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Fairfield Inn drops franchise in rebranding

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston's Fairfield Inn is now the Charleston Capitol Hotel.

The nine-floor, 136-room hotel located near the Clay Center on the corner of Washington Street East and Leon Sullivan Way was rebranded over the weekend and is no longer a part of Marriott International, Inc.'s economy-brand franchise.

While the name has changed, neither the hotel's ownership nor management team has changed hands.

"What we're changing is strategy," said Ash Patel, CEO of Southwest Hospitality Management, which oversees operations at the hotel.

Patel said the company is trying to create a new identity for the hotel, one that is free of the requirements that come with being a part of a franchise brand.

"What we're trying to do over the next couple of months is roll out a program where we're providing a more personalized service and boutique feel that is not dictated by what a national chain is telling you to do," he said.

Southwest manages both the Charleston Capitol Hotel and the neighboring Best Western Charleston Plaza Hotel.

The two hotels are part of a hospitality property investment portfolio; the former Fairfield Inn is owned by Silver Creek Charleston A, LLC while the Best Western is owned by Silver Creek Charleston B, LLC.

Patel said the hospitality industry -- both locally and nationally -- suffered a severe slowdown following the Great Recession and financial crisis in 2008.

"Coming out of the recession, we saw our numbers dwindle," he said.

Patel said franchise mandates made it difficult to respond to those market changes. He said the shift to the Charleston Capitol Hotel is the first step toward finding a new niche in the Charleston market.

"We were just seeing how we could try to reposition ourselves into the marketplace," Patel said. "Just looking at the market, we see there are a lot of national (hotel) chains, but there isn't any independent boutique style of hotel."

He said the hotel has a long history of serving business travelers, National Guard members, lawmakers and others who come to town as part of the annual legislative session. 

"A lot of our clients are looking for that boutique experience," Patel said.

Most of the current changes at the hotel are cosmetic ones. All Fairfield Inn-branded signage and hotel accessories have been removed.

However, the hotel is still offering the same amenities, including free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfasts and an outdoor swimming pool.

The hotel's nearly three-dozen part- and full-time employees have all remained on staff as part of the transition.

Patel said the early winter months are usually a slow time of year, which should help with the transition.

The company is also exploring ways to improve its website, www.charlestonwvhotel.com. Staff will also need to be trained on a new hotel management operating system, as the old one was provided through Fairfield Inn.

"Hopefully by the time we get to March and April, we'll be geared and ready to go," Patel said.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.


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