After 22 years, I was ready to sell my mom and pop 29 unit motel called the "Lamplighter". It was built in the 60's and needed updating. No kidding. I thought it would sell quickly. It didn't. I lowered the price. It still didn't sell. My friend, Sarah said, "sell it anyway. It treated you good for many years. Pay your taxes and walk away. You have a Hotel that does quite well."
Good advice I thought. I was tired and 67. Enough already. The managers of 5 years were leaving and now seemed as good a time as any.
At the last minute I called my buddy Tod in Portland. He was smarter than me and owned a funky older motel that he had remodeled 10 years earlier and it was extremely successful. Tod showed up in Astoria and very quickly told me to turn my place into a mid-century modern, "Jetson's-like", Palm Springs, Frank Sinatra, 1960's retro joint. That's just what Tod did with his Jupiter Hotel. I told Tod that I was too old and tired to spend that kind of money to redo my motel into something I didn't even know what it was I was trying to emulate. He said do it anyway.
When he emailed me and said he knew I didn't want to work and do this, but he would run it, if I made him a partner. That got me thinking. Maybe Tod was onto something. I called back and thanked him and said I guess I'll try this stuff myself.
I had no idea what to do next, but like my Dad said, "let's do something even if it's wrong."
Away I went. Thank God I found Becky, Sarah, and Michelle to help. My brand-new managers were thrown totally into the fire in the first week. Hell, it was even during the thick of the busy summer, not the smartest time to remodel. I just started to change everything. I even found out what mid-century modern meant. Becky, being a great designer, luckily knew what I was trying to do. She started ordering furniture and fixtures left and right, on her nickel. There are really great people out there.
I soon thought I had lost my mind. The boxes and delivery trucks never stopped showing up. It was bedlam. I was spending money I didn't have. I started having huge doubts, but it was too late to turn back.
Michelle and I even went to Palm Springs and found out what everyone was talking about. We looked at nine retro motels and copied everything we could. These places had been doing this theme for years. Finally, after about 18 months the dust sort of settled and the customers started coming in. They liked it. I liked it. The new managers liked it. The new staff liked it. Thank God for Tod coming down to Astoria and saving my butt. Happily, I listened to Tod and not me, the Great Jake'O.
They kept coming in. The place became fun. I actually liked hanging out there. The new managers were great and totally understood the concept.
Now, what about the name? The Lamplighter won't work. I tried a gazillion names and finally the word "atomic" came up. Not from me. I thought the name was stupid and would remind people of the bomb. My younger friends said I was too old. I called my artist and interiors friend, Sarah (she's not as old as I am), and asked her what she thought. She said, "the name 'atomic' is so bad it's good."
Now, not only is the place fun but it makes real money and my customers think the Atomic Motel is a hoot.
Shows you what I know.