Not all hotel companies are driven to cover the country with their flags. Some find success by fixing on a small region and are happy to build a solid business presence without the headaches inherent in far-flung expansion.

That's been the case for the Ayres Hotel Group, based in Costa Mesa, CA. The family-owned company is celebrating its 100th anniversary of doing business in California, which led from developing residential subdivisions and building more than 30,000 homes, to the creation of a chain of 16 European-style boutique hotels beginning in 1985. The chain of mid-size, upper mid-tier properties is spread throughout Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties and the Inland Empire. The company's corporate and hotel staff numbers more than 600, led by Donald Ayres Jr. and his three sons, together with James E. Roos, president of Ayres Management, LP.

Ayres Hotel Group has steadily built a brand presence in the competitive southern California hotel market, an accomplishment considering the ongoing challenge presented by the major hotel chains. It was tough in the beginning, acknowledges Donald Ayres III, but targeting a limited geographical area and a strong direct sales force have enabled the company to flourish. Like the big chains, “we've worked to develop a consistent design, color scheme, signage and logo, reinforced in our website and sales collateral materials,” he says.

Ayres Hotels also concentrates on selling within a five-mile radius of each property, focusing on direct sales together with limited advertising. The company has no plans to develop outside the state or to franchise, citing a desire to maintain close control.

Targeting the corporate traveler, Ayres Hotels are largely new-builds, and boast a signature pillow-top mattress, living room-style lobbies, imported antiques and artworks and amenities such as high-speed Internet access and complimentary breakfasts.

Ayres describes his family's segue from developing residential properties to hotel development as a natural progression. “Our experience in home construction was instrumental in our success,” he says. “It helps to know the construction side of the business. It's a pretty tight-knit operation. We don't outsource much. We learned the business from the seat of our pants.”

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