The Mississippi Business Journal “article triggered this whole thing.”
— Suresh Chawla
By JACK WEATHERLY
A longshot phone call to real estate magnate Donald Trump nearly 30 years ago by a convenience store owner in Greenwood eager to build a motel started a series of events that has been nothing but good news for the Chawla family.
Trump returned the call and told V.K. Chawla that he was impressed by his dream, but that he should try for an SBA Minority loan.
A $450,000 loan was secured by the immigrant from India, who built a 40-room motel in Greenwood, the first of 17 hotels the Chawla family now operates in the Delta.
The latest news is that Chawla Pointe LLC has been chosen to be the first to operate the latest Trump Hotel chain, called American Idea, and another branded as Scion.
Donald Trump Jr. and brother Eric, who are guiding their father’s real estate empire now that their father has become president, have said that accompanying their father on the campaign trail was a “crash course” in America.
“We saw so many places and towns and [heard] so many stories,” Donald Jr. said.
The Trump Organization selected Chawla Pointe LLC for the first three properties in its new mid-market chain “American Idea.” Chawla properties in Cleveland, Clarksdale and Greenville will be rebranded and managed by the Trump group.
The Scion at West End in Cleveland will include approximately 100 rooms, suites and extended-stay accommodations; a 6,000-square-foot spa and fitness center; a 5,000-square-foot event hall; two acres of outdoor festival space and multiple entertainment outlets including two full-service restaurants.
The Chawla organization announced plans for the complex in December and were moving forward with it.
Then in March the Trump Hotel group contacted the Mississippians.
Someone with the Trump organization had read an article published by the Mississippi Business Journal about the Chawlas’ growing chain and its latest and biggest plan, the West End District. And about Trump’s phone call to V.K. Chawla in 1988.
The article stated that the property initially was to be called the Lyric Hotel and was expected to cost about $8 million but grew to $15 million after Donald Trump encouraged Suresh Chawla to “think grand” during a reception related to a Jackson stop as part of a campaign swing. Gov. Phil Bryant, an ardent Trump supporter, encouraged Chawla to be there.
Dinesh Chawla, chief executive of Chawla Pointe LLC, said three months’ negotiation with the Trump organization and public silence ended Monday at the Trump Tower in Manhattan when Donald Trump Jr. made the announcement of the two chains.
The Mississippi Business Journal “article triggered this whole thing,” Suresh Chawla said.
Dinesh Chawla said there was an “85 percent” overlap between the original West End plan and the ideas proposed by the Trump organization, which will manage the property.
The changes are “more of an operational issue. There’s going to a little bit of aesthetic changes,” Chawla said.
“They have the experience that we don’t have in the full-service industry,” he said.
“I’ve stayed in some their hotels and have seen the level of their proficiency, and I feel like we are buying into that.”
He said the Scion should be completed by the end 2017 or early next year.
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