Shiretown Inn & Suites – Independent and family-owned

13 years ago

Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Elna Seabrooks
BU-SaluteShiretown2-dc-pt-5GUEST ROOMS — Flat screen TVs, mini-refrigerators, microwave ovens, coffee makers and free wireless Internet service are among the amenities in all rooms at Shiretown Inn & Suites. General Manager Marty Gervais looks over one of the motor inn’s deluxe rooms. 

By Elna Seabrooks
Staff Writer

    HOULTON — “We’re into three generations now. My grandmother and grandfather started the business back in the 50s,” said Marty Gervais, general manager of Shiretown Inn & Suites. “After much deliberation, the price for the rooms was set at $2.95 per night.”
    It had started with buying land and constructing eight motel units at 282 North Rd. as Shiretown Motor Inn, he said. The family expanded the business in 1953 when they built 10 new units. Back then, Marty said he believes Shiretown Inn and Suites was the first motel built north of Bangor. “There’s a lot of history here,” he remarked.
    By 1960 the family had 25 units and was running a brisk business. More expansion over the years meant even more units plus a pool, a health club, a restaurant and a lounge. In the early 1980s, Marty said, his family decided to do a major expansion. Today there are 57 suites and rooms.
    “My grandparents didn’t believe in borrowing to do things on the scale that you have to do them today. When they saved up enough to add on a wing, that’s what they would do. So, what you end up with is a 1960s motel on the highway and a beautiful complex in the back with an indoor pool and a restaurant and motel rooms.” With the motor inn set back a bit from the road, Marty commented that travelers have often told him that they didn’t realize the extent of the property or its various amenities.
Rites of passage
    When he was about 10 or 12, Marty started working at the business helping his grandmother, Doris Gervais, by cleaning and stripping the units. “My grandmother ran the office and rented the rooms. My grandfather (Sam) did maintenance and built on with my father (Pete).”
    Marty’s parents took over daily operations in 1973 when Sam and Doris Gervais retired. By 1979 he  had graduated from Houlton High School and was studying at the University of Maine. “That’s basically when I stepped in on weekends because I was home from school in Orono and I helped out at the front desk. My brother Mark helped out with maintenance. You have to give credit where credit is due. My mother did an awful lot here. We were going to school and my father was a builder so he was on the road a lot.” After the family home in town was sold in the late ‘70s, they moved into a house that was built in back of the motel.
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Elna Seabrooks
BU-SaluteShiretown-dc-pt-5SERVICE WITH A SMILE — Marty Gervais, general manager of the Shiretown Inn & Suites, says: “Customer service is everything. All guests have individual needs and we try our best to accommodate them.”

    While Marty, the youngest child of six, was in college pursuing a degree in business administration, he said he was the only one interested in continuing in the business on an active basis. “My father wanted to do an expansion so I told him I was interested and wanted to stay in the area because I enjoyed living in Houlton and saw this as an opportunity to stay here.” The family, he said, is still involved but not at the core of the day-to-day operations.
Expanding into the 21st Century
    Five years ago, the Shiretown Motor Inn opened six mini suites, each with full kitchens, larger than the standard units, and all connected to the indoor pool area. The idea, according to Marty was to rent them on a monthly basis but also keep them available as daily rentals. “Demand for these units is high, with average stays ranging from one to six months. We cater to a wide variety of guests including construction workers, health care workers, government employees and individuals who have relocated for their jobs or who simply want to move to the area or who are in the process of purchasing a home,” he stated.
    “Customer service is everything,” said Marty who knows a clean comfortable room is not enough in such a competitive business. “We are a local independent business – not a chain. We take care of our customers and they seem to keep coming back. We have a large commercial trade and we try to take care of groups coming into town however we can. We provide group rates and we do class reunions. We have the Elm Tree Diner which is a major part of our complex and we encourage reunions and weddings.”
An opportunity from a loss
    Although a fire from a propane torch during routine maintenance over the Memorial Day weekend in 2007 destroyed some units that had been constructed back in the 1960s, business only slowed briefly. “We lost 19 rooms and rebuilt 17 deluxe units in their place. We were fortunate other buildings were not damaged. But, the fire cut our available rooms by almost half. We lost 35 of our 60 rooms to rent during our busy season,” Marty said.
    After the fire, according to Marty, the most important thing was trying to get a better presence on North St. from the highway “because when you’re driving into a place, you’re looking at the outside before you go in to rent a room.” Rebuilding presented the opportunity for a new name — Shiretown Inn & Suites —and a new image. “We polished things up with a new road sign and new buildings. So, the fire has helped our business in that respect and for the appearance of the property. We were able to upgrade which we were actually in the process of doing when the fire occurred.”
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Elna Seabrooks
BU-SaluteShiretown 3-dc-pt-5SHIRETOWN HOSPITALITY — When travelers check in at the front desk they are greeted with fresh hot coffee or tea, a newspaper and a big screen TV as well as free wireless Internet. Here Marty Gervais, general manager of the Shiretown Inn & Suites, grabs a quick cup of coffee.

    He said he had to think about the family’s business hitting the 60-year milestone. “The economy is tough and everyone seems to understand the difficult times we are facing. We are polishing every facet of the business whether its housekeeping, maintenance or the front desk. Everyone is trying to do their part and encourage people to stay here. We still have 30 employees. It’s been an interesting couple of years. And, I appreciate that the Pioneer Times is recognizing us and what we have done.”
    The Shiretown Inn and Suites is open 24 hours, daily and offers accommodations for overnight guests as well as for those who plan for extended stays or monthly rentals. The motor inn has regular rooms, deluxe rooms, suites and apartments.
    The Shiretown Health Club is open daily and offers various memberships on a daily, monthly, quarterly, biannual or annual basis. Amenities include an indoor pool, with a deck area, a weight room and tanning beds. Arrangements can be made to set up poolside parties for birthdays. reunions, weddings and other types of special events.
    “In order to survive in this business, we continually focus on the needs and desires of the customers. We change with the market and we listen to what is important to our guests.”
    For more information, visit www. or call 532-9421.