Manu and Kruti Patel
Recorded by Catrin Einhorn
Patel log 1
No breakfast today.
I know. I don’t got time for breakfast. Levels okay?
Um..tell me about the apache, when did you buy it?
Apache Motel: july 17th 1987. Came from Pennsylvania. Made a tour of Chicago about 10-15 times looking for the properties. Finally we end up here.
What drew you to it?
Chicago mainly for the business, big city and most important reason was education for children. 4 daughters they started knocking the college door and the second one was in line, so we’ll go to the place where my children can stay home and go to their choice of college.
What made you buy the apache?
Apache cough, main reason was the fund. The availability the money I had for down payment was just enough to buy a smaller property. It’s north side Chicago…enough money to buy so we got into this place.
How much was it?
650,000 dollar. That’s total price.
It’s not a bargain, but it was a good buy…the condition of the property was very bad at that time.
What was it like?
Totally run down place. Very bad furniture. Infested with roaches. It was sometime we feel bad, roaches would walk on ceiling and they’d fall on people while they were sleeping it was very bad, a very bad condition yes. And started cleaning up the place. Fixing the place. Took about one year to fix the place. We took off from there.
Did you do the work yourself.
Yes. Family. My daughter. I came here with one of my daughters. She was going to college. My 2nd daughter was in high school so we left my wife and my 3 daughters in Norristown PA, came here and rented an apartment. Hired one more couple, some family help and there were four people running the place.
Did you live here?
No, we rented an apartment. Close by.
Describe the improvements you made.
1st thing we did is we get rid of all the furniture, and bought brand new furniture in all the rooms. All new tvs. New carpet. First thing we did. Including the painting we did.
What was furniture like?
WE bought it from Tennessee. Good furn. Brand new. Spent like 2000 dollars / unit for the first year, so like 60,000 dollars to fix the place. Change the whole face of the place.
And then you know, created a good impression in the customers.
What was business like when you first bought the place?
Business was not bad. The vacancy was about 60 percent. Rates were not good. And uh the clientele base was a little rough. In 1987 this neighborhood had gang related people walking and um…some rough people. So it took us time to weed out the people.
How did you do that?
What we did was… a lot of theft going on so I install a smoke warning system which every room has a detector connected to the central office, so whichever room had smoke we would know this room has smoke. Puprpose is sometime, most o fthe time those days, 2 people rent the room and 5 people would be doing party, so you use the smoke detector and smoke detector tells you that now this place has the smoke, so we can control. The 2nd was we installed a door alarm system so whichever the hotel door open we know in the office that this door is open. Sometime people take keys with them and they misuse them so now we had good control over people taking the keys with them. And the tvs were going. We had all new TV so I put tv theft alarm system so anytime you disconnect the TV an alarm goes off in the office. So we gained control over the clientele. I stopped parties. I think rough clientele we weeded out and started getting the better people.
We had a couple times….one time elderly person staying in the hotel and he had a heart attack and he passed away in his room. One time, check out time, one customer wasn’t answering the phone so I go and knock on his door you know…I see the person sleeping on the bed, and then um…
find out that his sugar level was going down so he could not open his eyes. We call paramedics. They came in and they gave him the sugar and he started walking. Excuse me.
Sorry bot that..
Any problems with disorderly guests
That happens. It’s part of the life. Having a different face you always encounter the discrimination. It’s not only from customers, sometime you get it from police department.
For example if I have any problem with a guest I call the police and then they would not cooperate.
They come and for example I had a customer in one room who didn’t want to check out, the check out time is noon. And we keep on calling 1 oclock 1:30 and this guy is threatening us, so I call police. And police came in and they say, you cannot force somebody out. I said it’s check out time, he didn’t pay he needs to go. But they didn’t help. On the contrary this guy, police officer you know, told me let him stay how long he want to you cannot just force people out. I said help me out, ask him to pay the money and he said “that’s your problem” and he walked out.
In those days yes. Now it’s totally different story. We have good relationship with Police department and we don’t’ have no incident now. We control good.
What happened with the guy.
Eventually he left about 4:30.
Did he pay?
Happened about 1990.
So how’s the location been?
