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Plenty of room for risk, reward

August 9, 2015

SAVANNAH, Ga. --  It could either have been a big success or a complete failure. But brothers Kirit and Anil Patel were willing to take that risk.

As the founders of HOS Management, a Savannahbased hotel management and development company, Kirit and Anil launched the Cotton Sail Hotel last year in the Historic District. It is an award-winning luxury and full-service boutique hotel that has taken the area by storm.

“It was definitely a hit or miss,” said Kris Patel, son and nephew of the founders and CFO of the company. “My father and uncle decided to take the risk because they had a prime location, and if they did everything right with the construction, it could stand out.”

Starting with a nearly 200-year-old cotton warehouse, the Patels faced the task of renovating the aging building and transforming it into an upscale hotel with a rooftop restaurant and bar.

“It took some time,” Patel said. “Renovating the building and then salvaging the 200- year-old heart pine and going back into the building and using it as our hardwood floor was tricky.”

Cody Tharpe, owner of Tharpe Engineering Group and engineer for the project, said the Cotton Sail was one of his most challenging projects.

“There were a lot of constraints on the building because it is so old,” he said. “We were on a tight schedule for it, and in order to stay on schedule we constantly had to come up with solutions to make things work, which required changing the plan from time to time.”

A great deal of masonry and timber repair work had to be done as well as testing on the materials and on its foundation, Tharpe said. He said the structural design for the building’s rooftop bar and restaurant took months of planning.

Although its renovations proved difficult, the Cotton Sail’s transformation has grabbed the attention of the Savannah community.

It was recently awarded with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s Excellence in Rehabilitation award, the 2015 HSF Preservation Award, and the IAHA Independent Hotel of the Year Award from the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.

“The Cotton Sail really displays the Patel’s creativity as entrepreneurs,” said Joe Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah. “The Patels are making a strong statement about offering a fresher lodging experience in the Historic District through this building.”

Michael Owens, president and CEO of the Savannah Area Tourism Leadership Council, agreed.

“It was definitely a hit or miss. My father and uncle decided to take the risk because they had a prime location, and if they did everything right with the construction, it could stand out.” Kris Patel, son and nephew of the founders and CFO of the company

“The Cotton Sail is a spectacular asset for the tourism industry,” he said. “It’s a knock out of the park in terms of its location, services and amenities. It’s a success story that will build on other success stories in the future.”

Such a risk-taking and tenacious attitude, as seen in the opening of the Cotton Sail, is nothing new to the Patels and is arguably the defining feature of HOS Management.

Attention to detail

The company began nearly 30 years ago when Kirit and Anil left India for the United States in hopes of starting a hotel management business. Once in the U.S., they saved enough money to buy their first independent motel, named the Benton Motel, in 1985.

“It all started from there,” Patel said. “Their first motel purchase eventually led to the purchase of a couple more hotels — one in Michigan and one in Savannah.” Kris and his brother Riki, the vice president of the company, followed in their father’s and uncle’s footsteps.

The Patels then focused on expanding their brand by opening and developing hotels in Savannah, Richmond Hill, Brunswick and in St. Augustine, Fla.

As a management company, HOS owns, develops and operates its acquired hotels. The Patels oversee the development of their properties and say they maintain close relationships with their employees and customers.

“We develop all of our properties from the ground up and focus on their day-to-day operations, such as making sure that every guest is taken care of the way he or she should be,” Patel said.

The business is family owned, so the Patels take the same family-based approach toward their hotels.

“We all grew up in this business,” Patel said. “Day in, day out, working together and having that support from one another enables us to do what we’re doing.”

While there are other similar family owned hotel management companies, Patel said HOS Management distinguishes itself by its attention to detail.

“There are a lot of larger companies who, as they expand, their focus on day-to-day operations with any individual business goes down,” Patel said. “We try not to do that. Even as we expand, we focus closely on each individual property. I like to be involved and figure out what’s going on at the hotels, making sure the revenues are there, and making sure that we’re progressing year after year instead of the other way around.”

Such attention to detail is apparent even in the company’s name. Nearly three years ago the Patels owned several properties but felt they lacked a specific identity. They created the name HOS, which is short for hospitality, because it tied into their desire to provide customers with a personalized experience at each of their properties.

“ The Patels a re ver y involved in their community, and they keep a close and open relationship with their employees,” Owens said. “Their managing style is very family oriented.”

In terms of hurdles, Patel cited the recent recession as one of the biggest setbacks.

“We weren’t able to expand as aggressively just because the financing markets were really tight,” Patel said. “But we weren’t in a bad situation unlike a lot of people who lost their businesses. My dad and uncle’s business model and just their overall mentality kept us from having to struggle during the recession.”

The Patels want to establish an effective corporate structure that enables them to stay in tune with each of their businesses as they expand. Patel admitted that it’s difficult to do so but said it’s what distinguishes them in a relatively undistinguished business.

Right now, they are busy expanding their brand name throughout the Historic District.

The Fairfield Inn & Suites with a parking garage, Aloft Hotel and Cambria Suites are set to open within the next three years. A Brunswick-based Hilton Garden Inn is also scheduled to open within the next couple of years.

“We’re looking to put deals in the pipeline and carry out those visions,” Patel said.