Per Holtze was disappointed when the Statesboro Shoney's restaurant ceased operation two weeks ago, but the closing of a neighboring business has not daunted the spirits of one of Statesboro's youngest entrepreneurs.
The 32-year-old co-owner and general manager of the Quality Inn and Suites on South Main Street in downtown said his belief in the area is still strong, and he knows that untapped potential remains.
"When we bought the hotel in June 2008, there were properties near us that were empty, and are now viable businesses that are doing well," Holtze said. "My focus is making this property as successful as it can be, while working on the continuing revitalization of downtown."
Holtze is a board member of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority (DSDA) and also serves on the board of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce.
"I want to work with the DSDA to bring more students and urbanites to downtown," Holtze said. "There is a lot of opportunity on South Main, and we think it's the premier corridor since it connects Georgia Southern, the biggest employer in the county and home to 20,000 students, with the central business district of downtown. If we found the right partners or investors, we would add mixed use retail to the project and maybe even acquire some of the surrounding parcels to do so."
While some may be skeptical of Holtze's vision for the area, local hotel management executive and Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau board member Doug Lambert compares South Main to Savannah's Broughton Street in years past.
"Like South Main, Broughton Street had its heyday and then experienced a decline," he said. "When the Savannah College of Art and Design began to acquire a presence downtown, Broughton Street took off. Look at where it is today. It is the place to be. We need to get our university students downtown. That would make a huge difference."
Holtze and his partner have totally renovated the entire property, and recently added a 3,500 square foot ballroom, a 1,200 sq. ft. pre-function art gallery, a large meeting room, and a board room. In addition, Holtze has reached out to an untapped market of renters that he felt was being underserved.
"Several months ago, we converted 29 of our rooms into what we call Main Street Studios," Holtze said. "Initially targeted to undergraduate students, Main Street Studios is an extended stay hotel concept with flexible terms from one month to one year. Each room is fully furnished, and includes maid service and all utilities."
Holtze said 20 of the rooms are rented at this time to management professionals, business owners, healthcare professionals, new comers to Statesboro looking for temporary solutions, as well as graduate students.
"We let folks personalize the rooms as they would like to make it as ‘homey' as possible," he said.
DSDA executive director Allen Muldrew said Holtze's operation has become a cornerstone on downtown's busiest corridor.
"What Per has done with this property is truly amazing," he said. "Quality Inn and Suites is very important to downtown, and it really serves as an anchor to this area. I applaud his innovation and his faith in downtown. With business owners like Per, the longtime outlook for this area is very, very promising."
Holtze said Manny's restaurant, which is part of the hotel, has proven to be a much needed bonus to the property.
"Manny's is a great way to get people to the property and for them to see our level of service and expectation for quality," Holtze said. "It also creates a welcome atmosphere for our hotel guests and a place to get a drink at the bar or a fantastic meal. I can't tell you how often people tell me they've had the best steak, wings, eggplant parmesan, Mediterranean pasta, you name it, that they've ever had... at Manny's."
To learn more about the Quality Inn and Suites, you can visit one of the following websites: www.qualityinnstatesboro.com, www.statesborostudios.com, www.mannysgrills.com/statesboro, and www.statesboroballroom.com