When Rob and Marg McDougall moved to Creston eight years ago, they did more than simply buy a business — they bought a piece of history, the Downtowner Motor Inn, which turned 50 this fall.
Even residents who haven’t stayed there are familiar with the more unique aspects of the Downtowner, with its balcony and staircase leading to the second-floor rooms overlooking a large interior foyer, a hit with guests.
“They like to come and sit here,” said Marg. “In fact, this is what sold us. … It’s totally unexpected.”
“In the summertime, two couples met sitting on this furniture,” said Rob. “One was from California, and one was from Ontario. They each stayed an extra day or two and toured the area together. For at least two summers after that, they met here and then went off on separate vacations.”
Rob, originally from Pentiction, and Marg, from near Geraldton, Ont., met in Saskatchewan, and then lived in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., where Rob worked at a chemical plant for about 30 years.
“I stayed home and raised my kids,” said Marg. “Once the kids were out of the house, we said, ‘Let’s run away from home.’ ”
They had friends in the valley, and it was an easy decision to move here, although it wasn’t quite as easy as simply moving.
“We visited the valley all the time,” said Marg. “The only way to move to paradise was to run a business.”
They bought the Downtowner from Henry and Rosie Schoof. From 1993-2007, the proprietors owned the business started by a former Creston mayor, Elidio Salvador, and his wife in 1965, after transforming Creston’s largest garage into a hotel.
“Rock, stucco and cedar panelling combine gracefully to provide an attractive front to the two-story building. … The portico is partially finished in knotty pine, as is the full windowed office in front,” said the Oct. 7, 1965, Advance prior to the Oct. 9 grand opening. “Here are located a switchboard and the usual office equipment.
“The hallway leads to the lower floor units and a large foyer, decorated in attractive colours and lamps. This leads to a banquet room which has seating capacity for 100 persons and which can also be used for a meeting room and sample room.”
The article noted that the stairway to the upper rooms also led to a sundeck, later built over to become the owners’ suite. Bathrooms featured heat lamps, exhaust fans and electric razor outlets.
“Each of the well-appointed rooms has wall-to-wall carpeting, walnut finished furniture, telephone, TV and clock radio,” the article continued. “Excellent soundproofing and double windows have been installed.”
In some ways, Rob and Marg said, the rooms haven’t changed — they still don’t have the irons, hair dryers and coffee makers guests expect in larger hotels, a decision that has led to some unfavourable comments from guests.
“But a lot of people don’t want them,” said Marg. “If you go on Trip Advisor and read what people say, you get a good cross-section.”
They have, however, made some upgrades, such as bringing the toilets up to 21 century standards — “We had pink and purple,” said Marg — and combining two ground-floor rooms to create a suite.
And they have two smoking rooms — which have their own bedding.
“The first time I saw burn marks on the sheets in a smoking room, I said, ‘OK, special sheets in the smoking rooms,’ ” said Marg with a laugh.
Many of their customers come from B.C. and Alberta, some even having their favourite rooms, but some customers have even more distant origins.
“One night last month, we had one couple from Inuvik and one from Tasmania,” said Rob.
“I like the two Welsh couples that met at the front desk,” said Marg.
The two men started chatting to each other in Gaelic, and the couples learned that, back home, they lived about 40 miles apart.
There’s nothing quite like meeting new people, Marg said, and that’s one of the best things about owning the five-decade-old landmark.
“I don’t have to travel the world,” said Marg. “They come to me.”