Nov 182015


VICTORVILLE — An iconic car dealership that’s been located on Route 66 for more than six decades is changing hands after drawing countless car buyers and thousands of tourists.

Owner Patrick Matlach of Desert Motors said the car lot’s nostalgic neon sign, with its curved yellow arrow, will still shine bright long after he hands over the dealership to his friend, Sam Shihab. Desert Motors opened in 1951 and has been in its current location on D Street near First Street in Old Town Victorville since 1954.
Sam is the owner of Sid’s Automotive, which is located across the street, and European Automotive in Victorville,” Matlach told the Daily Press. “He’s been around for nearly 20 years and he’s a good man that I fully trust to keep the legacy of this dealership alive.”

The 85-year-old Matlach, who decided to hand the business over to Shihab due to health issues, said Shihab has big plans for the dealership that once supplied the movie industry with classic cars and has been photographed by tourists from all over the world.
“The lot is empty now because I’m just focusing on gathering up and closing accounts,” Matlach said. “Once Sam takes over, I’m sure that will change.”
Shihab said he understands the cultural significance of Route 66 and its shared history with the rise of the automobile industry, and he spoke of the importance of keeping “Patrick’s legacy alive through the dealership.”
“Long after the popularity of Route 66 faded, Patrick continued to sacrifice so much to keep this place thriving,” Shihab said. “The place will still remain Desert Motors and we will keep that nostalgic feel. We will also be known once again as the Route 66 Car Garden, a fitting name for the longest running used-car dealership on Route 66.”

Matlach said part of the nostalgic feel of the car lot is the multiple strings of clear-glass light bulbs that once shined on newly-waxed cars at night.
“You came around that bend in the road and you were greeted by a magical glow of lights,” Matlach said. “It was like moths being drawn by the light. You know, many of those moths drove off in a Chevy, Ford or Chrysler.”
As Matlach thumbed through the book “Route 66: Lives on the Road,” he explained that in 1954 he moved the dealership, once located closer to Interstate 15, to its present location after the construction of the first bypass to downtown Victorville began.
“That bypass really cut into our business because all that traffic from San Bernardino to Barstow did not come through here,” Matlach said. “Before moving down the road a bit, I must have sold 600 cars a year in that old lot.”
Matlach said he still remembers selling his first car, “a light-green, ‘33 Chevy Deluxe, four-door, with twin mounts and a trunk in the back,” to his friend, “a man by the name of Willie Green.”

“He lived across the tracks and he was my best booster because he said I treated people right,” Matlach said. “He was a wonderful friend who was also a hard-working family man.”
Matlach said when Green was in his 70s, he grabbed his 50-year old son by the ear and dragged him into the dealership after he discovered that his son was late on a car payment.
Matlach opened the car lot while stationed at George Air Force Base and serving in the Air National Guard. He added that opening the Victorville business was a continuation of a passion for selling cars.
“I opened my first used car lot at age 19 in St. Louis, right on 4955 Natural Bridge Avenue,” said Matlach as a BNSF train rolled past his lot. “Besides Victorville, I opened car lots in Fontana, San Bernardino and Austin, Texas.”

According to Matlach, Desert Motors once supplied vehicles for TV shows such as “77 Sunset Strip,” which aired in the 1950s and ‘60s, and for various movies such as “Angel Face,” starring Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons.
“James Dean drove a really beat-up old Duesenberg that I restored,” Matlach said. “I think that old Duesenberg was used in the movie ‘Giant.’ And the Jaguar was used in the ‘Angel Face’ movie where the roadster goes off the cliff.”
According to Shihab, Matlach’s experience helped him to create a solid and trusted reputation, and helped him to achieve, at one time, the status of president of the California Independent Automobile Dealers Association and National Independent Automobile Dealers Association.
Shihab said his dream is to restore Desert Motors back to the prominence that it once held by transforming the lot back to the shining gem that once sparkled along Route 66.
“I couldn’t find a better place to fulfill that dream, and a better coach and mentor than Pat Matlach,” Shihab said. “He’s a man with great history behind him since 1951, and I would like to be the continuation of that legacy here at Desert Motors.”

