How to succeed in business? Provide something people need — fill a niche in the market.


      How to succeed in business? Provide something people need — fill a niche in the market.
     And Bill Cunningham is betting his new extended-stay hotel will do just that.
     Cunningham, owner of the Best Western Country Inn & Suites on the corner of Wyatt Earp Boulevard and 14th Avenue, has a finger on the pulse of the hotel business in Dodge City.
     "We get a lot of calls from people looking for better rates on an extended stay, so I feel comfortable building a 61-room facility to meet that need," Cunningham said in an interview Friday.
      The Dodge City Extended Stay and Suites will be built on a 4.5-acre site between Waters True Value Hardware and Trinity Manor in north Dodge.
        "We chose the north location because it's a quieter, more residential neighborhood," Cunningham said. "It's close to the mall and there are restaurants nearby."
      The hotel is geared for people staying a week or longer, in some cases several months at a time.
     "This is not really in response to the oil boom or the wind farms," Cunningham said. "It's more about the housing shortage. People need a place to live while they're waiting for a home to come available, or they're waiting for their old house to sell, or they can't find an apartment. People also need this kind of lodging if there's a fire at their house or some other emergency."
     Every one of the 61 rooms will have a kitchenette equipped with a stove, a full-size refrigerator and a dining area.
     The floor plan includes a few suites, and some rooms are ADA accessible.
     Because of the nature of the clientele, Cunningham has not included a pool or fitness center in the plans.
     "Our extended-stay customers don't really ask for those amenities," he said. "We're putting a gazebo area out front — that will have charcoal grills."
     Dirt work on the site began April 2, and the contractor, J-A-G, hopes to have the hotel ready to open in October or November.
     "We get a lot of compliments on our Western decor here at the Best Western — that's all thanks to my wife — and we intend to incorporate some of the Old West touches at the new place," Cunningham said.

Down the hill
     Construction should begin soon on the IHOP restaurant that will be located in front of the Best Western on Wyatt Earp Boulevard.
     "It's been a pretty long process," Cunningham said. "I kind of took to calling the project 'I Hope.'"
     Cunningham sold the land to Moe Touffaha, who owns IHOP restaurants in five Kansas towns, including Garden City and Hays.
     With the project moving ahead, talk around town is about the limited parking.
     "Yes, parking will be a little tight," Cunningham said, "But there's more than you think on the site, plus we'll be sharing our south row of parking with them and they've purchased some land behind Auto Zone for employee and overflow parking, so there will be enough."
     The latest word Cunningham has received is that the loan for the project is completed and they're waiting on some final bids.
     "I think they're hoping to open in August," he said.

Optimistic
     Cunningham is bullish on Dodge City.
     "We have a pretty good economy here. It might not seem like it, but if you go to conventions and meetings and talk to people from other towns, you realize how good we're doing," he said.
     He expects the anticipated oil boom to bring good and bad effects.
     "It will be a boost to the economy — certainly for farmers and landowners who will get some well-needed income," he said. "And that will spread out to our community — it will be good for our restaurants and retail stores."
     Cunningham was part of a group that traveled to Enid and other towns in Oklahoma to see how they're handling the oil boom, which is currently under way in that state.
     "They're doing pretty well," he said. "The boom happened so fast in North Dakota that they weren't prepared. They were overwhelmed — it's a mess up there."
     Cunningham adds a note of caution: "Let's not get too excited and overbuild — every boom has a bust, usually after three to five years."
     Instead, Cunningham and others are exploring the idea of creating man camps to house temporary workers. "A lot of those workers bring their own campers, so they'll need accommodations for that," he said.
     Cunningham is planning to prepare sites with hookups on his property on West Wyatt Earp.
     "I think there are some people at the city and at economic development who are doing a good job of getting us ready for the potential that's there," he said.