Sponsored by George Fox University
Home Back Issues December 2011 Remaking history at the Columbia Gorge Hotel

Remaking history at the Columbia Gorge Hotel

| Print |  Email
Articles - December 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Article Index
Remaking history at the Columbia Gorge Hotel
Page 2

By Oakley Brooks

1211_Tactics_01
Photos by Teresa Meier
1211_Tactics_02

Vijay Patel found Hood River’s Columbia Gorge Hotel grounds clogged with limbs and the gardens going to seed when he first looked over the place with the intent to buy in February 2009. Billed as the “Waldorf of the West” when timber baron Simon Benson built it in 1921 and immediately frequented by Jazz Age film stars Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow, the stucco villa had been neglected for years. Put up for sale in a foreclosure auction later in 2009, there were no bids, but Patel was busy rounding up an investment group to buy the place. And despite receiving an ominous omen when a water-damaged ceiling collapsed on the day he was scheduled to close in November 2009, he went ahead and paid titleholder ShoreBank Pacific $4.6 million. He was the proud owner of a white elephant. “I love the challenge of turning around dumps,” he says.

But Patel also realized his elephant sat on one of premier tourist properties in all of the Gorge, high on the rim overlooking the Columbia River, with commanding views of Mount Adams and Mount Hood, and room to expand. “There’s so much we can do,” he says.

Born in Uganda, educated in his grandparents’ native India, and a Londoner for a decade and a half, Patel, 55, is inflected by Britain, right down to his natty tweed coat and gentle manners. After moving to Klamath Falls to manage a family-owned business in 1994 and then striking out on his own to found A1 Hospitality, he has performed some extensive hotel makeovers in Northeast Oregon and the Tri-Cities area. In Pendleton, he stripped an Economy Inn down to the studs in 2007 and rehabbed it into an America’s Best Value Inn and a downtown anchor. But in his portfolio of six franchise hotels, there’s nothing that approaches the prestige — however diminished — of the Columbia Gorge Hotel. “We really wanted to take a step forward and get involved with a boutique or historical property,” he says.

A-1 Hospitality Group
President: Vijay Patel
Incorporated: 1997
Employees: 130
Annual revenues: $8 million
Fun fact: Patel used a Rotary Club scholarship to motorcycle through Africa for 11 months in 1981.
Fearlessly, he’s going after the century-old Gorge site with the same matter-of-fact, modernizing zeal he brought to his other properties. Now a year and a half into steady updating, his hardworking, bare-bones crew — a quarter of the staff employed by the previous owner, the Graves family — has replaced the bedding, carpets and bathroom tile in all the rooms. Bathroom fixtures and sinks are in the works. “Vanity is on the way,” says Paul Robinson, the hotel manager.

The new group repaired extensive portions of the roof underlying the building’s signature terracotta tiles. And Patel turned half of an oversized gift shop into a day spa, a popular spot with the hotel’s most reliable clientele: wedding guests. The staff also refurbished three guest rooms that had been previously used as offices, to push the total room count from 38 to 41.

Patel knows, however, that 41 rooms won’t support the hotel in the long term, even if they’re fetching the peak rate of $280 a night. Repairs and upgrades, which have to meet expensive national historic preservation standards in a listed landmark, are already projected to run more than $500,000, 40% above the original budget.



 

Comments   

 
Guest
0 #1 OwnerGuest 2013-12-04 23:06:07
I have lived for several years across the freeway from the Columbia Gorge Hotel and read in the newspaper that they will be piping in music to enhance their outdoor lighting display. I gave the manager a courtesy call to inquire about the potential noise level, because we prefer not to hear "elevator" music for the next month or so wafting across the highway. I was very polite and simply wanted to know their plans. The manager responded in a very rude tone with," I'm sorry you don't like holiday music" and slammed the phone down on me. This is a first. I have traveled extensively and have never had a hotel manager be anything but helpful and courteous. If this is how he treats members of the community, I wonder how they treat out-of-towners.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Hipsters gone wild

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
BY JON BELL

A new generation of outdoor apparel companies targets the young and the urban.


Read more...

Timber town

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
BY LEE VAN DER VOO

A forest collaboration saves the Rough & Ready Lumber Company.


Read more...

Downtime with Doug Gastich

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

How the president of BlueVolt spends his free time.


Read more...

OB Video: Dress for Success

News
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
DFSOBY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR

Dress for Success Oregon promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.


Read more...

Who said we should sell in May?

Contributed Blogs
Friday, July 18, 2014
BullMarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Back in May, we shared a common Wall Street quote about investing, “Sell in May and go away.” Fast forward to July and the most common question we have been getting from clients is, “When is the market pullback going to occur?”


Read more...

The business of running a food cart

News
Thursday, June 05, 2014
OBM1BY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER

What does it take to launch and run one of these mobile food businesses?  


Read more...

The global challenge

News
Friday, June 27, 2014
062714 thumb globalmarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB BLOGGER

Over the last several months we have seen a wave of cross-border acquisitions, primarily U.S.-based companies looking to purchase non-U.S.-based companies. There are a few reasons for this, but the main culprit is the U.S. corporate tax system. The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS