Michael L. Shular, Owner & CEO ShularCompanies
Michael L. Shular was born in Sevier County, Tennessee in 1946. After serving in the army, he returned to Sevier County to become a real estate broker in 1968. By 1970 he owned his own real estate company, specializing in residential development and commercial property.
In 1975 he purchased his first hotel, a 63 room property located in Newport, Tennessee, from First American Bank of Nashville. First American had foreclosed on the property and was looking for a buyer with knowledge of the local market and with enough financial strength to turn the property around. Mr. Shular still owns this hotel, now 111 rooms, now called the Best Western Newport Inn.
In 1976, First American again invited Mr. Shular to bid on another foreclosed hotel property, this time in Gulfport, Mississippi, near the intersection of I-10 and Highway 49. At that time the property was a Sheraton Inn and had 110 rooms. Mr. Shular still owns this property, now called the Best Western Seaway Inn. Within two years of buying this foreclosed property, Mr. Shular added 63 rooms; and, in 1993-1994 he totally remodeled Seaway and brought the room count up to 180. Seaway ran a 97% occupancy in 1994. Seaway was totally renovated again in 2009 and still runs a very high occupancy.
In 1988 Mr. Shular built two new hotels: the Shular Inn located in Pigeon Forge on the site of his real estate office, and the Best Western Flagship Inn located in Moss Point, Mississippi, 35 miles from the Best Western Seaway. Both opened on May 28, 1988. The Shular Inn was originally 95 rooms, but in August 1993, a second tower was added, bringing the room count to 201. The Shular Inn, because of its location in the Smoky Mountains (a major tourist destination) is very successful. Flagship Inn is located on I-10 in the most heavily industrial county (Jackson) in Mississippi (Exxon, Morton Thiokol, Trinity Marine, to name a few). It serves primarily a commercial market.
In 1991 Mr. Shular built an 89 room Hampton Inn next to his Best Western Seaway Inn. Both hotels have maintained high occupancy rates and very good ADRs. In 1994 an addition was made to the Hampton Inn bringing the room count up to 152. Between the Best Western Seaway and the Hampton Inn Gulfport, Mr. Shular controlled 335 rooms at the I-10 and Highway 49 Interchange. This is the busiest interchange in Mississippi, and is the main entrance into the Gulfport/Biloxi commercial and tourist market. I-10 is 6 lanes, Highway 49 is 6 lanes … traffic count reached more than 50,000 cars per day in 1995.
In 1995, Mr. Shular purchased and renovated a Holiday Inn on I-10 in Deming, New Mexico; built two hotels in Moss Point, Mississippi; and built a Holiday Inn Express in Foley, Alabama. The Shular Inn Moss Point opened in August, 1995 with 49 rooms. The Holiday Inn Express Moss Point (102 rooms) and the Holiday Inn Express Foley (83 rooms) both opened on September 30, 1995. The three hotels owned by Mr. Shular in Moss Point are situated on adjoining sites. In June of 1997 Mr. Shular purchased the Hampton Inn Las Cruces in New Mexico. This 118 room property is in excellent shape and is a valuable addition to Mr. Shular hotels. The hotel is located on I-10. This hotel was completely renovated in 2008-2009.
In 1997 Mr. Shular also developed two Motel 6s that opened in 1998 – one in Pigeon Forge, TN, and one in Newport, TN.
In 1999 he built and opened a Red Roof Inn in Pigeon Forge.
In 2008 Mr. Shular developed, and his construction company built, two new hotels. In Gulfport, adjacent to the Seaway and the Hampton, he built a 143 room Holiday Inn which opened Dec. 2, 2008, giving him over 470 rooms at that interchange (this property won the TorchBearer award in both 2012 and 2013, and as of July 2013 for the Trailing 12 month period was ranked number 4 (tie) worldwide for customer satisfaction out of all full service Holiday Inns). In Saraland, AL, Mr. Shular opened his new 103 room Holiday Inn Express & Suites on Feb. 12, 2009.
Mr. Shular also develops residential subdivisions. He has successfully developed over 32 subdivisions since 1972. Mr. Shular developed and built two condominium projects in Tennessee. Harbor Crest on Douglas Lake (finished 2005) was a pure residential condominium project with 80 total 2 and 3 bedroom units. RiverStone Resort in Pigeon Forge (opened 2007) was primarily a rental condominium project (www.riverstoneresort.com) for which Shular Management manages the rental operations (RiverStone Resort & Spa). Mr. Shular divides his time between Mississippi and Tennessee. He is a "hands-on" owner who is very involved in day-to-day operations, stressing customer service and property upkeep. He spends significant time with GMs and has selected an experienced and dedicated hospitality management team to carry out his vision of how hotels should be developed and operated.
Danny Ehrat, CHA, Senior VP Hospitality Operations TN
Based at Gulfport, MS, Danny Joined the Shular Team in 2001
Danny Ehrat has been the Director of Operations for Shular Companies since June 2001. Danny has been in the Hospitality business since 1976. He has been the GM of eight properties ranging from 100 room commercial properties to 350 room Convention Hotels. Over the last 26 years Mr. Ehrat has held VP-Operations positions at 4 different hotel companies in New England, Little Rock, AR, Nashville, TN and since 2001 in Gulfport, MS.
As Director of Operations Danny oversees the day-to-day operations of the 17 hotels in the Shular hotel portfolio and reports to Mr. Shular. His responsibilities include revenue and expense management, P&L reporting and review, budgeting at the property level, developing staffing guides, and hiring and training of the General Managers and their staff. Danny also directs the sales effort of each property by developing sales and marketing action plans and ensuring that the staffs at each property are executing the plans.
Other responsibilities include implementing Human Resource policies, developing Employee handbooks, policy and procedure manuals, and working with the GMs on team-building at their properties. Danny reviews STAR Reports with managers to ensure that the properties are running above their fair share of the penetration Index. Danny also works with managers to make sure their properties adhere to and are in compliance with the Brand Standards for each hotel.
Danny’s years of practical hotel management experience gives him the experience to be able to lead a diverse group of General Managers and solve any day-to-day operational issues that may arise.
Norman Amort, Senior VP Hospitality Operations MS, AL, NM
Based at Gulfport, MS, Norman Joined the Shular Team in 2013
After attaining his Degree at Loyola University in New Orleans, he began his hotel career as a Management Trainee with Hyatt Hotels Corporation. For over 30 years, he has held several prestigious positions with Hyatt Hotels, Sheraton, Hilton and Radisson Corporations. His responsibilities included all Sales and Marketing efforts for resort, larger convention and mid-sized business hotels. In the late nineties, he changed his career direction into the Operations field in the capacity of General Manager, Vice President and Executive Vice President of Operations for Historic Restoration Management Company. He was responsible for developing a lodging division and the successful performance of 6 hotels in that companies portfolio. With a particular talent for revamping distressed and underperforming assets, Norman also delivers effective operational tactics in the most diverse situations. His passion for revenue management, statistical analysis and intensely personal relationship building, ensure the methodology for successful hotel operations.
In his current capacity, Norman is responsible for overall operations of the company’s portfolio in the states of Mississippi, Alabama and New Mexico, and will provide additional management oversight to help manage the company’s growth. He reports directly to Mr. Shular.
Norman was born in Nicaragua and moved to the United States at the age of 16. He is also fluent in Spanish.
Sugar Surginer, Accounting Supervisor, MBA
Based at Gulfport, MS, Sugar Joined the Shular Team in 1995
Sugar Lee Surginer joined the Shular Team in January 1995 as accounting supervisor at the home office level, with responsibility for supervising the accounting for all of Mr. Shular’s hotels and other businesses. Sugar holds an Associate’s degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management and a BS degree in Accounting from the University of South Mississippi. She was awarded an MBA in 1994 from William Carey College in Biloxi. Sugar has over 8 years in accounting for Merchants Bank, 2 years as an accounting instructor at Jeff Davis Community College, and has worked in the hotel industry as Desk Clerk, Night Auditor, and Human Resource Manager. Sugar is an important asset to the Shular Team as growth necessitates the training and periodic review of accounting personnel handling business records involving activities in several states.
