Source: Business North Carolina
By Edward Martin
May 29, 2020
Interstate 95 was just opening in the flatlands of eastern South Carolina, and gas at the local Gulf station was $1.05 a gallon. Florence, like many cities, was still struggling with public school integration when brothers Ravi and Chandra Patel showed up to buy a small roadside hotel in 1980.
“Go back where you came from,” they were told. Competitors slapped “American owned” signs in their windows. “There was a lot of discrimination against Indian-Americans,” nephew Vinay Patel says. They were undaunted.
“Hoteliers like Charlotte’s Patel family had to overcome discrimination, sometimes in banking, sometimes in insurance, and sometimes even in their own communities,” adds Cecil Staton, CEO of the 19,500-member, Atlanta-based Asian American Hotel Owners Association. “That,” adds the former chancellor of East Carolina University, “is an unfortunate part of their story.”
Forty years later, Ravi and Chandra Patel, now in their 70s, head Charlotte-based Sree Hotels, one of the Southeast’s largest hotel chains, as chairman and vice chairman. Sree’s more than two dozen Carolinas and Ohio hotels include mainstays of select or limited-service brands such as SpringHill Suites, Courtyard by Marriott, Marriott Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn and Aloft.