First it was the historic Mustang House guesthouse at Third and Montana, then the Cattlemen Motel at Fifth and Montana. Now Lovell native Dr. Shane Mangus of Indianapolis has purchased his third Lovell lodging property in the last 15 months, the Econo Inn on East Main.
Mangus bought the 35-room motel from Chetau Patel of Worland, taking ownership on August 1 and immediately closing the property for a major renovation. The motel was constructed in 1984 and opened as a Super 8.
Why has a successful transplant surgeon living in Indiana purchased three lodging properties 1,200 miles away? For Mangus, it’s simply a way to give his hometown a boost.
“I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful for the community,” Mangus said Tuesday. “It’s not a get rich quick scheme, that’s for sure. I wanted to do something that mattered.”
Mangus said a variety of things have been tried over the years in the community but “didn’t have staying power,” but he said perhaps the most undeveloped sector of the economy in Lovell is tourism, despite many tourist attractions nearby.
“There are 4 million people visiting Yellowstone every year, and those are outside tourist dollars for a community,” he said. “Lovell is very much underserved.”
Of the three major routes to Yellowstone over the Big Horns from northeast Wyoming – U.S. 16 from Buffalo to Worland, U.S. 14 from Sheridan to Greybull and U.S. 14A from Sheridan to Lovell – the most underutilized highway is 14A, Mangus said, stating that about one in 30 cars drive through Lovell.
“Almost nobody” drives through Lovell, Mangus said, and yet 14A has the most amazing attractions including the Medicine Wheel and the Big Horns, the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, the Pryor Mountain wild mustangs and more – “so many things they (the other highways) don’t have.”
“There’s so much to see and do here,” he said. “We’re underserved and have huge potential for growth…And the big problem is accommodations. People go where they can get high quality accommodations at reasonable prices. Lovell didn’t have that until recently.”
First, Mangus purchased the old home and former doctor’s office at Third and Montana and with his Lovell family completely renovated the 1917 structure. Officially called the Mustang House, the property is locally known as the AirBnb since it can be booked through that website.
Next, he purchased the Cattlemen Motel at Fifth and Montana in early July from the Hiser family, who had already renovated and upgraded the 1962 building. The Mangus family has continued work on the exterior, putting in sprinklers, sod and a gazebo in a small park on the site, and adding horseshoe pits and a dog walk.
Mangus said the Cattlemen has had a 90 percent occupancy rate this summer.
But Mangus wanted a property with more impact on the community. He considered building a new motel but said such a project was cost prohibitive, so he engaged Patel about the Econo Inn.
“There were 36 rooms (35 plus a manager’s apartment) sitting there almost empty every single night, and the reason they were empty every night was poor quality,” Mangus said. “In my opinion, the Econo Inn was holding Lovell hostage for growth.
“I could build new, but it was sitting right there underperforming. They wouldn’t upgrade it or put money into it. I wanted to pull out the blockage to allow growth to occur. That’s how I saw it. I felt I needed to aggressively pursue the property.”
Mangus knows he’s not the first to attempt to purchase the motel, noting that “many, many people approached Mr. Patel over the years, but he never wanted to sell it.”
He said he started contacting the owner about year ago and developed a relationship. Brother John Mangus made trips to Worland to personally meet with Patel.
“We wondered what we could do to get him to sell the motel, and he eventually agreed to do it,” Dr. Mangus said.
The purchase involves more than just the motel. The property comes with the RV park behind it, and Mangus is working with Nick Lewis to upgrade that facility and “bring it up to standards.” There are 20 RV/camping spots, each with electricity, sewer and water service, plus high quality wi-fi that will “attract a lot of people,” Mangus said.
Once the road system and landscaping is upgraded, the RV park will be “really, really nice,” Mangus said. He said the shower house with four stalls for men and four for women is in pretty good shape, just needing a new roof and some paint, along with a new washer and dryer. The RV park should be completely renovated by next spring, though rentals could begin this fall, Lewis said.
Meanwhile, the motel has been closed for renovation and completely gutted.
“We didn’t feel it was habitable, certainly not to our standards,” Mangus said. He said he and brother John, the project manager, had hoped to turn around a few rooms quickly but realized that wasn’t possible.
“It’s like any old building. The more you do, the more you find you need to fix,” Mangus said. “There won’t be any shortcuts. It will be like a new property.”
The Mangus brothers, Shane, John and Ryan, are replacing carpet, drapes, toilets, furniture and beds.
“Everything was gutted,” Shane said. “We have bare floors and bare walls. We’re smoothing and repairing the sheetrock and painting it inside and out. We’ll have all new flooring and all new furniture, toilets, vanities and tub/showers. It’s literally a new motel.”
Mangus said the rooms are “good sized” and certainly up to industry standards at 12 by 18 feet for single rooms and 12 by 23 for doubles.
Mangus said the previous owner had been investigating a franchise agreement with Wyndham Hotels, perhaps under the Travelodge brand. Mangus said he likes the idea and is continuing to pursue it, though he would want a brand different than Travelodge, calling it “the lowest level.” He said he may pursue a Days Inn franchise, noting that the renovation would have to be complete and the motel inspected by Wyndham.
“Wyndham is the largest hotel rewards program,” Mangus said. “People seek it out. That’s why we’re looking at it. We would have the only franchised property in Big Horn County.”
As for renovation progress, Mangus said flooring installation and painting is underway, along with bathroom renovation. The manager’s quarters are also being completely redone.
Furniture will be purchased from a JW Marriott property in Scottsdale, Ariz., Mangus said, noting that five-star hotels turn over their furniture frequently, and the nearly new furniture is available at a discounted price.
Also underway is landscaping work. Trees have been trimmed and new sprinklers and sod are being installed.
“Anywhere there should be grass there will be grass,” he said.
Once the flooring and painting work is finished, the furniture will be trucked in. New drapes, linens and towels are already on site. The property should be open for business later this fall.
The final stage of the East Main Street development will be the lot directly east of Haskell Funeral Home known as the Bob Asay Property, so named because of the former owner who ran a discount store there for years. Mangus has purchased the land and will put in a campground development complete with cabins, tent sites and, eventually, teepees. A shower house will be constructed, as well, he said. Most of the work will be done next summer, he noted.
“I have lots of other ideas and plans,” he added. “It’s in my best interest to continue to plan.”
Mangus is an organ transplant surgeon at Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis, one of the top 10 transplant centers in the country, he said.
After helping many patients gain a new lease on life, he’s happy to be doing the same for his hometown.
“I feel like this logjam needed to be broken,” he said. “I feel this will bring lots of tourism to Lovell. I’m excited. It’s going to be great.”