ELKO — When Chuck Bhakta checked into the hotel business after moving to Elko in 1977, the town had about 17 motels with approximately 700 total rooms.
“In today’s market, we have 34 motels and almost 2,650 rooms,” Bhakta said. In his count, he included two new hotels expected to open in 2018.
This year, Bhakta and wife Regina celebrate the 25th anniversary of owning Days Inn, the first in Elko — and the first in Nevada, he said. The hotel on Idaho Street was previously the Toppers Hotel before converting into a Days Inn in 1993.
To keep offerings up to date, the 33 Days Inn rooms recently underwent a remodel. All rooms feature stylish bedding over new mattresses, fresh carpet, updated bathrooms and appliances, including flat-screen TVs, mini refrigerators, coffee pots and air conditioners.
The family’s hotel history extends beyond 25 years and outside of the Days Inn. Chuck Bhakta came to Elko from Fiji with two older brothers to help manage the Holiday Inn on 12th Street. They then acquired the Rodeway Inn in 1981, and the hotel is still in the family.
“And it just grew and grew and grew,” said Michelle Mota, general manager of the Days Inn since about 2013.
Other Bhakta brothers own The Economy Inn and Scottish Inn in Elko. Chuck Bhakta and his brothers are also part-owners of Comfort Inn, Super 8 and Travelodge. Comfort Inn and Rodeway Inn are Choice International franchised businesses. Travelodge, Super 8 and Days Inn and part of the Wyndham Hotel Group franchise.
From South Africa, Regina Bhakta joined her husband in Elko in 1985 after their marriage. The couple ran the businesses alone for years, attending the front desk and cleaning rooms themselves, she said.
“It’s a family business,” Chuck Bhakta said.
Their first employee was Alice Johnson, who retired in 2013. She worked for the Bhaktas for about 20 years and frequently shared dinner with them at the family table in the residence attached to the Days Inn.
“She just became like a family member,” Regina Bhakta said.
“Like Michelle now,” her husband added.
Across all the properties, the Bhaktas employ 27 people. They have been taking care of some on the payroll for 20-plus years.
“I can speak for myself and my staff when I say that the reason many of us have stayed for so long, the majority over a decade, is because we are treated like family,” Mota said. “You can work for anyone, but when you are treated well, that is passed down to the way we treat our guests. Which is what true hospitality is, being treated like family.”
The couple said they also take care of their customers by meeting needs or solving issues immediately on-site with proven customer-service philosophies. Employees including Mota help them stay up to speed with changing technologies to meet customer expectations.
“The guests, the people, are very important for us,” Chuck Bhakta said.
To show their support for the community, the Bhaktas have contributed to various organizations and events over the years. Their businesses are members of the Elko Area Chamber of Commerce and Rotary. They support the Balloon Festival, help sponsor the Basque Festival and donate to Elko High School graduation and sports, among other contributions.
“That’s all back to [the fact that] there are good people in the community, but we have to support those functions and activities,” Mota said.
When asked about retirement someday, Regina Bhakta said, “Not yet,” as one of their daughters just finished medical school in Colorado, the other plans to get married this June, and Chuck Bhakta’s parents live in Elko.
The Bhaktas recently signed a 15-year contract with Wyndham to continue owning and operating Days Inn in Elko.
“We have been here 30, 40 years,” Chuck Bhakta said. “It’s been good to us. Good business so far. Good people.”