Still openSigns point to the fact that the Bay Motel is open for business.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Signs point to the fact that the Bay Motel is open for business. Nine blue and white placards scattered along Superior’s streets lead travelers on a detour to the 10-room motel. In front of the establishment, the lighted billboard reads “Open, Open, Open.” The signs are there and they have been a Godsend to owners Chris and Rosalba Gay since road construction closed the motel’s front entrance along Belknap Street in early August.
“For a couple days I was almost sick,” Rosalba said. “I was thinking, ‘What can I do for my business,’ I mean, this is my business.”
And customers weren’t finding it.
The couple contacted the city for a permit to place signs and contracted with a local business to make them. Until those were ready, Rosalba made her own. She bought white garage-sale size signs from Menards, put the business name and phone number on them with permanent marker, and placed them in boulevards to direct traffic to the motel. The signs funneled traffic to East Fifth Street then on to Fourth Avenue East and East Third Street.
“And that’s how the people get here for the first two to three weeks,” she said.
The Bay, Superior’s smallest motel, has also received support from the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce.
“They recommend us a lot,” Rosalba said. While her husband runs two other small businesses — Mr. Biffy and Superior Septic, the motel is her “baby.”
“It’s kind of a one man show here, one woman show,” Chris said. “She does everything.”
The couple bought the business five years ago because, Rosalba said, “I love to clean.”
“A lot of people come here; they see how clean she keeps the rooms,” Chris said. “Even though we don’t have an exercise room or a pool or that kind of stuff, they just want a nice clean place to stay; we do offer that.”
Daughter Crystal, 14, helps her parents. The couple also has a 3-year-old daughter, Nicole. Being a small family business has helped the Bay Motel weather the construction project.
“People generally support small business and here’s the owner right here,” Chris said. “You can actually meet the owner; she’s cleaning rooms.”
The couple has relaxed their rules for cancelling reservations, added directions on how to reach the motel to their phone message and occasionally offered discounts.
“We’re trying everything; every single thing,” Rosalba said. But business in August, traditionally their busiest month, was down about 30 percent from July.
“July was a good month and August would have been a good month too without the construction,” Chris said. And there are two months of construction to go.
“The irony of it is, when they’re done with construction, that’s when it’s a really slow time,” Chris said. Summer profits help tide the motel through the lean winter months, he said. But the couple understood the need to fix the street. When it’s done, Chris said, pedestrians will have better access to Barker’s Island with new crosswalks and the new curbs and street will look better.
“You’ve just got to kind of look to the future, beyond it,” Chris said.
The only truly terrifying time for the Gays was when an excavator began digging up East Third Street, heading straight for the only remaining entrance to the motel. It was the week of Bluesfest, Rosalba said, and every room was booked for the weekend. Customers were on the way.
“She was about ready to chain herself to an excavator,” Chris said. The work would have completely cut off access to the motel’s parking lot. After discussing the situation with the construction company, the excavator stopped short. If the area does need to be dug up later during the project, the couple said, a gravel apron will be laid down to give vehicles access to the motel.
Across Belknap Street, the new owner of the Budget Motel is hoping to emulate the Bay Motel’s sign success. Sia Saeyang bought the 27-room motel on July 28, about a week before construction began.
“Lucky me,” Saeyang said. She was already in the process of purchasing the business when she learned about the construction project.
“We’re doing OK,” Saeyang said, thanks to a number of construction workers who are staying at the motel. But, she said, “I get a lot of people call, can’t find me, give up.”
Saeyang hopes to put up signs to map a route for customers so they can find the Budget Motel, too. The signs would direct them to East Fifth Street as well, just on the west side of Belknap.
Chris and Rosalba Gay are now tossing around the idea of adding reflective tape to their signs. But for now, they hope the message has been received and people will “Stay at the Bay.”
““That we’re open,” Chris said. “We’re open for business.”
For more information on the Bay Motel, 306 E. Third St., call (715) 392-5166.