Holy Cow! We're Buying a Motel!
Announcing the Stonewall Motor Lodge
We're FINALLY ready to share the news!
Our journey to acquire and rebuild a retro motel in the middle of the Texas Hill Country and Wine region started 2 long years ago. Our good friend, Jason Englert, who happens to be the Head Wine Master at Grape Creek Vineyards in Fredericksburg (and now an investor in this new venture), mentioned an "operating" but neglected motel for sale in Stonewall, Tx. He was adamant this place had so much potential and given our rehabbing business, we should drive out and take a look.
We did and we left intrigued, but ultimately, uninterested...
We walked around for 20 minutes and no one was around. It was a classic L shaped, road side motel built in 1964. Very reminiscent of the all American Road Trip. Well, it seems retro motels and road trips are back in style. Sitting on 3 acres, it had 12 doors, an apartment for an onsite manager, a huge deck sitting above the office area. The location was great, sitting right on Hwy 290, right in the path of the all the wineries popping up in the area. It has charm and history, but as we discovered, needs alot of love!
Many of the room doors were wide open, so we could go in and look inside. It looked like we'd stepped back in time. Green carpet, flowered comforters, wicker frame pictures on the wall. The bathrooms were salmon pink tile EVERYWHERE, broken tiles, leaky toilets. It needed a lot of love. No for sale sign, no phone number for the owner.
This was two years ago, and we were in a different place with our investing business and mindset. A hotel just wasn't in those plans. We came, we saw, we left.
Fast forward to this spring. The motel had always sat in the back of my mind for some reason. We were very familiar with the growth out in the area. Over 50 wineries, breweries and distilleries are within a 15 min drive of the motel, and the area has become one of the fastest growing tourist destinations for Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Top notch restaurants, museums, Trade Days, Luckenbach and Albert within a stones throw, and concerts monthly keep people coming back. The motel now sat in what has become known as the Hwy 290 Wine Trail.
I casually said to Lance, my husband and partner, one day out of the blue, "I wonder what happened to that motel". Not realizing what he was starting, he says "I don't know, why don't you check into it", and went on with whatever he was doing. He should know better than to tell me to check something out. So, just realize as we head down this path, it's all his fault!
By now, we had much better skip tracing functionality, so I slipped on my sleuth's hat and dug up the owners name, skip searched her phone number, and left a simple voicemail for her...
"Hi, my name is Anita. I was wondering if you were still looking to sell the motel. We'd be interested in chatting with you if it's still available."
She almost immediately texted me back, and after a bit of discussion, planned a meeting for a Saturday afternoon. The owner seemed excited to sell, but had worked so hard for the 15 years she owned it, that we could see it was hard for her to let go. After 3 hours of discussion, we came to a solution. Offer accepted the following week.
We spent 6 months in due diligence. Things move slower in West Texas and we ran into a potential issue with an adjacent property owner. That took us a few months to get comfortable with. In the meantime, I started planning the fun stuff .- the renovation plans, design, branding, and starting our capital raise. We're excited to bring in investors on this as equity partners and not just lenders, which is what we've done on all our other projects. It's a good group of people that have done business with us and trust what we are doing. We're doing this in two steps and will come back to raise a second round for the cabins later. There is no bigger compliment than a single investor telling you they want to invest $350,000 and they haven't even been to the property. We are truly blessed.
We still told the story to our potential investors (that's Doug and Frances in the picture above. Investors touring the property for the first time) and had renderings made of what this place could become. All the rooms will be redone, new bathrooms, flooring, paint, new windows and doors. New paint and trim colors will make this place pop. First, we had to rebrand and come up with logo. I wanted something that was on trend and spoke to what the property was - a motel with a unique history from the 1960s. A "motor lodge" said it all. Can you see where we are heading?
The rooms will be clean, bright, modern, but with a nod to the history of the property (mid century modern!). These communicate the feel, although we haven't picked anything out quite yet and need a bit more color variation.
The fun part about the property is all the social spaces. There is a large 20x20 upstairs deck. Some sanding, stain, outdoor lighting and some great furniture will make this a great place to have a glass of wine in the evenings.
Our first plan of attack is demo obviously. Rid the property of all furniture, tear out the tile and carpets, redo sheetrock where necessary, replace windows and doors and start to redo the rooms. Create the lounge space, which is currently a tchotchke store and office. Redo the apartment for the onsite managers, and do the exterior work. We expect renovations to take 3-4 months. The cabins come next. 4-5 of them to start. Small, one bedrooms, maybe 200 sf.
I'm swarming with details - design, colors, furniture, marketing, operations, hiring and more. Everything from the sheets we pick to the permits needed to renovate, setting up the organizational structure for our partners to closing on the property, marketing to the local community and online to planning a launch party. Oh, and starting this blog. So much to do!
As I write this, I am prepping to close on the motel tomorrow afternoon. It's scary, exciting, and overwhelming. We are up to the challenge! We hope to open late April. We hope you'll follow our journey for the next few months. It will be a wild ride... or rather, a wild road trip!