Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
Chances are good you’ve experienced Gary Tharaldson’s hospitality when traveling the United States. He is founder, owner, and president of Tharaldson Companies, which builds and operates hotels and motels across the country. Tharaldson Property Management, Inc., the nation’s largest independent hotel property management company, operates 350 inns in 35 states, and at any given time Tharaldson Development Company has 20 to 30 more sites planned or under construction. The majority of Tharaldson properties are franchisees of Mariott, Choice Hotels, and Hilton.
After brief careers in teaching and insurance the Dazey, ND-native and Norwegian-American entered the business in 1982 with the purchase of a Super 8 motel in Valley City, ND. In just 10 years, Tharaldson’s company grew into the nation’s largest hotel developer with an innovative, unique-to-the-industry approach: think small. Rather than chasing success in major lodging markets, Tharaldson built in cities with populations of under 100,000-often college towns in the Midwest-and opted for inns with fewer rooms than the industry standard. The idea was to reduce costs, keep occupancy high, and reap higher profits.
Tharaldson believes location is key, and while he delegates much responsibility in his company to others, he reserves for himself the thrill of the hunt for new property sites. The company recently began focusing on larger markets, where demand for hotel rooms continues to exceed supply. His success earned him a place on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest people in America. And he has shared his wealth by adopting an employee stock ownership program through which his associates own 50 percent of the company.
As well known as Gary Tharaldson is in the hotel industry, in North Dakota he is perhaps better known for his passion for slowpitch softball. In that realm also he has met with success, sponsoring and/or pitching on teams that have won numerous state, regional, and national titles.