Rick Milton built a career working for a number of different hotel chains in Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. Ultimately, Milton and his wife, Sandy, settled in Grand Island, Neb., where in 2006 they purchased what was then the Oak Grove Inn. Nathan DeLaet, a hotel management student who graduated in December 2006 from Central Community College in Hastings, was hired as general manager. The Oak Grove Inn soon became the state’s first Rodeway Inn franchise.
When they bought the Oak Grove Inn, it was in need of significant repairs, DeLaet says. “We spent a great deal of time renovating the hotel,” he says. “Even today, we are still doing all we can to make it better, upgrading the rooms and services whenever we can.”
Rodeway Inn has 60 rooms and employs 13 people. The hotel has seen increases in sales since 2011, with a 15.3 percent increase in 2012 and a 6.0 percent increase in 2013.
The staff at Rodeway Inn strives to create the best experience possible for guests by going above and beyond, as recognized by several awards from Choice Hotels International that note the hotel’s commitment to hospitality and excellent guest service. For example, the hotel received the Platinum Hospitality Award in 2009, 2010 and 2015 for being a top 3 percent performer in the Rodeway Inn brand. Rodeway Inn has also earned the Gold Hospitality Award four years in a row (2011-2014) for being a top performing brand in the Choice Hotels International franchise.
DeLaet has received the General Manager Service Excellence Award from Choice Hotels International for his commitment to surpass guest service expectations. He has also received the Innovation Award from Choice Hotels International for his work “to implement innovative practices to increase guest satisfaction or hotel efficiency.” The “special touches” at Rodeway Inn include fresh popcorn for each guest upon arrival and two-cent per gallon discounts at a nearby gas station.
After Rick Miller’s death in 2009, Sandy Milton and DeLaet faced some decisions. Rather than pursue an RV park project previously envisioned for the area adjacent to Rodeway Inn, the two decided to build an extended stay hotel in association with Choice Hotels International, Rodeway Inn’s parent company.
Planning for the extended stay hotel began in 2010. After a feasibility study was finalized, Milton and DeLaet approached Sara McMillan, business consultant with the Nebraska Business Development Center, for assistance with a loan package for SBA guaranteed financing. The deal did not work out with the first lender, however, and the project was put on hold during the slowdown in the economy in 2011.
In 2013, the project received approval from the City of Grand Island for tax-increment financing and approval of a 504 loan. Milton and DeLaet will co-own MainStay Suites, the first extended stay hotel situated in Grand Island. With 58 rooms and 10 to 12 employees, it is due to open by this summer.