Danny Murphy began his career as an owner/operator in the hospitality business 37 years ago, when he bought two Tim Hortons stores in Charlottetown, P.E.I. Since then, he’s built his company, D.P. Murphy Inc., into the premier hospitality company in Atlantic Canada. The portfolio now includes 20 Tim Hortons’ locations in P.E.I., 10 in Ottawa and 32 Wendy’s restaurants, as well as 11 hotels throughout P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick under the D.P. Hotels & Resorts division.
And the hotel division keeps on growing. There are two new builds currently under construction: a Holiday Inn Express in Moncton is slated to open next June, and a Hampton Inn & Suites in Charlottetown will be open by the fall. The new additions will bring total room count to 1,400, with four more deals in the pipeline. With gross sales of $33.7 million in 2016 (an 18-per-cent increase over 2015), Murphy says D.P. Hotels & Resorts has become a “very significant” division of the company. “We’re in growth mode in our hotel business,” he says.
The roots of this East-Coast success story stretch back to the late 1970s. Then in his early twenties, Murphy worked in various bars and restaurants in Charlottetown, P.E.I. “I realized when I worked for these places that in a very short time, I was doing the deposits, doing the ordering, doing the scheduling and closing places at night. I thought, ‘My God, I may as well as own this place,’” recalls Murphy. “It didn’t have anything to do with trying to make a million dollars — I wanted to own and operate my own business.” When he heard the franchisee of two local Tim Hortons’ stores was looking to sell, he paid him a visit. The owner wasn’t ready to sell just yet, but he did hire Murphy as a baker on a subsequent visit. Soon after, Murphy phoned Tim Hortons’ founder Ron Joyce and expressed his interest in buying the locations.
Joyce thought Murphy was too young, but agreed to meet the next time he was in the P.E.I. “He came down, we talked out back and he said, ‘Okay, this would be a big responsibility [for you]. I’ll be back in six months,’” says Murphy. “So, I just kept on baking and I was lucky enough that the guy did decide to sell and Ron did approve me.”
With cash flow from the Tim Hortons stores, Murphy partnered with two of his brothers to buy two hotels in the early ’80s. In 1986, he took over as owner/operator at one of them: the Wandlyn Inn in Charlottetown, which set the course for an expansion into the hotel business. “In 1994, the Confederation Bridge was being built and the Wandlyn was getting kind of tired,” says Murphy. “I thought, ‘there’s going to be quite an influx in tourism. I either should sell this thing or get into the business in a serious way.’” He decided on the latter and converted the hotel to a Holiday Inn Express, increasing its size from 62 rooms to 130.
The portfolio grew steadily from there. The company converted a Howard Johnson’s in Saint John, N.B. into a Holiday Inn Express; turned an independent hotel in Charlottetown into a Super 8; and opened its first new build — the Hampton Inn & Suites in Moncton, N.B. — in 2008. That was followed by another Hampton Inn in Sydney, N.S. in 2012.
Next, D.P. Murphy Hotels & Resorts converted a Country Inn & Suites into a Holiday Inn Express in Fredericton, bought the Future Inn Hotel & Conference Centre in Halifax and the Future Inn in Moncton, which was converted into a Four Points by Sheraton. Last year, Quality Inn Airport in Dieppe, N.B. and Fairfield Inn & Suites in Moncton were added to the fold. D.P. Murphy also owns the lease to the iconic hotel, Dalvay by the Sea in Dalvay, P.E.I., one of just two properties (along with Future Inn) that aren’t branded. “I’m a big believer in the brands and what they bring to the table,” says Murphy. “As far as the renovations and property-improvement programs (PIPs) that we have to do, we’re right up to speed on all of those things.” The company also chooses the highest level of brand standards when building and outfitting a hotel, whether it’s a certain carpet, wallpaper or furnishings. (Murphy’s wife, Martie, is very involved in the construction, design and the interior of the properties.)
“[As a company], we really believe it’s important to the guest that they see this particular Holiday Inn Express or Hampton or Sheraton Four Points is top-of-the-line in its segment,” says Murphy. “We also feel the care and attention we put into our products pays off over time because it’s a better quality.”
Although many of its hotels are limited service, guests across the company’s properties are offered perks found in high-end hotels. For example, when guests check in, they’re offered a bottle of water or a cold beer. They can get their shoes shined overnight, their cars are cleaned of any snow that might be covering them in the winter and popcorn and soup are available in the lobbies every evening.
Going that extra step ties into D.P. Murphy Hotels & Resorts’ motto: “Hospitality like never before,” a tagline that hotel staff members wear on lapel pins. “That’s what I want to deliver and all of my people want to deliver the same thing,” says Murphy. “If you’re wearing a pin that says ‘hospitality like never before,’ you aren’t going to walk around the lobby with a frown on your face.”
In terms of expansion, Murphy has set his sights on having 40 hotels by 2030. The company may expand into Ontario and Quebec, “but right now our focus is finding lots of deals right here in our background,” says Murphy. “Will we get to 40 hotels? Maybe; maybe not,” he adds. “But what [the goal] does is keep us focused on deals, land purchases and opportunities. What it does for my team is [create] more opportunity. They’re with a growing company… and if you’re a GM or assistant GM, and you have ambitions to be a district manager, then you’re with the right company.”
Community involvement is a priority for D.P. Murphy Inc., which has a 30-year relationship with Easter Seals in P.E.I. and holds a yearly fundraiser for the Alzheimer Society of P.E.I. In 2002, the Murphys created the Danny and Martie Murphy Leadership Award for the Alzheimer Society of P.E.I. The annual award recognizes people or organizations for the care and promotion of programs and services for people with Alzheimer’s. The company also runs a children’s camp on P.E.I. for local kids who would not normally have the opportunity. “We fund that 100 per cent,” says Murphy. “We’re big believers in giving back to the communities we do business in.”
Volume 29, Number 5
Written by Rebecca Harris