Hilton Head Island couple gets motel renovation on 'Hotel Impossible'

abredeson@islandpacket.comApril 22, 2013 

Mike and Jackie Tompkins knew their motel needed some work, but they never imagined it would qualify for a renovation on a national reality TV show.

For the past 13 years, the part-time Hilton Head Island residents have run the Western Riviera motel in the small mountain town of Grand Lake, Colo.

The Tompkinses said they received an email from the Travel Channel on Dec. 17, 2012, asking if they would be interested in being featured on "Hotel Impossible."

They had never seen the show before so they watched a few episodes. Jackie said at first it really scared her. But in the end they decided to do it for the good of the hotel and the town.

"We realized it was bigger than us," Jackie said. "And if it was more about our town, it would be worth it."

So the Tompkinses filled out a questionnaire and got a response in two hours. On Jan. 2 they got a call that they were chosen for the show. Designer Blanche Garcia was at their motel by Jan. 4. The TV crew arrived Jan. 30 and started shooting the next day.

When host Anthony Melchiorri arrived, he checked out a guest room, saying it "could be Any Town, USA" and adding, "This is the furniture I had in the United States Air Force in the dorm room." In his typical abrupt fashion, he picked apart every aspect of the room, knocking the TV on the floor and saying they needed a new one anyway.

Over the next five days, a team of construction workers remodeled one of the motel's guest rooms. They put in new floors, a beetle kill wall, new bedding and furniture, a new ceiling and ceiling fan, and a fresh coat of paint.

The Tompkinses were pleased to find out that the room was inspired by their Western Riviera Courtyard Cabins.

"I think it's beautiful," Jackie said. "I love the colors. She picked out colors that I would not have picked out, so I think it was good for us to have our minds opened to something we wouldn't have thought of or tried."

The Tompkinses said they will use the remodeled room as a blueprint for the rest of the rooms in the motel. While they love the new look, they will change a few small things. One thing they will not use in the rooms are the lamps with antlers because they could be dangerous. They will also find something a little warmer than tile for the bathroom floors.

The Tompkinses hope to remodel one more room before Memorial Day. They will ask guests to give feedback on the two new rooms and then decide what they will do with the rest of the motel.

"The overall look is going to be very simple," Mike said.

On March 25 the Tompkinses got together with about 30 of their friends at Wild Wing Cafe on Hilton Head to watch themselves on "Hotel Impossible."

"The chance for humiliation was I think triple," Mike said. "It was larger than life, and it was in public."

Since the show aired, the couple said their webpage hits have exploded. They have also received several emails and notes from people in Grand Lake, thanking them for doing the show.

"A lot of them have said, 'If they had come to us, we would have not done it. We're glad you did,'" Jackie said. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done. ... I was a nervous wreck."

But overall the Tompkinses are glad they agreed to do the show. The episode featuring their motel is listed as the most liked episode of "Hotel Impossible" on the Travel Channel website.

"(Melchiorri) went on record saying it was the most beautiful place he'd ever been," Jackie said. "You couldn't pay for that kind of advertising on national television."

Follow Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.

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