Doug Travis, Chief Information Officer
Based at Gulfport, MS, Doug Joined the Shular Team in 1974
Doug is Chief Information Officer, Business Analyst, and Manager of Information and Accounting Systems for Shular Companies. Doug holds a BS, an MA, and has finished his Ph.D. course work in English at the University of Florida. In 1971 Doug was appointed General Manager of the Belleview Gulf Hotel and Beach Club in Indian Shores, Florida and was elected by the Pinellas County Hotel Owners to the Governor’s Advisory Board on Tourism for the State of Florida in 1971-1973 which was instrumental in overcoming the tourist panic caused by the Gulf Oil Embargo. In 1974 he came to work for Mr. Shular and has been associated with Shular Companies in various capacities and became CIO in 1994. Currently Doug is engaged in Lender Reporting, conducts feasibility and financing studies on hotel projects, both for new construction and acquisitions of existing hotels, and has recently developed a cloud based record sharing/distribution, collaboration, and archiving system that functions as the company’s "collective memory." Doug’s 39 years with the company has given him valuable experience in the management of change.
Scott Harness, VP Sales & Marketing
Based at Pigeon Forge, TN, Scott Joined the Shular Team in 2011 Background
Scott started his career in the travel industry in 1986 and has held positions on both the corporate and the property level in operations, sales & marketing, revenue management, and business development for both hospitality companies and online distributors. His broad knowledge and experience in tourism, marketing, and technology makes him well suited to take over sales and marketing for Shular Hotels.
Scott may best be known as the founder and CEO of the world’s first online group travel agency, Group Travel Planet, LLC, which he sold to the Pritzker Group of Chicago (Hyatt Hotel family) in April 2008 after eight years of operation. Targeting the $47 billion dollar group sales business, and the complexity of automating online group bookings, Scott successfully built, branded, and managed the multi-million dollar operation that grew to 28 employees and had many industry firsts and noteworthy accomplishments, including developing the world’s first online, real-time group-booking engine with direct CRS/PMS connections to Choice, IHG, Wyndham, Harrah’s Entertainment, Pegasus and other hotel chains and suppliers. By partnering with online distribution leaders like Orbitz, SideStep, and Amadeus, and with dozens of travel organizations like the American Bus Association, Visit Florida, and TravelSouth, Scott learned much about the travel industry from various perspectives while his company was developing cutting edge technology for marketing to groups. As a marketing professional, Scott and his company were featured twice in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, once in USA Today and LA Times, and in other local and national newspapers, as well as in numerous trade publications.
Prior to launching GTP in March 2000, Scott held regional and national VP positions in sales & marketing for two hospitality companies for over six collective years, and was the general manager of a 425-room resort hotel & convention center in East Tennessee from 1995-97. After finishing his studies in marketing and speech communications at the University of Tennessee, he was the domestic sales manager for two Summerfield Suites hotels in Orlando, FL, where he was raised.
Most recently, Scott spent the past two years as the SVP, Sales & Marketing for a hotel developer in East Tennessee where he oversaw all aspects of sales, marketing, and revenue management for the newly-formed parent company, its six properties, including three acquired during his tenure, and the opening of a banquet & conference center and a waterpark hotel.
Scott has co-authored two industry white papers, including a 2006 study on small groups and meetings in conjunction with PhoCusWright. He has served as a co-chairman of HEDNA’s group sub-committee from 2006-08 and acted as publisher and editor-in-chief of a group travel magazine from 2004-08. In addition to serving on several committees and acting as a marketing consultant to companies such as Dollywood and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Scott was appointed by the Tennessee Commissioner of Tourist Development, Commissioner Susan Whitaker, as the department’s Internet Marketing Consultant from 2001-03.
Although he does not consider himself a programmer, Scott has written software that at one time was used by group sales departments at 70 hotels to manage their sales operations.
He has been the recipient of several awards, including two Marketing Innovation Awards in 1999 from Intercontinental Hotels (Six Continents), and helped his employer, CSS/Cooper Hotels, win three TorchBearer Awards at two of their properties, ranking them in the top Holiday Inn hotels in the world.