Native Georgian Richard C. Kessler says he believes in running a business in the Southern tradition.
That's how he feels he built the Days Inn family-oriented, budget motel chain into one of the largest in the country in eight years and became the president and chairman of the board at age 31.
As part of the chain's continued growth, it opened in Alexandria yesterday its first motel in the Washington area. Kessler said he plans to add 2,000 more rooms to the Washington area within the next five to eight years.
"We felt it was about time more Georgians came to Washington," Kessler, now 32, said at the opening cermony.
This year the company plans to add 30 more inns, despite predictions of a fuel crunch for months ahead. The company relies mainly on vacationing families and tourists and traveling business persons who pay expenses on a per diem basis, Kessler said.
"For our particular product, there will be little effect, if any" of an energy crunch, Kessler said yesterday, sitting in a vinyl covered chair in one of the Alexandria Inn's inexpensively furnished rooms. "Our occupancy was up five or six points this year."
But Ken Hine, of the American Hotel & Motel Association, said in New York that "any broad reduction of gas availability is going to have a tremendous impact on travel and tourism. It will have a greater impact on those that are travel and tourism oriented."
Days Inn of America, Inc., which has 301 motels in 27 states in the United States and Canada, boasts that it is the sixth largest chain in the country.
However, Hine said in a telephone interview that Days Inn is the sixth largest in terms of the numbers of properties owned-thus excluding Best Western, Budget Hotels and Friendship Inns, which operate a national reservation system but do not directly own the motels.
The chain was started by Cecil B. Day Sr. in 1970. Day, who died last year at age 44, was the son of a Savannah, Ga., Bapitist minister. Day, a Georgia real estate developer, retired from that field at age 35 "with more money than he could ever spend," Kessler said, and decided to start a chain of budget motels oriented toward families. None of the motels or adjoining restaurants serve liquor, Kessler said.
Kessler, who knew Day's family in Savannah, joined Day in 1970 as his personal assistant just after finishing his master's degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
In the next few years Day sent Kessler to several cities, where he opened up Day real estate firms and established motels and some apartment developments.
In May 1975, Day asked Kessler to return to Days Inns in Atlanta to become its chief financial officer. A year later Kessler became vice chairman of the board and associate chief executive officer. By September 1977 Kessler was appointed president, chief executive officer and vice chairman of the board.
This year the company expects to gross $100 million in sales. Kessler said at yesterday's ribbon cutting ceremony. Last year the company's sales were listed as $60 million. This year the chain also expects to exceed an average annual 76 percent occupancy rate, Kessler said.
Kessler said the chain has been successful because it caters to a largely untapped market and he and Day believed in the Southern tradition: "When we make a deal we make sure both parties get something out of it and we treat people fairly."
Kessler personally supervises details of the company operations and new locations, and is expanding rapidly in the lucrative lodging field.Profits have increased from $1 million in 1975 to $4.1 million last year.
The Alexandria Inn is a $4 million project of 200 units on a 3.5-acre site at the intersection of Interstate Rte. 395 and Duke Street. Room rates will run between $19.99 and $23.88 for a sigle with $4 more for each additional adult and $1 for each child under 18.