Don’t expect new owners to be taking over the Myrtle Beach property featured last week on the Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible” just yet.
Owners Dewey Hill and Maria Brickwedde say the day may come in a few years when they’ll have to take show host Anthony Melchiorri’s advice and sell the 24-room hotel because the oceanfront property is so valuable, but for now they’re working to improve the 40-year-old hotel and make it profitable.
“Right now, we want to make this work,” Hill said, sitting at a table outside the hotel’s overhauled lobby. “This next year is pivotal. It is absolutely pivotal. We have to have a great year.”
The husband and wife hotel owners say the experts on the show gave them the knowledge to get the hotel – formerly known as the Carnival Motor Inn but transformed on the show to The Waves Hotel at Myrtle Beach – back on track.
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Already bookings for the year are up compared to the same time last year, operations are more efficient and the rooms are on their way to getting a makeover including new floors and other features (about 10 of the 24 rooms are done), Hill said. The renovated rooms are going for about $20 more a night than the others, which still have carpet and darker bedding.
The advice and three months of work with a hospitality consultant have made all the difference, the owners said. In addition, Brickwedde has moved to Myrtle Beach to manage the hotel from the couple’s home about six hours away in Fredericksburg, Va. Hill, an engineering system manager, comes down every few weeks.
“We think we’ve been given the tools to make it work,” Hill said. “Now it is up to us to implement.”
The oceanfront hotel at 25th Avenue North is the first one from the Grand Strand to be seen on “Hotel Impossible,” which features “hotel fixer” Melchiorri getting struggling hotels back on track.
The couple bought the hotel in 2012, but was running it from Virginia through an onsite general manager and maintenance manager. Those employees left just before filming for the show started Jan. 24, and Brickwedde moved here to step in. Looking back, Hill admits there is way more to running the hotel than the longtime Myrtle Beach visitors thought, even though they had managed several units next door at The Palms for years.
“We had no idea it would take this much effort,” Hill said.
The show’s experts swooped in in January for four days of work and filming, and the owners have continued trying to move forward since then.
“It’s still kind of surreal,” Brickwedde said. “We’ve learned something every week.”
The owners have taken the advice to outsource linen service, worked closely with the consultant and fixed maintenance issues that Hill admits had fallen behind during the past six or so years.
“I love the fact that he told the truth,” Hill said of Melchiorri, though he still cringes a bit when he sees the discussion on TV about the ‘car wash’ washing machine and the maintenance problems. “The maintenance issues – they were there. We should have addressed it more aggressively.”
There was a bit of a glitch this week, when TV viewers checking out the show tried to find the hotel’s website but couldn’t, leaving them to wonder if the hotel already had gone bust or been sold. The hotel wasn’t allowed to promote the new name until after the show aired, and the new website went live later the next day. Hill said they also are working to boost social media through Facebook and Twitter.
“We have to get that web presence fully established,” Hill said.
Since the show aired Monday, the hotel has gotten some support from longtime guests and even locals who have stopped by to check out the finished product. Hill has kept Room 504 – the only guest room the show’s experts overhauled – vacant lately so he can show it off if folks drop by wanting to see in person what they watched on TV.
Others are rooting for The Waves because it’s one of the few mom-and-pop hotels left on Myrtle Beach’s bustling Boulevard, Hill said. Many of the family-owned and operated hotels sold their properties during the 2000s, replaced by lodging towers and brand names.
“Everybody is wishing us the best,” Hill said. “They want us to hold on as long as possible.”
But Hill acknowledges that the day will come when he’ll have to sell the property.
“We were the big guys back in 1978,” Hill said, holding a photo showing what was then the Carnival Motor Inn towering over the neighboring structures. “Eventually we won’t be able to compete.”
Still, Hill said he was heartbroken when Melchiorri told him to sell the property.
“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in here,” he said.
After seeing the show, some have stopped by shopping the idea of buying the hotel, but the couple wasn’t taking any offers, Hill said.
“At some point, someone will come along and make us an offer we can’t refuse,” Hill said. “I don’t want to just give this away.”