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Holiday Inn Express replaces hotel damaged in 2008 fire

| Thursday, May 26, 2011

EAST FRANKLIN -- It has taken nearly 2 1/2 years, but an Armstrong County hotel badly damaged by fire is back in business.

About $4 million in damage was done to the three-story, 70-room Comfort Inn in the Hilltop Plaza when an electrical problem sparked a blaze in December, 2008. The structure was slowly rebuilt, and this month opened new as a Holiday Inn Express & Suites.

"It's a much better guest experience and the setting is a lot nicer than we had," said General manager Mary Lasher.

The new hotel has everything and more than the previous one, Lasher said.

New is a larger breakfast cafe room that has a full hot breakfast menu as well as the Holiday Inn franchise's signature cinnamon rolls. The hot breakfast includes sausage, gravy and biscuits, omelets and scrambled eggs. There are bagels, English muffins, yogurt and cold cereal too.

The 66 rooms on three floors include 17 king suites, four handicapped rooms, 41 with double-beds and two with a jacuzzi and a king bed.

There is a guest laundry, business center with wireless internet service, Direct TV, automatic entry doors, indoor pool and fitness center to accommodate guests.

The hotel employs a staff of 14.

Lasher said this past week the hotel had 50 of the 66 rooms filled and keeps getting busier as they've been open.

The hotel's lodgers have been business people and construction workers, she said.

In the summer the hotel guests come for the Heritage Days week in Ford City, the Fort Armstrong Folk Festival in Kittanning and the horse shows at the Crooked Creek horse park. In the winter, the Belmont hosts hockey tournaments that bring guest to the hotel.

"We have a lot of groups coming for weddings and reunions this summer," said Lasher.

The Armstrong Tourist Bureau, of which the hotel is a member, has been helping draw guests.

"They do any kind of advertising they can do to help us out," said Lasher. "They are going to do an e-mail blitz when we have our grand opening."

Lasher said they are planning for a grand opening in June.

"Holiday Inn Express and Suites is just a good brand of hotel," said Lash.

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