Names, owners change among Rifle hotels, motels |

Names, owners change among Rifle hotels, motels

The former Winchester Hotel, now the Grand River Lodge, is among Rifle lodging establishments to recently undergo ownership and/or name changes.
Mike McKibbin/Citizen Telegram |

Rooms are available at Rifle’s lodging establishments, some of which have recently undergone changes in ownership and name or reopened after being closed.

And while the City of Rifle reports last year’s lodging tax revenues, which are paid by hotel and motel guests, were running ahead of 2012’s numbers, business isn’t booming, according to at least two new hotel and motel owners.

Anna Maj and her husband, Marcin, bought the former Winchester Hotel at 520 Railroad Ave. and renamed it the Gateway Lodge. The couple managed the hotel from 2008-2010 and purchased it in May 2012, said Anna Maj.

Changing the name from that of one of Rifle’s first buildings was a tough decision, she added.

“The reputation it had in recent years wasn’t the best,” Maj said. “That’s what we heard from the community. So we thought about it and just decided that if we’re going to make a new start with a better hotel, we should change the name.”

Maj added they realized hunters like to stay there due to the name, “but word spreads around” when the overall reputation isn’t good.

Maj said she and her husband want to make The Gateway Lodge a nice family hotel, and not just known for housing natural gas workers. They have remodeled about 80 percent of the hotel’s 37 rooms and plan to improve the outside appearance, too, she added, if they can find financing.

“Business has been slow,” Maj said. “It doesn’t look like natural gas is coming back any time soon, so we hope more tourists will come to town. But we’re so close to Glenwood Springs and all it has, there’s really nothing here that would make Rifle more of a tourist town, where people can come and stay several days.”

Last winter, Maj said the expansion project at the Natural Soda plant in Rio Blanco County brought construction workers to the hotel, but there isn’t a similar project this winter.

“It’s just been extremely slow,” she said.

Summer was better, Maj said, especially with the spill over from festivals as far away as Carbondale.

“I think we need more of those summer festivals,” she added. “The [Garfield County Fair] is really more local. We don’t get many people because people who go to the fair live around the area and just go home.”

Hotel amenities include microwave ovens, free Wi-Fi and breakfasts.

“We don’t have a pool or spa, but we’re very budget friendly,” Maj added. “Our priority is clean rooms. This isn’t the old Winchester any more.”

For Greg Tamburello, reopening the former Buckskin Inn as the Budget Star Motel, 101 Ray Ave. in West Rifle, was done with “a little bit of faith.”

“It seemed like a pretty good deal,” Tamburello said of his November 2012 purchase of the shuttered motel. “I didn’t have any past experience operating a motel but it was kind of an eyesore all boarded up. I just wanted to reopen the old gem.”

But, just as Maj said she had experienced, business has been slow since the motel reopened last October.

“We get a little bit of the weekly market, but the overnight stays have been very slow,” Tamburello said.

He added that he would be happy “just to cover my overhead,” after a lot of painting and new carpets, scrubbing and cleaning, in the Budget Star’s 19 rooms.

The motel offers amenities such as free Continental breakfasts and laundry facilities, he said.

And Tamburello thinks Rifle’s economy may improve.

“It seems to me Rifle’s economy operates on five-year cycles,” he explained. “And if more coal-fired power plants close down in favor of natural gas plants, maybe that would help bring more drilling rigs back to Garfield County. Then things would pick up. At least, that’s my hope.”

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