomery, Alabama. From my window I have a wonderful panoramic view of Friday's developing rush hour at the intersection of I-85 and the Eastern Bypass. Yee to the haw.

I like Drury Inn. It's a growing chain of hotels across the Midwest and the Southeast which pride themselves on service. And from what I remember from my days in Cape Girardeau, this family's Southeast Missouri values have never left, even amidst this kudzu-like expansion.

The Drurys started out in the 1960s with a Holiday Inn franchise in Cape. From there they parlayed the family finances into a motel in nearby Sikeston in 1973. The first Drury Inn was born. Room rate was $10.88 a night. Very affordable, as the average Holiday Inn was going for $15-20 a night in those days.

In addition to hotels, the Drurys also own some various franchises in the lower Midwest (a/k/a "The Heartland"). One for Burger King comes to mind. They own all the BK restaurants in swampeast Missouri, some in southern Illinois and western Kentucky, as well as in Jonesboro, Ark. Everything was done right in those restaurants. You never had futked-up orders. No attitudes. When I was in high school, I got spoiled in Burger King. And then got re-spoiled when I went to college at Arkansas State. I know it's just fast food, but it's possible to put a genuine emphasis on service, even with quick-service restaurants. Even in 2006, during our last trip to Cape, Burger King was still at the top of their game, where elsewhere it seems to have hit the skids. Even my son noticed the difference in how fresh and good everything was.

With that in my mind, it was so good to know that the familiar burgundy color of the Drury Inn signs began appearing in places like Birmingham and Montgomery.

It's considered a 'mid-level' chain, certainly not as "upscale" as, say, Courtyard Marriott. I stayed in a Courtyard last night in Ratlanta. Which did I prefer?

Just take a wild guess, genius.

Where do I start? Local calls at the Marriott were 75 friggin' cents. Thank gawd for cellphones! Drury? Free. Now, many budget-line chains offer free local calls, however Drury Inns also have one hour of free long distance per night. How about them Whoppers?

The internet connection at Marriott was a third-party thing where they actually charge for it ... only the first night's free.

Free drinks -- including soft drinks -- at Drury. Courtyard only had alcohol at their little mini-bar in the lobby ... for a charge (I don't drink, so I didn't even ask for prices). They have a little "Market" where they sell soft drinks. A 20-oz. Pepsi (in the shadow of the golldurned COCA-COLA building, no less!!) sold for $2.00!

No, thanks.

Oh, and did I mention the hot water RAN OUT ON ME at the "upscale" Marriott this morning? At least it ran cold as I was finishing up. WTF????????

The only reason I stayed here? It was walking distance from my venue on Friday, and it was covered by my employer. Otherwise, I would've stayed at the Hampton Inn (my second-favorite hotel chain) -- one was about a mile away. Ah, but that would've meant dealing with Atlanta traffic. I hate Atlanta traffic. And I damn near loathe the city, too. I don't like small, stuck-up towns, but a city like Atlanta is too big for me. I could not handle living there. Give me Savannah -- even with her many quirks -- or Birmingham any ol' day.

Back to Drury. One important distinction about it: ALL (!!) of their hotel properties are COMPANY OWNED. All physical assets are owned and controlled by the Drury family. And, as my late friend Steve F. would tell me time and time again, company-owned hotels were always better than franchised because of more attention to quality-control. He should've known; he lived on the road for his job and knew every hotel in the Southeast.

"My name is Drury Inn and I'm a control freak." That's what it says on their website.

My favorite remark, though, is something along the lines of "That's our family name out there on the sign."

In a world where many corporate entities are saying "Screw you" to consumers, taking their business and wallets for granted, I love knowing that some REAL family values are in practice in some nooks and crannies of the business world.

Don't tell me it doesn't work; the Drury family surely isn't running this chain as a charity .... they're out to make a profit. That's why people engage in business. And make profits, they do.

And no, I'm not getting a free room for writing this. :-)

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "I could use a free beverage right about now" Gleck

No comments: