The Austin Motel Revisited

3 Dec

Even though there is an expensive hotel next door, with fancier soap, I couldn’t imagine visiting Austin and not staying at the Austin Motel. Unless of course it’s packed, which is often the case. This time I checked in, but didn’t see the cardboard cutout of Elvis in the lobby. The girl at the front desk said it was put away because it’s faded and old. A little disappointed because even a faded Elvis is better than none at all, but then I saw the picture of the motel’s owner, Dottye Dean, on the wall. I knew Dottye didn’t put that picture up herself but was afraid to ask.

Dottye’s segment in This Land Is Your Land was one of my favorites of the whole film. She tells a story about the fire that hit the motel a number of years earlier. Instead of firing employees when there were no guests to service, the employees were used to fix up the motel, making it ready for them to re-open again. She didn’t have to let go of any employees during that hard time. And, as Dottye says, if she had been a corporate-owned business, accountable to shareholders, she wouldn’t have been able to do that. With one anecdote, she was able to summarize a big problem in American business today. Accountability to shareholders, instead of people.

When I checked out of the motel a couple days later, I asked the front desk clerk what happened to Dottye. He said she died April 22, 2011 after a struggle with illness. Dottye inherited the business from her mother, and the family tradition continues. Her son Mark is now in the process of relocating his family from Massachusetts to run the motel. Asked if he’s hopeful the motel will stay the same place we love, the desk clerk sighed and said, “I will tell you this… I think we’re shocked by just how employee-friendly she was. The profit margins are very low in this place.”

I’m hopeful they’ll keep it going! In 2011, The Austin Chronicle named The Austin Motel the Best Motel in Austin – for the 15th year in a row. We’ll miss you, Dottye. So Close But Still So Far Out!

http://www.austinmotel.com/

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