Colorado’s rundown motels are lucky to be cool
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado >> In the series premiere episode “Schitt’s Creek,” a suddenly broke family must leave their lavish mansion to reluctantly live in a run-down motel.
In late April 2020, the remodeled motel became something the fictional family — and viewers of the hit show — loved.
The motel’s takeover story reflected a trend happening beyond the TV screen: forgotten roadside stays get a second chance in the spotlight.
There was this real-life scene from 2017: Jody Corey and his friends planned a wine-tasting trip to Palisade in western Colorado. They booked a small motel with no google reviews or website. They hoped for the best.
When they arrived, “We were horrified,” Corey said.
After the wine trip was over, however, Corey kept thinking, “We should buy this place.”
The place fits the image many have in mind of old RVs: “Dark rooms with 1970s decor, popcorn ceilings, showers you couldn’t turn around in, managers shady and very low prices.”
This description comes from the Spoke and Vine Motel website, the new name of the 1955 motel where Corey stayed. She and her husband, Jeff, bought it in 2018 and opened the remodeled version in May 2019.
“I saw how cute we could make it,” said Corey, owner of a property management company in Steamboat Springs. “We like challenges.”
And it was a challenge to update the 17-bedroom property that has shown signs of little care over the past few decades, Corey said.
“If we had torn it down, it would have been a lot easier,” Corey said. “But we liked the idea of saving the past and keeping the story alive.”
This is what attracts visitors to these places, among options like chain hotels or brand new boutiques. Colorado is home to trendy renovations, such as Mellow Moon Lodge in Del Norte and Amigo Motor Lodge in Salida.
They have a vintage feel, because they are vintage.
The rise of roadside motels dates back to the 1950s, the beginnings of the quintessential American road trip.
These long trips were powered by affordable places that you could easily find back then without GPS tracking. In many cases, the motel was just a place to rest on the way to the next location.
Keeping that spirit of adventure alive is one of the missions of LOGE Camps, a company that finds motels near outdoor towns and brings them back to life.
One of LOGE’s five renovated motels is a Breckenridge location that opened in 2019. The roadside stay is just 10 minutes from Keystone Ski Resort and 15 minutes from Copper Mountain.
Edward Solan was a self-proclaimed “fan boy” of the company behind “hotels that take you outdoors”, which is LOGE’s motto. He first heard about LOGE a few years ago while studying hospitality at a graduate school in Georgia.
“It just sparked something in me, like this is what hospitality should try to be,” he said. “They are breathing life into these older hotels, renovating them sustainably and putting their own spin on them.”
When offered a job managing the Breckenridge site, he asked, “Where do I sign up?”
LOGE has taken over the old Wayside Inn, a motel built in the 1960s. The updated spot offers gear rentals and demos and an on-site bar and restaurant, called the Wayside Cafe.
Much like in his day, Solan says the lodge-style option offers something less expensive for visitors to Breckenridge, where hotel rooms can fetch $500 or more per night. A recent search shows a room at the LOGE for $179.
“In a place that may be a bit luxurious and out of reach for many, there’s this option that’s a bit more affordable,” Solan said.
He describes the type of service as “not intimidating”.
“We’re not going to be super formal. When we greet you, we’re going to be like, ‘What’s up?’ “, He said. “We want to treat you like a friend to whom we want to have a very good stay.
This kind of friendly, laid-back service can also be found at Spoke and Vine, where room check-in details are texted, so visitors can skip the lobby when checking in. Bikes are available for rent, dogs are welcome, and free breakfast is delivered to rooms.
On the website, the owners write about a belief in the “little things,” like delicious coffee, attentive service, and good vibes.
So far, these little things have elicited many stories of pleasant surprises from visitors.
Solan shared the story of a woman who stayed at the LOGE after staying at the old motel in the 1980s.
“She said, ‘You should have seen it here back then,'” Solan said.
She must have noticed the improvements.
Solan said the essence of the stay he is aiming for: “You want to feel safe and comfortable and you want good coffee. You don’t need a bunch of fancy stuff to have an amazing experience. “
Corey has stories of people saying, “They’ve never really seen anything like this before.”
Visitors have been known to point out something else – how the motel’s story reminds them of a popular TV show.
“If it’s their first time staying at a motel,” Corey said, “they’re like, it’s like ‘Schitt’s Creek’.”
Corey and her husband see the resemblance. They dressed up as characters from the show for a 2020 Halloween party they hosted at the motel.
It’s hard to say how much the show inspired this motel movement. The pandemic likely played a role, as some travelers preferred to drive rather than book a flight.
Along the way they may have seen a sign for Spoke and Vine Motel. And maybe they’ve changed their minds about what it means to stay in a motel. That’s one of the reasons Corey thought it was important to keep “motel” in the name.
“We thought some people would have bad connotations associated with that word,” she said. “We wanted to show people that this was something cool.”