This place was built in 1960. and those days this was highway 41 and a good entry into the city of Chicago. We had about 14 hotels on a mile 1/2 stirp. Slowly the ighway system went to 90/94 and the neighborhood dried up big time. Lincoln ave was known for anytime you need a hotel room go to Lincoln ave because you have 14 hotels/motels. So any place you get the hotel. So many people in the 60’s 70’s, they’ll tell us their story about how they came to this place this time or that time. Even coming from out of state. They come back. I had people coming in from CA, Phoenix AZ, Nashvile TN, Florida, they come back. And they talk to you.
Do you see people coming back?
Oh yeah, I mean…few. I want to say maybe 30/40 of them? They still come 1ce a year. I have a lady coming in from Poland. I have a lady coming in from England. They stay here with us. I had a lady from um…Yugoslavia. She stayed here for about 2 years with us.
And I have lady coming in from CA last 11 years every year. Room#3 she know all of us by name and everything.
Same kind of traffic.
Clientelle has changed. Peole coming from out of town to work, or people looking for an apartment, or people displaced from their family. That’s the kind of clientele we get. People that cannot spend the money downtown need clean comfortable accommodation and they come to Lincoln avenue.
There’s not still 14 hotels here.
Not any more. City used up 3 places, one for gateway to park, one for the library and one for the police station. And there maybe couple more going out for the other develoment.
Has anyone made you an offer.
Couple of people came to inquire, but my lot size is not that big.
Couldn’t put a K-mart in there.
For the price and size of the plot it’s not economical to invest.
Have you tought about selling it?
No. I’m gonna keep the place as long as I can. This is our bread and butter. All my children grew up here, they worked here. They are settled down and theres one more to go, but all 16-17 years I’m here. Why move out? I like the place.
Where does the artwork come from.
Furniture…we have a place where they sell the furniture and it’s always a package. You buy kingsized bed, you have kingsized headboard, dresser, credenza, and you have 3/4 lamps, mirror and you have pictures. Its’ standard furniture package.
Who did you buy it from?
Apache motel I buy from a person named Peter Soze. He was foreigner like me, from Yugoslavia. I bought it from him.
Did he have a similar experience as you did.
Yes. Actually he was not running himself. He had hired help and it was not under control. So he sold it out and went into the apartment business.
How long after you bought it did the wife and 3 daughters come.
Within 12 months. My older daughter was in 12th grade so she finished up and we bought a house here…close by.
Now you live in suburbs?
No, city of Chicago, not far from the place.
Cell phone 847 etc.
What kind of tie do you feel to the neighborhood.
We have mixed neighborhood. Mostly Europeans around. I have akorean neighbor a greek neighbor, we have Yugoslavian people around. I think about 14-15 years they know me I know them. Good neighbors.
Chamber of commerce?
Yes, I’m a member of chamber of commerce on Lincoln avenue. I am member of IHLA (Illinois Hotel lodging association) also a member of AAHOA, which is Asian American Hotel owners Association.
We are member with Rosemont convention bureau and also southland and southside.
I have a property by o’hare and close to midway.
D’you have any fond memories of the place?
Let me think. In 1989 I believe it was amnesty program for the foreigners here. Illegal people were here you know and they werew working in different places and then in that program we had opened the door for the hotel. Whoever from India came to apply for the amnesty program they can stay free here and eat free at my place and it was like, for 3 weeks. I had about 80-90 people get green card. And funniest part is 3 months ago I was visiting in TN and one person came in and shook my hand and said manu do you remember me? And I said no. And he said “hold on hold on,” and he bring his wife and his children and then he say, this is the person who help us get the green card and it’s because of him you are here. And he is telling this story again, and said “I told you this story before, but this is the man, he give us free accommodation and free food and everything” and it was a pleasant experience. This exp I got 15-16 time, people come and tell me, “hey you come and help us.”
What made you open your doors like that?
At least you can do that for your country people. Those who need the help.
Never seen them before and I never looked for them after. You don’t have to know the people, you just open the door. They come, they go. Like 5 people will come and stay and they go home and they will come and they will send these people they’ll say “go to this place you got free food, free accommodation and he will help you.” You know, where to go and whatnot. That’s how it happened.
Had you been helped like that?
No. I came to this country immigration status straight.
23.50-24.20 room noise.
Describe where we’re at.
This is apache and it’s a brick building, 2 story, we have 27 units. Hotel was built in 1960 and the great part about the place is the sign if you see the sign, named apache, you see the head of an Indian apache, that is a real introduction to the place. You walk in the place and the best thing you’ll find is people with a smile. Rooms are clean, comfortable. Nice. All the rooms are kingsized, so all beds are king beds. Over the years we have improved the property a lot. Best thing we have done, we take out all the old plumbing from the bathrooms and refinished all the bathrooms so the best thing is the great shower you can have. And the customer looking for a good comfortable bed, nice shower and good reception on the TV. Service with a smile.
