How Marriott went from a 9-seat soda shop to a $68B+ brand

One of the world’s largest hotel chains started off as a root beer stand.

In 1927, an entrepreneurial J. Willard Marriott and business partner Hugh Colton opened Hot Shoppe, a nine-stool franchise of A&W Root Beer, in Washington, DC. The following year, Colton moved to Utah and left the business to Marriott and his wife, Alice. They continued to expand:

A rootbeer float, the Marriott logo, and a cartoon hotel against a gray background.
  • In 1937, Hot Shoppes added a catering service for airlines.
  • During WWII, it began managing government cafeterias. Later, its roster included cafeterias in offices, colleges, and hospitals.
  • In 1953, it made its stock market debut.
  • In 1957, Marriott opened his first hotel: the 370-room Twin Bridges Motor Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, which had an attached Hot Shoppe.

The hotel was popular enough that, by 1967, Hot Shoppes changed its name to Marriott Corp. and the sprawling hotel empire began.

Though the last Hot Shoppe, located in DC, closed in 1999, Marriott now has 8.7k+ hotels worldwide and is worth $68B.

Fun fact: Duke Ellington recorded several versions of the Hot Shoppe theme songs. You can listen to five of them here.

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