By Rene Ray De La Cruz – VV Daily Press

Oct 262015


Victorville landmark draws in locals for celebration and car show

A local landmark that more often garners a mostly international audience drew in hundreds of locals Saturday to celebrate its 20-year anniversary of preserving the history of “The Mother Road.”
The mission of the California Route 66 Museum in Old Town Victorville is to “preserve and increase” interest in “all aspects of history and heritage related to the road,” which it has been doing since it opened its doors in 1995. With three display rooms and a gift shop, the 5,000-square-foot former Red Rooster Cafe location remains entirely free for admission, accepting contributions from patrons and donors.

Museum President Susan Bridges said it’s unfortunate that “all the locals don’t know this place at all.”
Bridges said that about 75 percent of the museum’s business comes from visitors from all around the world.
“We want to let people know that this used to be a prime area,” Bridges said.
She said the ongoing Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority construction project has taken a large toll on Old Town shops, including the Best Deal Furniture store that recently closed its doors after 20 years of business.
Best Deal joined the row of 17 other buildings between A and D streets on the east side of Seventh Street that were once open businesses that have shuttered their doors, according to a previous Daily Press article.
The museum continues to thrive however, and with Route 66 turning 90 years old next year, it will likely gain even greater attention.

California Historic Route 66 Association board member Scott Piotrowski traveled from Glendale to attend the Victorville museum anniversary celebration, providing information about the group to attendees.
The big buzz for the association is the Route 66 90-year anniversary national festival planned to take place in Los Angeles next year. Piotrowski said they expect at least 50,000 attendees at the festival, but are hoping for more than 100,000.

The main event of Saturday’s celebration was the car show, an annual display of classic cars ranging from hot rods to rat rides.
Among the cars was a 1963 Ford Galaxie replica of the Mayberry Sheriff’s car used in the Andy Griffith Show, and a unique 1936 Ford Custom pickup truck with a 1983 Volvo built in a custom rod shop.

A celebrity of the Route 66 community was also at the event, National Classic Miss Route 66, Monica Burrola, decked in her sash and stetson to sign and take photos with visitors.
Burrola said she didn’t know a lot about the road when her son’s girlfriend asked her to participate in the pageant for the Classic Miss Route 66 for women more than 50 years old.
The next thing you know, I had a love for the road,” Burrola said. “The coolest part is all of the people on the highway.”

By Charity Lindsey – Desert Dispatch

Oct 062015


There’s no getting away from it – San Bernardino in the fall means classic cars and Route 66.
Gleaming chrome and the throaty roar of souped-up engines.

A little drive down Memory Lane.
On Saturday, car buffs can do it all again, cruisin’ back to E Street, where it all began.
The third annual “Where it All Began — Rendezvous Back to Route 66” (and back to downtown) revs up the memories — the good old days of cruising in classic cars and nostalgia for the Mother Road.
So polish up that chrome until it gleams, the candy-apple red paint until it dazzles — happy days are here again.

Join the 400 already registered car enthusiasts from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday when a community comes together for all-day entertainment, cars. cruisin,’ food and fun.
This year’s edition again celebrates the glory days of San Bernardino’s love affair with the automobile, going back to the city’s roots as a “car town.”
The event, presented by the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of San Bernardino, returns to downtown San Bernardino at Court Street Square.

Judi Penman, chamber president and CEO, says this year’s edition keeps the spirit of the Route 66 Rendezvous alive in San Bernardino.
“I want this to be a community project,” she said. “We want to have something San Bernardino can be proud of again. We’ve brought together San Bernardino City Unified School District, Parks and Recreation, the YMCA, City Hall, the Neighborhood Association Council and nonprofits to help make this a wonderful event,” she said.
Dave and Mary Raphael of Long Beach are especially glad to see the Route 66 celebration back in downtown San Bernardino.
They are owners of a 1948 Ford Woodie they had taken to the traditional Rendezvous for 10 consecutive years.

