Back in 1993 when the Super 8 brand was sold, a treasure-trove of information from decades of its history were put into a warehouse at the franchise birthplace in Aberdeen, S.D. Later it was stashed safely out of sight in a My Place Hotels headquarters storage room.
Super 8 founders and former corporate employees still live in Aberdeen. Several were involved in the creation of My Place Hotels, an all-new brand made to fit the needs of today’s travelers, and many work at My Place headquarters where the Super 8 archive lives. Harvey D. Aman, president and chief operating officer at Super 8 Motel Developers, Inc. retired this month after 35 years with the company.
The Super 8 archive is not as vast as that last scene from the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” where the camera pans back showing endless crates stretching off into the far reaches of a massive storage warehouse. But there is a lot of stuff, over 20 years of the economy heavyweight’s history and upbringing is carefully curated in dozens of plastic tubs and boxes on many shelves, filled with newspaper and magazine clips. It documents the brand’s rise to world-wide fame, contains VHS tapes, signs, annual meeting photos and more relics than any hospitality buff could get through in a day.
Digging through the records is fun, seeing things like the early ads boasting about the name-founding $8-per-night rate. Print ads for the first locations advertise “Now Open! $8.88 single at Super 8 Motel, America’s finest economy lodging.” Large-print sections of the ads boast about features including Free Color TV, Direct Dial Phones and Quiet.
There are VHS video-cassette tapes with various commercials and scenes shot at national conventions. There are albums stuffed full of photos, including the 100th location and the 1,000th location celebrations. Tubs are filled with dozens of location directories, press releases and letters between the brand and officials at cities across the nation.
One saved press-release packet was sent to CNN, titled “Largest Hotel Company in the World Expands into the Asian/Pacific Market.” The cover includes a hand-written note to a CNN official noting a meeting with the media giant “tomorrow.”
Looking at the hair and clothing styles alone are entertaining glimpses at the 1970s, ‘80s and early ‘90s when Super 8 was a growing world-wide success. But seeing how Super 8 did things, and how My Place Hotels was born and is growing today, reveals a few parallels between the brands.
The My Place ship is being helmed by a Rivett: Super 8 co-founder Ron Rivett’s grandson Ryan is CEO of My Place. Ryan got a little earlier start compared to his grandfather: Ron was 33 when Super 8 was founded; Ryan was 31 when My Place got its start.
From L to R: Dr. Timothy Downs (President of Northern State University), Ryan Rivett, Sharon Rivett, Ron Rivett, Harvey Jewett
Ryan says he sometimes looks through the archive and is impressed with how My Place is doing things today that mirrors things Super 8 was doing while working toward its success back then.
“One thing is that you can see in communications and in photos people interacting with franchisees in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Ron and Dennis Bale and Loren Steele out at groundbreakings and grand openings, holding the ribbons and shovels, just like we’re doing today,” Rivett said. “And if you talk to Ron about it today, he’ll talk about the relationships more than the specific events, which lets me know that’s important and that we’re on the right track.”
Those personal, friendly business relationships continue today, says Irene Roberts, My Place Director of Brand Loyalty.
“Super 8 was very much a family, between the people at headquarters and definitely with relationships they had with the franchisees,” Roberts said.
“That’s the way we work today, too.” She started with Super 8 as the reservation system evening supervisor in 1986 – during that year the brand passed the 400-hotel mark. After nine months she then took on a leadership role with its loyalty program and stayed for more than 30 years.
We even found articles about Terry Kline, circa 1988!
Archive pieces include lots of references and images of pineapples during Super 8 days. The pineapple was a mainstay in promotional materials, the symbol of hospitality often displayed with its “We’re Pineapple Kind of People” slogan. Today My Place has a new character with its playful use of the sunglasses-wearing Pineapple Pete mascot featured in pictures, promos, and videos.
There’s lots more to see in the archive during upcoming visits. Sometimes things go to a warehouse to “die,” but this stash of memorabilia, records and photos are too valuable for that, says Staci Kay, director of franchise relations for My Place Hotels of America. She unlocked the vault during a recent visit.
“It’s a piece of history. For us, it’s looking back at something that was done, generations ago,” Kay said. “It’s really neat to see what they did, whether it be social events, work-related records, or brochures – it’s a time capsule.”