Although there is a link to the Route 66 Pulse newspaper on the side of this site (and vice versa), I don’t often link to their stories because there’s a lot of redundancy there. Route 66 News often reports news on the Mother Road first because the Internet allows nearly instantaneous coverage; Route 66 Pulse elaborates on the story later.
But the current January/February issue of the Pulse takes on a story that I didn’t have either the time or resources to tackle — the history of Asian-American motel ownership on Route 66 and America in general.
The Pulse reprinted an Express Hospitality story by Neeti Mehra about “The Patel Invasion.” The influx of India natives into the United States started in the 1960s.
They opted for the hospitality industry in the United States for pragmatic reasons. Firstly, it offered them immediate housing, and secondly, it provided them with a regular cash flow. Most importantly, it let them assimilate into the culture of their adopted country.
At that time the American motel industry was experiencing a downturn. Motels were distressed and available for low prices, partly due to high gas prices leading to reduced interstate travelers. Interestingly, motels could be acquired at a price equal to the investment for acquiring permanent residency in the country at that time – about $40,000. While some Patels were flush with cash, others toiled and scrimped to invest in a motel.
The article also gives kudos to the Manoj Patel and his family, who restored the Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in Rialto, Calif.
This Frank Redford-built property with its legendary teepees owes a lot to its present owners. The Patels painstakingly restored the place, which had degenerated to dereliction and would attract unsavoury ladies of the night and drug peddlers. They restored the neon signs, revamped the pool and did up the rooms. Today, the motel stands with all its glory on the iconic Route 66, proving that at a Patel motel you will receive much more than a comfortable night’s stay.
But what makes the article exceptional is a companion opinion piece, titled “Non-native Motel Owners Deserve Your Support, Too,” by Pulse general manager Jim Conkle, who’s also executive director of the California Route 66 Preservation Foundation.
In it, Conkle says Asian-American motel owners should not be derided because they came from a foreign land.
While some travelers might prefer to support only American-run lodging establishments, one must consider what would have happened to these motels if these folks from other countries had not bought and kept them open. Most would have gone the way of so many others that were abandoned after Route 66 was decommissioned; in ruins, demolished or worse.
When a current owner of a motel has signs saying “American Owned” and needs to sell the business, who do you think they often sell it to? That’s right, often the same folks they advertised against.
Also keep in mind that many of the non-native owners have lived at and owned their motel properties for over 30 years. This means that many have been involved with the Road longer then most of us Roadies. […]
It is this writer’s opinion that the color of your skin, the accent of your voice or the country you were born in should not be a measuring stick on which one is judged as a motel owner. The correct way to evaluate a lodging facility is to objectively look at the historic value of the location, how it is being maintained, cost for a room, cleanliness and accommodations the facility provides. […]
You can stay wherever choose and can afford; that is your right. But please be open minded and courteous to our non-native motel owners along Route 66 and everywhere else you travel in the United States. They may not have all been born on American soil, but they all share the American Dream.
I second this stance. As they often say in the blogosphere, go read the whole thing.