You know how they say that you can’t judge a book by its cover? Valerie Calkins is the first to admit that the same could be said of the Miami Motel, the Canandaigua motor lodge she owns with her husband, Dennis.
Built in 1952, the Miami Resort Motel (the property’s original name) was the pinnacle of convenience, comfort and affordability for people traveling by car. It’s no coincidence that the New York State Thruway opened two years later.
The original owner opened the Miami with only 10 rooms. A few years later an upstairs addition was built, with plans to make it a restaurant, and rooftop patios were added for sunbathers.
The Miami's swimming pool and outdoor gathering area were a huge draw with great enticements that included happy hour cocktails, outdoor movies and ice cream for the kids. Below is a photo showing what the Miami looked like in its original heyday.
Over time things changed and the Miami lost its sheen. The property swapped hands several times, and with each change in management the motor lodge grew a little shabbier. The pool was filled in with cement, and weeds grew between the cracks.
“We called it the Bates Hotel,” says Valerie.
Luckily, some much-needed love was on the way. Valerie and Dennis decided to buy the property about a decade ago, and working from the inside out, the two have been carefully renovating and restoring the Miami in a way that appeals to fans of mid-20th century retro style with modern 21st century amenities. Think Mad Men cool meets Extreme Makeover upgrades.
Today, the 28 rooms and bungalows have been remodeled with new bathroom fixtures, new walls, new furniture (okay, some of the pieces, such as the groovy coffee table pictured at the bottom of this post, have been gently pre-owned, but it fits the décor), a wet bar, refrigerator, and free WiFi.
Each room is totally unique, with its own color scheme, furniture and layout. Some rooms and bungalows also have car ports in the back, which is great for motorcyclists, bicyclist or convertible drivers who don’t want to put the roof up. Some have decadent Jacuzzis.
In the summer, guests gather with their Finger Lakes wine, beer or cocktails around portable fire pits on the back side of the building.
“I like recreating the 50s feel but with a lot of modern-day conveniences incorporated into each room,” Valerie explains.
In place of poolside cocktails, the Caulkins put out an inviting continental breakfast in the lounge each morning, including protein-rich hard-cooked eggs and fresh fruit and muffins.
Through the end of February, they are including a free bottle of wine with each room reservation. They even include the glasses.
The upstairs restaurant that the original owner envisioned never came to be is now where Dennis and Valerie live, and one or both are usually around to offer impeccable guest services. Their daughter, Sara York, also helps to manage the property.
With all the rooms renovated, the Caulkins will be focusing their efforts on making the grounds and outside of the building match look and feel as new and inviting as the inside.
“Admittedly, it still looks a little rough out there,” says Valerie. “We have had guests tell us that nothing on the outside makes them believe what it’s like on the inside."
These guests know that they would be missing a great experience as well as a great bargain if they did not stay at the motel.
Now the Miami has almost a cult following of repeat guests who love the wild colors, the antique furniture, the history and the hospitality.
It recently ranked 15th on TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Bargain Hotels list.
This year, Valerie and Dennis wills start work on the outside of the building and grounds.
Their 2016 to-do list includes extending the roof over the front doors to offer guests more shade if they want to relax outside. New sidewalks will be built and more landscaping added to boost the curb appeal.
Now that the book is done, the Calkins clan will no doubt make the “cover” just as groovy.