Bhakta said that when his contract with Super 8 came up this past year, just to renew it, the company was going to assess him $47,500 in various fees, of which $26,000 was just to renew his contract.
On top of that, there were many other related fees, including mandatory purchasing of supplies, equipment, etc. from the company's "preferred vendors," and getting corporate's permission before making any changes to his motel operation.
"Most of the time, it always felt that I was not the owner of this motel, but the brand was and I had to do whatever they would tell me to do," explained Bhakta. "So, I thought it would be better for me if I went as an independent motel because in Cherokee County there are already two independent motels that are doing just fine as themselves."
As a result of striking out on his own as an independent motel, Bhakta found himself out of the corporate loop regarding such things as the brand's national advertising, signage, and computer networking.
As it is now, the Cherokee Inn must rely on U.S. Highway 59 traffic, word of mouth, faithful patrons who return to Cherokee periodically, and local community events that attract visitors and former residents to town.
The Bhakta family migrated from India to the United States in 1987, landing at the Denver, Colo. International Airport Nov. 27 - exactly 25 years ago next week. It was the first time they had ever seen snow and quickly "fell in love" with snow and the Denver Broncos NFL football team.
Shirish married wife Dhruti in 2003 and settled into the motel business in San Francisco, Calif. They purchased the Super 8 Motel in Cherokee in 2006, and daughter Arya was born in Cherokee in 2009.
"I had seen about 150 different motels before settling on Cherokee," said Bhakta. "We noticed that Cherokee had a steady stream of commerce and growth of economy, and not that many businesses had gone out of business here.
"We also knew that the community had a very low crime rate and iowa had very good schools. And the people I met were very kind and accepting.
"In California, we did not want to raise our kids in that type of area where you need to be very careful, even in the daytime. Here, if I want to walk outside in the middle of the night, I do not need to worry very much."
The personable Shirish said that many loyal customers have questioned why he changed the name and asked if he was still the owner, so he thought telling his story would answer many questions and help avoid further confusion on the name change.
"I have been doing improvements in this motel for the past six years and I will keep doing it one step at a time because this is more than just a business for my wife and family, it is a pride for us," exclaimed Bhakta.
Now very proud to be an "Iowan from Cherokee," Shirish recalled that he and Dhruti for a few weeks had a terrible time sleeping at night in Cherokee because it was too quiet.
"In California, there were gangs, cars racing, sirens all the time, and gunshots fired day and night," said Bhakta. "We feared for our lives and stayed inside much of the time.
"But not in Iowa. Not in Cherokee. It is so comforting. We can hear the birds sing. We chose to come to Cherokee to live our lives, raise our family, and build our dreams. We love it here."
The telephone number for the Cherokee Inn is 225-4278, still listed under Super 8 Motel until the new phone books come out.