You might have noticed the Port of Astoria sign looming over the Astoria Bridge’s southern entrance disappeared recently. New life at the old Red Lion Inn might also be noticeable while circling down toward U.S. Highway 30 or up to the bridge.

Brad Smithart and Seth Davis, two local hoteliers and co-owners of Hospitality Masters striking out on their own for the first time, now have 85 rooms open in the Astoria Riverwalk Inn – 400 Industry St. – a boutique, nonfranchise operation in the historic waterfront locale looking to attract families, those traveling on a budget and tourists yearning for a slice of Americana.

The previously empty lobby has been renovated into a waiting area complete with a television, couches, a breakfast area and Goonies memorabilia, including a door from the old Clatsop County Jail donated by Sheriff Tom Bergin.

“It really is a daily process,” said Nicole Snyder, the new front-desk manager, about the improvements happening all around the hotel. “There’s something new every day.”

The hotel, originally a Thunderbird Inn, opened in 1967 just before the bridge overhead. It was made famous in the 1980s and 1990s as a filming location for “The Goonies” and “Kindergarten Cop.” The adjoining restaurant area, previously named Seafare and the dinner scene for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Penelope Ann Miller, is not owned by Hospitality Management. There are no current plans to refurbish or reopen it.

Smithart and Davis, who officially opened the hotel April 15, said they’ve been advertising as far away as the Portland Mercury and Eugene Weekly, trying to grab people who might not have come to Astoria before. Smithart said the hotel has already sold 600 online bookings, not including walk-ins and phone calls.

Astoria Riverwalk Inn even uses customized QR codes, the small boxes people can scan on a smart phone, to manage corporate accounts for business people coming into the hotel.

This season, said the two, is about establishing the hotel’s presence and building a clientele. So far, they’ve hired 14 staff, 12 who were previously unemployed.

“The Canadians like the sign the best,” said Smithart, the hotel’s operations manager, about people descending the Astoria Bridge seeing their sign, which cost $23,000 to put up and light.

The first booking rush was for the Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival in late April, said Smithart, during which the hotel was sold out.

When guests arrive, the two energetic hoteliers said they focus on people experiencing Astoria, whether that’s viewing cruise and log ships from the hotel or taking a bike rental and pedaling down the Astoria Riverwalk.

“A lot of people... come here for the view,” said Davis, general manager for the hotel, peering through sliding glass door in the lobby while the wind howls and the rain falls sideways onto the boats in the West End Mooring Basin outside. “You can sit there on the worst days and look at it and say ‘wow; we’re so lucky.’”

The hotel has every possible combination of beds and rates in its 85 rooms, with Internet specials of $82 to $95, advanced booking rates for June and special rates for community events such as the Hood to Coast Relay. As with most coastal lodgings, the rates vary with the seasons.

By June 1, the hotel will open its family suites, adjoined rooms that sleep entire families – children in one section and parents in another – and cost an average of 50 percent more than smaller, traditional rooms. That will take the hotel down to 78 rentable units. Smithart said they are focusing on populating rooms with local art, bringing in video games and consoles for the children’s sections, installing flat screens and painting accent walls to brighten the rooms.

“We were never going to do a full revamp this season,” said Smithart about starting the hotel.

When business slows down in the fall, structural work on the balconies and railings facing the West End Mooring Basin will begin. Smithart said Hospitality Management brought in a structural engineer to check the building, and it passed the test. The balconies, which are closed off from rooms right now, will cost Hospitality Management $97,000 to place stability brackets underneath and replace all the railings.

“When I see this as a thriving business, I see the Florida Motor Lodge,” said Davis about his vision for a niche operation. “We want all the car cruises that come through here.”

He and Smithart said it will take this season to establish the hotel and capture the car, motorcycle and other rallies and events. For now, though, the Astoria Riverwalk Inn is open for business. Visit riverwalkastoria.com or call (503) 325-2013 for more information or to make reservations.

 

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