By Ken Sain
The Aloha boutique motel on Arizona Avenue in Chandler has repeatedly morphed en route to a grand reopening with a Hawaiian motif.
When owners Bill Simmonds and John Hylton first looked at the aging motel that opened in 1950, they thought they would convert it into apartments.
“We kind of planned to do more like long-term apartment living,” Simmonds said. “That was the original plan.”
“We bought it at the end of 2019, and it looked like it was going to apartments, because that’s what Bill and I do,” Hylton said.
The pandemic has changed those plans.
“We thought Airbnb might be our go-to,” Simmonds said.
The Aloha is now a 26-room boutique motel that has been upgraded to modern standards. Each room has its own kitchen area and a modern design in keeping with the Aloha theme.
Simmonds and Hylton said since they started reopening it they sell out most nights. On May 7, they fully reopened the last wing of chambers and hosted an event that brought together Mayor Kevin Hartke and the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.
Politics played a part in the decision to move from apartments to motels, something the two pilots had never done before.
Simmonds said the government placed a moratorium on evictions at the start of the pandemic. He said some tenants simply refused to pay their rents during the moratorium.
This left them with little appetite to add more apartments to their portfolio. But for the Aloha to be in good enough shape to be a desirable bed-and-breakfast, it would take a lot of work.
“It would have been easier to tear it down, I’m sure, and rebuild it, but you couldn’t rebuild something like that,” Hylton said. “So we wanted to keep what it was. But that was all, from the basement, through the walls, it’s brand new. It was not easy.
Simmonds and Hylton went into buying apartments for long-term investing as pilots in the Seattle area. Simmonds, who is older, is now retired and has been a mentor for Hylton for the past 10 years.
“I’ve always had a passion for real estate,” Simmonds said. “My dad was a real estate agent…I remember going to look at a house with him once, I can still smell the…wood. The idea of owning a home was intriguing.
When Hylton and his family moved to the Valley in 2018, they decided to start looking for properties in this area. In addition to Aloha, they also purchased Casa Blanca, which is a similar motel a few blocks north of Aloha on Arizona Avenue. It also needs to be refreshed.
However, Simmonds says they want to see how Aloha fares for a year before deciding what to do with Casa Blanca.
So far the Aloha is off to a good start. If that backs it up, then they could do a similar makeover for this motel.
“Our reviews have been excellent,” Hylton said. “Passersby are grateful to see him come alive. We hit a few hiccups along the way, but got through it, and are happy with it now.