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Renovation

Renovations have begun!

We didn't waste much time getting into the gritty, exciting and often mundane details of the Amigo Motor Lodge renovation. 17 rooms is a pretty small motel by most definitions, but it sure adds up when you consider we are attempting to finish this project with about 5 total laborers: a jack-of-all trades carpenter, a tile guy, a carpet guy, a paint guy and myself, who is attempting to learn and help as much as possible but most likely just getting in the way. 

So after arriving to Salida on a Tuesday night, we started demolition work on one room in each of the buildings (one king room and one double queen) to learn exactly what each room layout might bring.  What we knew and confirmed is that the two rooms were constructed at different times and with fairly different materials.  They were both with their own wonderful surprises (hidden holes in the wall under paintings, crumbling rotten tile, etc).  That said, we have made great progress in the last 10 days of work and are happy to be in the process of putting the rooms back together, which is much harder than tearing them apart!

Here is a look at the rooms as they sat - basically you could be looking at any boring motel in any town near you: 

Yes, this room smells exactly like it looks...

Yes, this room smells exactly like it looks...

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Scenes of tranquil nature adorn the walls...

Scenes of tranquil nature adorn the walls...

So, yeah...you have probably stayed in a place like this.  It's a roof, bed and hot water at a decent price but not a lot more.  And with a magic wave of the wand, we started to erase the sins of the past: 

Furniture, trim, sinks, counters and even the toilets get removed. We have been able to donate almost 100% of the room furnishings to the local Habitat for Humanity and a lot of locals through a Facebook group. 

Furniture, trim, sinks, counters and even the toilets get removed. We have been able to donate almost 100% of the room furnishings to the local Habitat for Humanity and a lot of locals through a Facebook group. 

Under the tile was some fairly decent rot and rust. And is that a 'Yard Sale' sign framing out what used to be the built in soap dish? 

Under the tile was some fairly decent rot and rust. And is that a 'Yard Sale' sign framing out what used to be the built in soap dish? 

The carpets were cut and rolled off, the floors ground down and a few wall and ceiling panels were removed to better understand what lucked behind the surfaces. After about a day in each room, it was time to start putting things back together, which is always the fun but slow part. 

Lucky for us, under the ceiling tile was some sheet rock. After removing about 1,000 staples it was time to apply tape and mud to smooth everything out. 

Lucky for us, under the ceiling tile was some sheet rock. After removing about 1,000 staples it was time to apply tape and mud to smooth everything out. 

On the other side, the king room bathroom got some new Durorock backing to replace some old plaster.  

On the other side, the king room bathroom got some new Durorock backing to replace some old plaster.  

Though we are trying to keep waste to a minimum, a few trips to the local dump are necessary. Fighting a fresh 8" of snow makes it all that more fun. 

Though we are trying to keep waste to a minimum, a few trips to the local dump are necessary. Fighting a fresh 8" of snow makes it all that more fun. 

Well, that's it for now. The next renovation update should show some of the ceiling and wall refinishing work (getting rid of texture is quite the task!) and maybe a sneak peek into a few finishes like tile selection. Stay tuned!

 

Confessions of a Motel Janitor

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We’ve been in Salida for about a week now, and it has not been without its ups and downs. I’ve been skiing, broken down in tears on the way to lunch, shared a boot full of beer with some locals, cleaned a few motel toilets and learned to cook! (To clarify, the cooking and motel toilets are completely unrelated. That was poor placement on my part.) I’m also thrilled to report that I’ve been recruited by the local roller derby team, but that’s not really what this post is about. 

What it IS about: the valuable lessons I've learned in this past week.

Lesson Number 1: Contrary to what the movies might depict, pouring a beverage into your average run-of-the-mill hot tub DOES NOT magically transform it into a hot tub time machine.

