The love story behind Hotel Trundle

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Rita + Marcus at Hotel Trundle | photo provided

By now, you probably know all about Hotel Trundle. About its history, its renovation, its cool features and local touches. But you may not know the full story of the owners, Rita Patel Munse and Marcus Munse.

Ever wondered how partners make it work at home and in business? Me too. But these two do. Here’s how it all began.

Rita and Marcus met in Charlotte in 2006. They were both in grad school programs at UNC Charlotte’s School of Architecture – different programs and different years: Rita in her first year of a 3-year intensive Master of Architecture program, and Marcus in his final year of his 5-year Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. They both had dreams to work in architecture after school.

After dating for only 10 months, Marcus proposed to Rita outside of Charlotte bar Fox & Hound.

Rita’s parents are immigrants from India. She was nervous about bringing someone from a different culture home to meet her parents, but her family fell in love with Marcus off the bat. Rita said she felt the same immediate acceptance from Marcus’ family, too.

Even though they had a quick start, they stayed engaged for a year and a half before getting married in 2010 – riding out the downturns of the 2008 financial crisis together.

After Marcus was laid off a month before their wedding date, Rita and Marcus moved in with Rita’s parents (who happened to own a hotel management company) in Orangeburg to get back on their feet – something they never expected for their first move after their engagement.

Here’s how they manage to work and play together

They began working at Rita’s parents’ hotel business Courtesy Management, which opened its first hotel in 1978 and has since built and managed 25+ hotels over 40 years across the Southeast. Rita grew up working in her parents’ hotels – manning the front desks for her summer jobs + learning about construction – but never thought she would go into the hotel business. Now she was back working the front desk, just like in high school.

Turnaround

When the economy started looking up again in 2014, Rita and Marcus began looking at the bigger picture of working with the Patels – diversifying the company portfolio by opening a boutique hotel in one of Columbia’s historic districts. By then, Rita and Marcus were married and living in downtown Columbia; and saw how much the city was changing + growing.

While pregnant with their second son in 2016, Rita + Marcus decided to strike it out on their own. They had made offers on three different historic buildings that didn’t work out when the historic buildings on Taylor + Sumter St. came around. That one worked out, and Rita said the timing was perfect.

Partners in biz + love

The two compliment each other in business ownership. Marcus handles the books, scheduling and standard operating procedures (it’s because of his past operational experience that Rita says they’re able to do this business). Rita assists in implementing those operating procedures with the team, and says the remaining 98% of her job is community relations and marketing (which – if you’ve read about all the local vendors they work with in the hotel + outside of the hotel – you know is a big job).

(And if you’re wondering who designed the hotel? It was Rita, working very closely with POND Interiors – her first architecture job out of college. She also majored in interior design in undergrad.)

Bottom line: Rita says she + Marcus just work really well together. They communicate very well personally, as husband + wife – and luckily, that transfers to the office, too. They constantly cover each other (at work and home), and they have challenges and celebrations for Hotel Trundle together.

“It’s a great partnership; I love it. Owning a business alone is hard work. It’s nice to know when you’re in a tough spot, you’re not alone; that someone is there with you,” Rita said. “You have someone else with the same heart in the game.”

Leaving a legacy

Rita and Marcus think about their kids (Eason, 4 + Von, 2) in everything they do. Rita says their two main goals for Hotel Trundle are:

  1. To benefit their kids and to show them that you have to work hard to accomplish your goals, whether that means opening a hotel or becoming president.
  2. To have (in the long-run) three Hotel Trundles, whether those be ancillary hotels to the main Hotel Trundle in Columbia or full Hotel Trundles in different cities, like Atlanta or Charlotte.

Now, Eason and Von are having the same experience in Hotel Trundle as Rita did growing up with her parents’ hotels. They have their own room, know where everything is, and the staff loves them. Rita says if her sons want to go into the hotel business, they would be open to that, but she + Marcus ultimately want them to do what they want to do. “As long as they’re happy.”

Now their family lives in historic Cottontown, in a little house they bought for a steal and renovated. Rita says (as you would expect) it’s hard to juggle having a business and two small children. They want to be at home every night at 6:00 for dinner, but it’s not realistic.

Luckily, Rita says, she and Marcus have an amazing support system. Both of their parents are close by (Rita’s in Orangeburg and Marcus’ in Charlotte). During the craziness of opening Hotel Trundle, both sets helped keep the kids. And the families still help out: Marcus’ mom is an accountant and helps with the books; Rita’s parents always lend their industry expertise; Rita’s brother-in-law and sister are attorneys and often give advice.

Rita says without the families, there’s no way they could do this.

Perspective

Having direct experience with both sides of the service industry, Rita says she’s very familiar with how people can prejudge service staff. That’s why, at Hotel Trundle, they prioritize that their staff feels happy and valued – because the staff is 80% of what makes a good experience for a customer. Not having that respect when she was working in past service roles changed her view on guest services and taught her lessons on never making assumptions about others.

Rita says since she and Marcus know what it’s like to not have much, they really value giving back to the community now.

“The downturn was horrible, but it had a silver lining for us. It’s been a wild roller coaster but we’ve met so many cool people and the city has opened up to us, and we continue to learn more and meet more people. Thinking back, we were going move to New York to be architects; now, we’re never going to leave Columbia.”

Learn more about Hotel Trundle and book your stay here. Pro tip: try the Dinner & A Movie Package for an extra-special, all-local Valentine’s Day gift for your significant other (and yourself).

This content was created in partnership with Hotel Trundle.