In 1969 Highway 50 was a two-lane road that ran right by the actual shingle mill in Shingle Springs. Cameron Park, named for developer Larry Cameron, was transitioning from large ranching enterprises to residential and commercial use.
Unique not only for its time, Cameron Park still is one of the few communities where residents can fly from home to work, take off and land in their front yard and park their airplane in an expanded “hangar/garage.”
Forty years ago, however, and as it is now, the most common means of travel to and from the region was by car. The Highway 50 of today opened in late summer 1973. And as hiking, skiing, water sports and other outdoor adventuring helped put El Dorado County on the tourist map, travelers motoring between the Bay Area and Sacramento Valley to Lake Tahoe became more and more numerous, and someone determined that they might want to stop overnight along the way.
Cameron Park Inn got its start in 1969. At the time, the older generation may still have called it a “motor court.” The motel followed on the heels of Sam’s Town, built by the legendary Sam Gordon, the “Hof brau King” of Sacramento. Sam’s Town, an indoor amusement park, was a destination all its own. It had an Old West theme with sawdust and peanut shells strewn all over the floor in the bar area. The peanuts were complimentary at the bar, and patrons were encouraged to simply drop the shells wherever they pleased.
Arcade games kept the kids busy while the grownups ate and drank in one of two separate dining areas. A hot dog and snack bar, candy store and souvenir shops rounded out the amenities. Sam’s Town was an obligatory rest stop for the tourist and gambling buses that plied the route to the South Lake Tahoe casinos. And although Sam’s Town disappeared in 2001, the Cameron Park Inn has grown stronger over the years.
A Best Western property for decades, Cameron Park Inn recently became a part of the Quality Inn & Suites organization. Owner and on-sight manager Adam Sangha recently told Mother Lode News the secret to his success.
“Make sure your customers are happy when they leave,” Sangha said.
That means if there is a problem, try to resolve it before the guest drives out of the parking lot. And that philosophy appears to work, as he noted that the majority of his guests are repeat customers.
“Basically, it’s a split between business travelers and folks coming for family visits,” he explained, adding that the high number of retired residents in the area is an important draw for relatives visiting Cameron Park. “That and the local attractions, especially the wineries, Apple Hill, the casino and whitewater rafting,” he said.
Summer is high season for travelers, but winter sports also attract a fair amount of business to the area, Sangha noted.
Sangha has owned the property for about 15 years and has been the manager for a little more than two years. He called the switch from Best Western to Quality Inns an important move that provides, “better opportunities, better support and lower franchise fees.”
As crucial as “location, location, location,” is “upgrade, upgrade, upgrade,” and Sangha said he has instituted an ongoing program of upgrades.
Features include rooms with refrigerator and microwave as well as those with full kitchenettes and new mattress sets (Serta Plush) in every room. Each room also sports a new 32-inch HD TV, movies on demand and free high-speed Internet service. Hair dryers, coffee makers, iron and ironing board are standard accoutrements. Granite countertops highlight the newly remodeled bathrooms.
Free WiFi, desk and executive office chair make each room a potential business arena, while the swimming pool, spa and gym offer an oasis for harried deal-makers and weary travelers alike.
Why all the upgrades? Sangha’s motivation is really quite simple.
“We want to make this the No. 1 lodging choice for visitors to our community,” he said.
Read more Secrets of Success stories in the Dec. 24 Mountain Democrat special section and online at mtdemocrat.com.