Lights out at the Hotel Condon

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Sunday, November 22, 2009
Hotel_Exterior
The historic hotel is closed from Nov. 1 to April 15. “We lose money every month. Closing it for five months will save $45,000,” says owner Rick Stanley.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CONDON HOTEL

There aren’t many hardy — or insane — souls who vacation in Condon in February, but call me crazy. I love eastern Oregon’s vast, rugged landscape in the winter. Last February I drove out from Portland to tour the Painted Hills and along the way stayed at the historic Hotel Condon, which sits at about 3,000 feet high on the Columbia River Plateau. It was an inviting and charming respite in an otherwise bleak set of choices for lodging and dining.

But the next time I decide to take a snow-chasing trip to Fossil in the dead of winter, I won’t have the Hotel Condon to keep me warm. Owner Rick Stanley decided to shutter the hotel from Nov. 1 to April 15 because, despite my business, there are virtually no visitors during those months, except for government employees who want government rates and “we can’t do that anymore.”

“We lose money every month,” says Stanley. “Closing it for five months this year will save $45,000. Our goal is to try to break even, and that’s without paying any rent to myself or taking any depreciations.”

Stanley, who has owned the hotel for three years, says that the hotel loses $200,000 during a regular year, with only about 14 rooms being booked from November to April. Stanley says the hotel stays fairly busy in the summer and weekends are almost always full from June to September. The hotel, built in 1920, originally had 42 guest rooms, and now has 18. The rooms range from $100 to $199 per night.

“We should have closed it last winter,” he says. “In a good economy, the hotel will do fine, but it will always be bad in the winter. We’ll be open nine months a year in a good economy.” No word yet on when that good economy is expected.

“We want to keep the hotel going, and I can’t keep losing money,” says Stanley, who is also the president and CEO of Rick’s Custom Fencing & Decking, based in Portland with five stores in Oregon and Washington. The company has gross revenues this year of about $11 million and is the largest fence company in the state, but the construction downturn has hit it hard, and the workforce has shrunk from 300 to 150.

Stanley, who also owns Stanley Ranch in Fossil, where he and his wife, Marlene, live, put $1.8 million personally into upgrading the hotel and its food. “We thought it would be a good place to go for dinner,” he says.

He says general manager Gail Stanfield will get a month’s paid vacation and he’s paying her enough to retain her so that she can reopen the hotel in April. She will continue to live on the property. Normally only Stanfield and her son, who is the bartender, are employed during the winter months. Stanley says he sees no impact on the economy of tiny Condon, which is the seat of Gilliam County, and has a population of around 800. “There’s no tourism during those months and there’s another hotel down the street,” he says.

The hotel might have been a labor of love (“We didn’t expect that we’d get the money back when we bought it,” says Stanley), but sometimes a romance can wane.

“I’d like to donate it to someone so they can run it,” admits Stanley. “But there’s no way to do that right now.”

ROBIN DOUSSARD
 

Comments   

 
Dan Montevideo
-1 #1 Hotel Condon's Demise is the Fault of the Owners, Not Winter or the Economy!Dan Montevideo 2010-02-02 06:43:40
The real reason that the Hotel Condon is not more successful is that the owner is not community oriented. He does not recognize that his best customers come from Condon itself (residents, business owners) and that you can only be successful when locals support you. He seems to believe that Condon residents cannot afford the Hotel and its restaurant, as he has stated. The hotel has refused giving reduced year-round rates to freq. stay guests, state rates for conferences, serving wine from our local winery, and displaying art from local artists. Many locals refuse to support him and do not refer friends/relativ es to the hotel because of his attitude towards the local community. We are all anxious for new owners ready to invest in our community and share in its success!
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