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Stevens graduate gives motel a new lease on life
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Motel gets a new lease on life

Stevens graduate gives motel a new lease on life

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What was once an eyesore on Rapid City's north side now has new life and much more than a fresh coat of paint.

Lorraine Fuss, a Stevens High School graduate, purchased the Corral Motel on East North Street back in September 2018 with a dream to turn the run-down property into a place of promise.

"I drove down East North Street and noticed that the Corral Motel had a ‘For Sale’ banner on it. I had driven by the building many times throughout my childhood and it always caught my eye," the 21-year-old said. "When I passed by it this time, it not only caught my eye, but it sparked an idea. I thought to myself that this building has the potential to be turned into something great."

Fuss took a chance and decided to contact the real estate agent to take a look at the dilapidated relic of times gone by.

"The next day, I toured every room in the motel and let’s just say the place left a lot of room for improvement," she said. "It hurt my heart seeing this, but I realized that this was my chance to make a difference."

She took that chance and contacted the motel's former owner. Putting her negotiating skills to work, she reduced the asking price by $65,000. But being a young entrepreneur brought new challenges to surface.

"I had minimal credit, no experience and little money to my name. I knew that no bank would finance me, so I had to seek out private funding," she said. "I was able to convince a private lender to loan me the money to take on this project."

The Corral Motel needed considerable work to bring it back to life, Fuss said. That's when another business lesson was learned.

"After beginning the renovations, I quickly learned how expensive labor and materials were," she said. "I was overwhelmed with the cost of remodeling and thought that there was no way I could make this work. I then started taking a new approach to the renovations."

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That new approach led Fuss to look for second-hand items for the decor of the classic roadside motel. She said she went to garage sales, thrift stores and junkyards to find retro materials for every room look while working on a tight budget.

"I went out every Saturday morning to hunt at garage sales for items, and I stuck with the western, rustic, cowboy theme because of its name," Fuss said of the Corral Motel.

While breaking down the walls in the old rooms, Fuss discovered hidden gems.

"I learned that all of the rooms were equipped with tiny kitchenettes when the motel was originally built," Fuss said. "The plumbing was all there to put a kitchen sink and stove back in each room."

The discovery sparked a new interest for Fuss.

"During the renovation phase, I learned that Rapid City had a shortage of affordable housing," she said. "I changed my business model from a motel to an affordable housing apartment complex."

After two years of work, Fuss' dream is now a reality with 21 units that rent for $700 a month. The Corral Motel opened as an affordable housing option for Rapid City, with an eclectic mix of decor that harkens back to the glory days of classic roadside motels but with modern conveniences.

"The apartment complex reminds me of a tiny house community. Although the apartments are on the small side, they have everything one could need," Fuss said. "You can cook, shower, sleep, do laundry, have Wi-Fi and watch cable on a flat screen, smart TV. All of the utilities are included with the rent. I tried to think of everything someone would need or want to be comfortable and safe inside their apartment."

Through it all, Fuss said the experience taught her about business, the pitfalls and the discoveries that come with it, and the chance to make Rapid City a better place for all.

"I may have gone out on a limb with this idea, but I am hoping it will be a successful tiny living community."

The Corral Motel is located at 210 E. North Street. For more information, contact Fuss at 605-430-3449.

Contact Nathan Thompson at nathan.thompson@rapidcityjournal.com.

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