The price is affordable. We charge nightly rate is 50 dolllars weekdays, weekend we charge 58 dollars. Compared to downtown, downtown is about 10 miles from this place and o’hare is about 12 miles. So this is centrally located place. Those people who cannot spend the money down town 120-170 dollar rate. This is alternative from those people. In the summetime, most o fthe European clientele, they don’t’ stay down town but they do go downtown and then mccormick place is, I wanna say about 11-12 miles. But still people do the business there and come and stay our place.
We have a mix clientele. Also the other closest community is the Mexican people and Chinese, on west side of our place is biggest Indian community and shopping center so we get the people from all the communites. Our clientele base is very broad.
Is sign original?
This is original sign yes. So many people who keep documents of old Chicago and the changing neighborhood, they have taken the picture of this place and the sign itself with the development going on, some day even if this place vanish you’ll still find it in those books.
What’s the historical significance of it?
This is the beginning, this place, were the beginning places in 1960’s when there was almost nothing in this neighborhood, only hotels and a few stores. And after about 15-20 years, the whole neighborhood developed here. These are original places and apache is one of them.
What caused the boom up here?
Chicago’s growing and they mostly European people they settle in this area. This area is called budlong wood area. And mostly European people up here.
Did something happen ove rhere?
We had a fire last month and one of the customer was smoking in the bed and left cigarette on the bed which start the fire. Only this room #24 was burnt out, but we had the water damage and the smoke damage in so many rooms. We are fixing this place here.
Here it is.
So there was fire here, and the fire department broke the roof and uh now we started fixing of the place.
Was anybody hurt?
Nobody, that’s the lucky part. I think the smoke warning system we have, soon as we hear smoke here we found out there’s smoke here, so the person walk in here, nobody…there was a fire, so he pulled the people out. In five minutes we had the fire department here. The only problem was he left the door open and the wind blew the fire up.
And like this one, this room is ready, the walls are ready for the other treatment. What we are doing right now is called “Wall guard.” It’s a layer of synthetic material beyond the painiting and wall paper, this is more tougher stuff. It’s like aconcrete. I’ll show you down stairs we have done it.
We’ll go this way, there’s people doing it right now.
When did the fire happen?
This process there is one layer there, they’re putting the 2nd layer. It’s totally different place on the wall. This you don’t see in original places.
(scraping of wall guard)
Like, jerry is fixing the balcony here. We rip out everything, all the plumbing. Put the new copper and the bathroom walls is covered with new rock, lifetime thing, cement boards. This place will be good for the next 50 years.
This makes it…
Very strong material (distant)
See they put it on there, and they’ll come back and put the second layer on this one. This’ll be totally different room now. Material we put in they use in Hampton and holiday inn, that’s what I’m using here. IT’s about 2dollars a square feet, it’s expensive, but it’s a lifetime thing.
Keeps it from getting nicked?
Yeah. Even, you cannot put a scratch. Let’s go check it.
So these walls are ready. (Scrapes with keys) you cannot put a scratch even. Nothing
this is the…you can’t do nothing. Laughs. The thing is called Wallguard, it’s guarding the wall. Very good material, how they do it they use a fine sand, and paint the fine sand, and then this paint comes with the synthetic material and that is then applied on the wall using a trowel. You cannot scratch you can do nothing. Spots, you spray it, wipe it, it’s clean.
This is the first time I’m doing it. I mean, for the independent motels, the people cannot afford to spend that much money. But I think we been here for 17 years. Neighborhood is changing, requirement of people is changing, and if we don’t keep up with that, we’d be wiped out. So we started going ahead with the time for the type of clientele we have.
How is your clientel changing?
I’m putting internet for customers to use it. Free internet. Soon we’ll have our own web. Looking at my clientele we have a lot of foreigners coming into our place. So we advertise the place on the web and if um…the place is good, then whoever will come will come back again. Even right now, 60 percent of our clients are repeat. 60% and they see the improvement.
You like the process? You seen this thing before? This is totally a new thing coming up.
It’s got a cool feel to it too.
