The sign of the Star Lite Motel, owned by Bob Patel, is featured on the Jacksonville, Illinois, chamber of commerce’s website.

AT THE TURN of the century, Bob Patel saw an opportunity in the Star Lite Motel in Jacksonville, Illinois. He bought the hotel, his first business, because his sister had owned a few hotels and “it felt right for him,” Patel’s son Bishap Patel said.

Now Bob Patel plans to open another hotel in the small town of about 20,000 just north of St. Louis, Missouri, a 65-Room Sleep Inn & Suites set to open early next year. “The reason to build a Sleep Inn was because we thought it was a good brand,” said Bishap, who will manage the new property. “Also, my mother wanted to stick with a hotel brand that started with the letter S because Star Lite started with S, and it is where we got started.”

The new hotel will have a swimming pool, meeting room, fitness room, breakfast area and a rear patio with barbecue grills, all part of a new Sleep Inn & Suites design, Bob Patel told the Jacksonville Journal-Courier. Along with the extra amenities featured by the new design, Bob said he likes the location because it is close to Interstate 72. “There is growing traffic flow through South Jacksonville, and we believe we will get a lot of travelers who will want to stay at the Sleep Inn & Suites,” Bob said.

The Sleep Inn & Suites will be Bob Patel’s second hotel but his third business, Bishap said. “We have owned and still have a truck stop and a liquor store in the Peoria area,” he said. “The Peoria businesses helped us get the financial support for a big project like the Sleep Inn.” They also plan to open a restaurant on a lot adjacent to the Sleep Inn & Suites because, with four hotels in the same area, dining options are limited, Bishap said.

Bishap grew up at the Star Lite and learned the hotel business from his parents. He learned about retail from working at the Peoria truck stop. While he will manage the new hotel initially, they plan to soon hire and train another manager for that hotel so Bishap can help with the family’s future projects.

His family has seen a lot of change in the neighborhood since the elder Patel made his decision to buy the Star Lite. “We have seen four hotels go down and four take their place in the 17 years we have lived in Jacksonville,” Bishap said.

The new hotel will have about seven full-time employees and around five part-time staff members. Sleep Inn & Suites is a midscale brand owned by Choice Hotels International.

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