“We had it on the stage with the Beach Boys back in the ‘80s when we first finished it. Then, it was at the San Bernardino Beach Boys concert a few years ago,” Mary said.
“It has been on TV and movies and weddings and mostly to the beach with our family. We can hardly wait for Oct. 10.”
There will be lots of neon and thunder, but you’ll also get to hear the sounds of the Beach Boys — thanks to Chris Farmer and his Beach Boys Tribute Band.
You can enjoy fantastic food and a Car-toberfest Beer Garden and creative kids’ games including a toy train for the little ones to ride.

Look for a variety of merchandise vendors, while food vendors offer tastes from different countries, including the U.S., Mexico and Asian countries. Of course, there will be bratwurst to make “Cartoberfest” official.
Two Beer Gardens will be on site offering tastes of Anheuser Busch fine products.
The Beach Boys Tribute Band is set for 4:30 p.m. at Court Street Square — and dancing in the streets is allowed.
Also, Thumper the DJ will be playing those memorable tunes from the ‘50s and ‘60s and maybe even some newer ones throughout the day.

And then, the thunder rolls.
Following the Beach Boys concert is the Open Header Contest, judged by John Mihovetz, known for his Accufab Lucas Oil 2010 Mustang Shelby pro street race car.
So then comes the Grand Finale, a Neon Light Parade with all the cars participating.
Get ready for awesome — the neon light parade should be a lot like low fireworks.
There should even be some ooohs and a few ahhhs.
People’s Choice Awards, designed by Quiel Bros. Signs, will be presented to the best of the best.
It’s so good to have “Rendezvous Back” back.

– By Michel Nolan, The Sun

Aug 102015


We are privileged to be one of the first to be asked to help get the word out to the Route 66 Community about this opportunity.

Unique opportunity to buy, own and operate turnkey, a successful restaurant business on Route 66!
Serious inquiries only, full financial disclosure available upon signed confidentiality agreement.
Send all inquires via email to ONLY!
Please do not call the restaurant directly and do not inquire within.
For sale is Rockin’ Ys’ Roadhouse in Tucumcari, New Mexico FOR SALE by Owner.

Rockin’ Ys’ Roadhouse is a successful business on Route 66 in Tucumcari, at a prime corner location on one of Tucumcari’s 2 busiest intersections, at the corner of Route 66 and Mountain Road, near Interstate 40 and Highway 54. Near Kmart, Tractor Supply, 2 commercial truck stops and several Route 66 motels. The restaurant itself is 3,800sq.ft. and seats up to 145, including kitchen, small gift shop business and a private dining area.
Rockin’ Ys’ Roadhouse serves traditional American cuisine, Mexican food and has a Beer & Wine license. The property included sits on 3 1/2 lots totaling 68,589sq.ft. plus 2 out buildings. There is additional frontage road land available separately if interested. Rockin’ Ys’ Roadhouse is a AAA Diamond rated restaurant, it’s owners were awarded New Mexico Restaurateurs of the Year in 2011 and it is consistently top ranked on TripAdvisor, Yelp, UrbanSpoon and more. The restaurant has many recent upgrades including: new website, signage and electronic reader board, kitchen equipment and seating. Owner will consider partial financing assistance. Great opportunity for retired couple with family, as well as room for financial growth.

The owners are looking towards retirement, but would obviously like to see a buyer from within the Route 66 community globally, that would have interest in retaining a family owned mom & pop business on the route…

Jun 262015


In San Bernardino, they don’t stroll down Memory Lane, they cruise it.

Memory Lane is E Street, one of the main north-south streets that crosses Route 66 in the city.

If you turned the clock back 50 years, you’d see gleaming chrome and hear engines revving as the “Happy Days” moments of cruising, ice cream shops and bobby socks helped define a generation.

Back then, cruising was bumper to bumper.

San Bernardino was the car-cruising capital of Southern California from the late 1940s to the early 1970s.

Memories of cruisin’ E Street in 1955, stopping at Carnation Ice Cream and grabbing 15-cent burgers at McDonald’s are etched into the city’s collective memory.

An important chapter in San Bernardino’s history.