It still must cure of a few days you know. It’ll be a good room I think. You know. I already have purchased the carpet and they’ll be installing by Thursday and my daughter is purchasing the furniture and so byt his time Thursday this room wil be ready.
All within one week.
You clean the floor and install carpet. This will take 2 hours to install carpet, plug in lamsp and you’re good to go.
Bathroom is obviously not done. Like I told you gutting out the whole bathroom and put new drywall and everything is ready to go. Clean the place. All the bathrooms.
You seem to know lot’s of the nuts and bolts of the place.
25 years in the hotel business. Since I came to America I am working in motels. I can do the plumbing I can do the electrical work, I can install the TV, I can install the fire alarm system, I can paint. Just about anything you have to do you can do it, I can do it myself.
That would give you a good connection to the place?
Yes. It’s experience and in any business it’s not only increasing your gross can increase your bottom line. You increase your gross income and you decrease your expensive. Unless you know how to do yourself you can’t do it yourself.
Yeah…even this wiring. This the alarm system I was talking about I did the wiring myself. I started doing the wiring. And I did the wiring from the smoke warning there. If I call somebody to do it they will charge me like 60 and 70 dollars and hour to do it and would cost me end of the day all the wiring and connecting and this thing about 2000 dollars. I do it myself that’s the saving you’re talking about.
You own a couple chains as well?
We have a super 8 in o’hare market and we have a days in on southside on Cicero and 127th st.
Are you allowed to have the same kind of control Could you go in and rewire.
I installed the telephone system in both places. Also I install the surveillance system and the cameras you see there, doing the recording, I installed it myself. There’s a camera right there, one camera here. Little round thing there.
And even when we do 24-7 recording. It’s on a hard drive so you wanna see something happen 2 months ago I can show you.
Can we have a look at the office?
That’s my wife.
What’s down there?
That’s a basement. Hotwater heating cooling and laundry in the basement.
I install and fix the ice machine myself. Just a small office and um, we have a computer for the property management. See the yellow wire there, it’s ready to go for the internet. This wire there is for the smoke warning system. The red lights those are the rooms that are underconstruction. If somebody take out the smoke detector it gives us a red light here. So you can identify which room has a smoke detector. And this 2nd light went off that’s the tv set alarm and that’s the door alarm. A light goes on everytime you open the door. That gave us a little more control over people walking into the room. I installed everything myself. There’s a camera there, and I have a monitor right there give you which place you can see.
I have a recording device in the back on a hard drive.
How much time have you spent in this office?
Nowadays I hardly spend anytime in the office. Sometime I have to help but I really am fixing the place or renovating this place. If not this one the other one if not that one then the other one.
My first round is here always every day and last round is here every day. Other place, I’m there as needed, but this place I’m here everyday.
What’s a round?
Yeah, I’m…any hotel it’s too many things you’re controlling from employees to supplies to maintenance to guest complaints to building maintenance. Those things you have to take care of every day.
I think we talked enough about the place. I don’t know anything else. The one you see the plant here. That’s called a money plant. Grow grow money! It’s growing it grows all the way out to the front there. It’s called money plant.
Strings winding around and growing.
Give you a little greenery here in the office. I have to tell you the story about this plant.
(ice machine noise)
1990 this plant somebody gave me. I went to o’hare airport to drop my wife off and I dropped her off and she forgot something so I ran after her to give her the things she forgot. And incidentally those people that tow the cars was standing next to me. So as soon as he saw me walking away, he pulled my car. So I say why are you pulling and he say, you walked away and so I pulled your car.
So I went to, you have to go ina bus an go to a towing place to pay the money. Rate was like 125 dollars you have to pay. I had one gentleman, his car was towed so he came ton the same bus and these people asked for the money. This man walked out of his office, gave ride to his colleague, had no money. HE left his wallet in the office. This guy would not release the car. So I told him here is the money I’ll pay for you. And you can take your car.
He say how can you do that? You don’t even know me? I say you’re in trouble right? He says yes. I say you don’t have no money. He say yes. You cannot go to your place unless somebody come with your wallet here. You want to go do that or you want my help? He says I’m just…I can’t believe you want to help me that way. He got his car and he took my card for the hotel and said I’ll send you the money.
In 3 hours I had a messenger. He bring this plant and a check for the money I paid for him. And on the message was “I never thought that I’d help like I did to me, but now, rest assured anytime anybody need help, I’ll do it.” How many years now, 15, this plant is still here.
Did he ever stya here?
No, he was a corporate guy.