Monday, March 31, 2008

American-Owned Patel Motels

When I was in college, I had a dorm-mate named A. Patel. He was a nice, smart guy. He told me that he was from the suburbs and his parents ran a motel. He lived with his brother and parents at the motel. Back then, I thought that was a bit odd. But I should have known better.

Ancestral homeland of many a motel tycoon.

Millions of Patels live in Gujarat, an Indian state which abuts the Arabian Sea. During the British colonial period, many Patels moved to East Africa to become successful merchants. During the turbulent 1960s and 70s, many Indians fled East Africa, eventually finding their way to America.

At the same time, white mom and pop owners of motels in America were retiring. Indians, including Patels, bought these motels. Now, 60% of all small to mid-sized motels are owned by those of Indian origin. 70% of those owners are named Patel. This, in a country in which Indians constitute less than 1% of the entire population.

Patel family and their Merc.

They got into the motel business because fluency in English is not required, hard work is key, there is good cash flow, family members can all work together, and the family can live at the motel. Many Patels worked their butts off and after many years, began living the American Dream.

Prejudice, especially in small towns, was inevitable. It got worse after 9/11. Non-Indian owners often touted their motels as being "American owned". But what is more American than achieving success through years of hard work and perseverance through adverse conditions?


1 comment:

Carl Patten said...

I think the reason is that, the Americans brought this motel business up. But whoever really owned these motels, what matters is that they are still operational up to now. And I like these motel signs; they have never been so creative and unique!