Choice’s emerging markets team awards its first Ascend development agreement

Choice Hotels International Inc. has finalized an agreement with The Brittano Group Inc. to develop a new member of the Ascend Hotel Collection in South Boston, VA: The Rook Hotels. The agreement marks the first Ascend hotel awarded through the company’s emerging markets franchise development program in 2022, as Choice advances its commitment to increase diversity across the hospitality industry.

To commemorate the occasion, company executives and representatives from the hotel’s ownership team, including co-CEOs Julian Brittano and Karie Brittano, convened for an official signing ceremony at Choice’s headquarters in Rockville, MD.

Expected to debut in summer 2024, The Rook at South Boston, a four-story, 37-room boutique property has a rooftop bar, full-service restaurant and bar, and event center. The hotel will provide guests with access to many attractions, including local restaurants, shops and art galleries. Formerly known as Boyd’s Ferry, Virginia’s South Boston community is best known for its iconic Victorian architecture and small-town charm. The building, originally built in 1929, is also within driving distance to nearby Roanoke and Richmond, VA.

“Advancing opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry remains a top priority for Choice,” said John Lancaster, VP, emerging markets, franchise development and owner relationships, Choice Hotels International. “Exactly 20 years ago, Choice became the first hotel company with a team dedicated exclusively to growing a diverse franchisee base and today we are proud to have awarded over 340 franchise agreements to under-represented minorities and seasoned entrepreneurs since the program started. We look forward to working with The Brittano Group Inc. as we celebrate another milestone for this important initiative with the first Ascend hotel being developed through this one-of-a-kind program.”

The Rook Hotels is owned by Brittanos. Julian is known for beginning his acting career as a co-star to Oprah Winfrey in the Oprah Winfrey Network’s hit series, “Greenleaf.” Karie has more than a decade of business development experience and has held a Class A CIC General Contractor’s License since 2019.

The Brittanos originally acquired the historic hotel from the town of South Boston earlier last year for $11 million before entering into a franchise agreement with Choice Hotels. By owning this hotel, the Brittanos are among less than 1% of Black hoteliers globally.

“It’s clear that Choice Hotels cares about both creating more opportunities for people of all backgrounds to enter the hospitality industry, as well as supporting franchisees every step of the way so we can maximize our investment,” said Julian Brittano. “We are thrilled to be joining the industry’s largest soft brand in the Ascend Hotel Collection, which allows us the freedom and creativity to bring our unique vision for The Rook Hotels to life while still being backed by a global engine and afforded best-in-class resources to ensure success.”

Karie Brittano added about The Rook Hotels, “It’s one of the largest properties in downtown South Boston and its restoration is expected to spark a revival; to become a pillar for the community’s revitalization. It’s where old-world meets its stunning new world design, paying homage to the South Boston Speedway just six miles away and Virginia’s International Raceway.”