In May of 1969, if you were anywhere around the intersection of Virginia Beach Boulevard and Military Highway in Norfolk, you might have seen a, ahem, hot-looking young “mascot” hanging around, named Sandy Econo. Leggy Sandy” was dressed in short Scottish skirt and tam, and she visited neighboring businesses with brochures, telling them all about a new hotel concept at 865 Military Highway, called Econo-Travel. (Note, this is the other Econo innkeeper.)
“No matter which office she visited, she got in,” recalls Lloyd Tarbutton, a Norfolk businessman and an initial partner in the venture, which grew from a single location across from what became Military Circle Mall into a chain of 800 hotels today under the brand Econo Lodge. As the chain grew, there
wasn’t just one Sandy. Like Ronald McDonald, there were many, and
when Tarbutton sold the chain in 1983, there were 309 locations, with
“Sandy” opening motels across the eastern U.S. “As we got large, we
had to have more of them,” says Tarbutton, now a resident of Naples,
Florida, and Virginia Beach.
Before Super 8 (founded in 1972) and others, there was Econo-Travel,
dreamed up by Norfolk developer Vernon Myers and his son. They were intent on creating a new business category by filling an important market need—a clean, cheap hotel. They worked in the same office building as Tarbutton and one day came to him with drawings for Econo-Travel, an idea that Tarbutton had been exploring, too. Myers Jr. had drawn up a
prototype for the motel and was intent on selling the plans for $2,000.
Tarbutton died in 2013. Below, find the full article, in PDF form, HERE.