Steve Portias, a 1967 graduate of San Bernardino High School, says he was born at the perfect time.

The consummate “car guy,” Portias said the culture got its start in the 1930s and ’40s, when young drivers would go for “land speed records” at the El Mirage dry lake bed, near Adelanto.

“The most popular car at the time was the 1932 Ford — everyone wanted one,” said Portias, a member of the San Bernardino Historical Society and president of Inland Vans Berdoo, a car club that’s been around since the late 1960s.

“Most guys customized their cars to attract the girls,” said Portias, now 65.

Think “American Grafitti” or “Grease.”

“All towns had a cruise route, but San Bernardino was known as ‘the car town.’”

By the early ’70s, car clubs were huge, and the Over the Hill Gang, which had its roots at San Gorgonio High School, developed the car club culture, according to Portias.

Danny Castro, board member and former president of the California Historical Route 66 Association, remembers getting his first “muscle car” in 1971.

It was a baby blue 1964 Mustang Fast Back, he said, with four speeds and a 302 engine.

At the time, those cars we think of as “classics,” were cheap, said Castro, who always had several cars at the same time.

“You could get a ’64 GTO for $400,” he said. “But a car that might cost $500 to $800 would be bought by Europeans and then sold for $8,000.”

Cruisers in their heyday would stop at Eros and Bogart’s, a popular E Street nightclub and the former Orange Bowling Alley with a nice wooden dance floor.

San Bernardino was a happening place, attracting popular and up-and-coming bands at its venues.

The first time Van Halen played in front of an audience was at Eros and Bogart’s, and he introduced the band as “a garage band out of Pasadena.”

But things started changing in the ’80s, and as E Street declined, so did cruising.

The former nightclub is now a thrift store on E Street, between Ninth and 10th, Portias said.

Car shows became popular, but the car culture hit a new low when E Street died.

Enter Route 66 and the revitalization of the city with souped-up classic cars.

When the city’s classic car culture intersected with San Bernardino’s stretch of Route 66 (along Fifth Street), a national car culture rose up from the asphalt of the Mother Road.

Route 66, the legendary strip of highway running between Santa Monica and Chicago, dubbed “The Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in his 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” has connected a cultural cross-section of Americans since it was paved in 1937.

Cruisers were back on the road again.

Between 1991 and 2013, San Bernardino hosted the Stater Bros. Route 66 RendezvousCalifornia’s ode to the Mother Road — in the city’s downtown streets.

Roadies and car buffs could tell the stories and relive the memories of traveling in vintage vehicles across California’s vast yawning desert.

The huge automotive street fair, which celebrated cruisin’, classic cars and hot rods, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to the three-day event.

In 2013, the Rendezvous was put on hiatus after the city filed for bankruptcy and the state eliminated funding for the San Bernardino Convention and Visitors Bureau, producers of the event.

Fast forward to the present.

No matter how crazy the city is about classic cars, it’s the positive aspect of shining a light on San Bernardino that has so many people looking forward to this weekend.

On Saturday, the prestigious Great Race cross-country car rally comes to San Bernardino to join forces with local Route 66 car buffs in a huge celebration that includes yet another car culture.

The 2015 Great Race, this year themed “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” will transform downtown streets with 120 vintage cars.

Great Racers, who start arriving at 5:30 p.m. from their weeklong journey, will join the 1,000 classic American cars on display, with festivities including live music, a veterans parade, chili cook-off, food trucks, craft beer garden, stagecoach rides and vendors in the downtown area,

San Bernardino’s Great Race Committee, headed by city Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Mickey Valdivia, has been working since early February to plan the event.

These days they are sprucing up the area around City Hall.

“We are getting the landscaping cleaned up, flowers planted and the Route 66 Cruisin’ Hall of Fame wall restored so it will look its best for the big event,” Valdivia said.

Sign painter and muralist Robb McDermott has been working on the wall for nearly a week.

McDermott, who owns a sign-painting company in Redlands, worked in three-digit temperatures giving the wall its face-lift for the Great Race event.