Someone decided to give it the ole’ college try over Thanksgiving holiday, and as it turns out, it just breaks the control panel and causes a heap of other issues. Along that same line of thinking, if you own a hot tub and plan on leaving town for a week: LOCK IT UP. People will use your hot tub, and they will pour cheap whiskey in it.

Lesson Number 2: If you want to start a business with the word “Scout” in the name, prepare to face the wrath of the Boy Scouts of America.

After working closely with a trademark attorney, we quickly discovered that the BSA have a pretty serious hold on the name “Scout” (and any other variation of that word). The Boy Scouts may not seem like an intimidating bunch, but they know how to tie over forty different knots! They would have NO issue keeping our hands tied if they wanted. We went back and forth quite a bit, and eventually landed on a name that we think is equally awesome! Plus, it’s just fun to say.

Lesson Number 3: If you rent out a smoking room to three polish men, give it some time to air out before you try to clean it.

Not much more to say about that one. Just trust me.

Why are we doing this? (Part 1)

Though it might be of little concern to a reader, for posterity's sake, Kaitlyn and I are starting out determined to record the genesis of this new business. From tons of before and after photos of the renovation progress to highlighting neighboring businesses around the Salida community, this blog will hopefully serve as something of a digital scrap book. But like any story, there needs to be some context from which to build, so I thought we should take some time to put the pen to pad to explain this adventure to those interested (but mostly to understand it ourselves). 

You get an odd look when you tell people you are leaving town to go run an old motel in the mountains. It usually takes the form of a half-cocked head, a raised eyebrow, or a pause (sometimes all at once) while it sinks in. And rightfully so, I guess. When is the last time you envied the night manager at a dusty motel, checking in road zombies alongside an interstate highway? 

The current owners gave us this photograph of the property as it stood perhaps 30-40 years ago.  Originally it was called the Monarch Motor Lodge and then changed to the Aspen Leaf Motel in the 90s. 

The current owners gave us this photograph of the property as it stood perhaps 30-40 years ago.  Originally it was called the Monarch Motor Lodge and then changed to the Aspen Leaf Motel in the 90s. 

So, what prompted the change? What are we trying to accomplish? I mean, really...why are we doing this? 

For me, it's a journey that began about 4 years ago. At the time I was 6 years into running a retail business in Dallas. I had been there from the beginning. It was my baby. It was the culmination of all I had worked for in the years after college. We had our successes and setbacks, but the the pattern of making a few more steps forward than back had kept us above water and growing. It was around the time we moved into a larger space and were really cooking with our online business - really the first time that I had some breathing room. And as I began taking the time to think about what was next (should we open a new store? should we launch a new website?), I began to also really consider the idea of something new.  

The daily grind of retail gets to you – the seasonality, the constant change in trends and the competition really add up. With more revenue comes more complexity, and you are only as good as your last season, quarter, month, day. Add to this fact that when you take a step back, you start to wonder about the idea of selling stuff that people don't really 'need' and I guess I lost my drive. Maybe I justified my waning interest with this thought, but I knew I wasn't the same person that launched the business.

My first inclination was to find a way to slowly cede control and spend less and less time inside the business. I ran with that, but quickly noticed that my enthusiasm just wasn't there and my time outside of the shop actually made me less and less keen on the business. I knew the best thing was to sell the business and start fresh on something I could commit myself to.  Easier said than done; it took about a year to split the business up and sell everything off, but it was a great feeling when done.  

It was right around this time, actually about exactly two years ago, that I met Kaitlyn.  And oddly enough, on that very first date we talked about something similar to this very concept over pizza and beer. Looking back, I guess life has a funny way of working out. 

Stay tuned for more...

The Arkansas River running through Browns Canyon Monument is definitely one of the jewels of the area.  Did a quick overnight float with friends, dogs and beer over the Summer once the Spring melt levels had subsided. 

The Arkansas River running through Browns Canyon Monument is definitely one of the jewels of the area.  Did a quick overnight float with friends, dogs and beer over the Summer once the Spring melt levels had subsided.