When people in North Dakota hear the name Gary Tharaldson, they automatically think “hotel.” And rightly so. The former Dazey, North Dakota, gym teacher recently graced the pages of Forbes magazine as North Dakota’s richest man after selling a portfolio of 130 hotels in a variety of chains to Goldman Sachs for $1.2 billion in 2006. Shortly after, he sold the Westward Ho Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to Harrah’s at a profit of $109 million.
Now, ten years later, he’s still at it. Tharaldson is building mid-tier hotels in a prime Las Vegas location, just off the strip. He’s constructing a six-story, 169-room Hilton Garden Inn and a six-story, 157-room Homewood Suites on Dean Martin Drive near Harmon Avenue. He also has plans to build a five-story, 113-room TownePlace Suites and a five-story, 135-room Home2 Suites at the Tropicana Avenue-Interstate 15 exchange, across the street from where the Golden Palm hotel once stood, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Earlier this year, Tharaldson opened a four-story, 131-room Residence Inn about three miles off the Strip, the type of hotel that Forbes says is typical of Tharaldson’s “formula…to grab prime sites in second-tier cities where land is scarce, even if it’s expensive.” Since 2006, he has opened 26 extended-stay hotels across the country.
The hotels Tharaldson has in the works are not the huge monstrosities most people think of when they envision Las Vegas. They’re not themed hotels with thousands of rooms. Instead, they’re located in a prime location, convenient to the Strip and all its attractions. Yet they are reasonably priced and appeal to many. The Review-Journal said these hotels are great for guests who drive in, because they don’t charge a parking fee, and visitors won’t have to deal with massive parking ramps and steep fees to keep your car. The hotels also appeal to business guests and have the “rowdy image or other trappings of a flashy Las Vegas resort.” Yet they’re still attached to well-known chains that offer loyalty rewards, so visitors feel comfortable with the level of quality they can expect from a Marriott, Hilton or other chain. Plus, keeping in the middle-of-the-road has served him well, says Forbes.
“When times are good, people trade up to better hotels, and when they’re bad, they trade down,” Tharaldson says. “Either way, there I am.”