A self-taught muralist and painter, he is a San Bernardino native who looks forward to the festivities.

Welcoming signs are elsewhere in the city.

Great Race banners hang across downtown streets and at the former Arts on Fifth Street gallery, “This is San Bernardino,” a new public art project by poet Juan Delgado and photographer Thomas McGovern, will be unveiled Saturday in the windows of Arts on Fifth, 468 W. Fifth St., just in time for Great Race day.

The classic event, which showcases Americana and its diversity, would not be complete without a veterans’ parade and vintage military vehicles, as well as hundreds of small flags for bystanders lining the parade route beginning at 4 p.m.

Veterans’ services and a mobile service office for Disabled American Veterans will also be on hand.

So prepare to be amazed as San Bernardino recaptures its glory days — and once again, the shine will come from gleaming chrome.

By Michel Nolan – The Sun

Jun 232015


The 24th outdoor mural in downtown Pontiac made its debut on June 18, just in time for the Hang Loose weekend. It was placed on the eastern exterior wall of Edinger’s Filling Station at 423 W. Madison St.

Unlike the first 18 murals, which were painted in the summer of 2009 by the Walldogs — a collection of sign painters and muralists — the newest edition to the outdoor art collection was designed by international artist Tang Dongbai.
The mural portrays a red 1926 Pontiac driving past a cafe on Route 66. The vehicle Dongbai used for reference is currently on display in the Pontiac-Oakland Museum and Resource Center. According to, “The Oakland Motor Car Company was formed in 1907 by Edward Murphy, founder of Pontiac Buggy Company. In 1909, the company became part of General Motors. By 1926, the company was in full production of the Pontiac and the higher-priced Oakland.” The Pontiac brand was created by General Motors President Alfred Sloan. It was intended to be priced between the $525 Chevrolet and the $900 Oldsmobile.”

Like the vehicle, work on Route 66 also began in 1926, after the Bureau of Public Roads launched the nation’s first federal highway system. Like the Mother Road, which was a cobbling of existing local, state and national road networks, the new mural ties Pontiac automobiles to Route 66 and the city of Pontiac to the international interest in Route 66.

“Since Route 66 and the Pontiac automobile are centerpieces of our tourism efforts, we thought it would be great to have a mural that would combine them,” City Administrator Bob Karls said. “With 1926 being the beginning of both of them, we thought that was a neat way to tie them together.”
Becky Edinger, co-owner of Edinger’s Filing Station, said when she and her husband, Jimm, purchased the building, they talked to the city about the mural process. Other than the initial conversation, Edinger said the city took care of everything, picking both the mural and the artist.

“When we were looking at purchasing the building last summer, we knew we would have a big space that we could use to add to the murals downtown,” Edinger said. “I think it adds some extra curb appeal to the building and brings tourists who are taking the mural tour a little bit further outside the square.”
In the upper-right-hand corner of the mural is a cafe. Although there is no signage, the cafe represents Jimmie’s Super Mart Grocery, which was owned and operated by Jimmie and Mary Hicks from 1946 until 1972. The business was one of the original buildings on Ladd Street, constructed in 1926, according to Dave Sullivan, an avid fan of Route 66 and a local historian.

“I just think it’s great that we can feature a mural on the side of our building that depicts part of Pontiac history,” Edinger said. “Customers like it, too. We posted pictures on our Facebook page and they have done well.”
Work on the mural was completed in Dongbai’s International Airbrush Art School nearby. For transport, the piece was split into four sections and covered with clear coat.
“Every five years or so we have to put a new clear coat on the murals, but it’s been pretty light maintenance,” Karls said.

Luke Smucker – Pontiac Daily Leader

May 202015


In their latest installment of the AARP Phoenix History Series, come and learn about Arizona’s Historic Route 66 on Thursday, July 23 at 9 a.m. at the AARP State Office in Peoria!

Guest presenter, Libby Coyner of the Arizona Archives will explore how Route 66 was once one of the most famous highways in America.

Established in 1926, Route 66 once served as a roadway for many who escaped the Dust Bowl of the 1930s to head west to California.

Come and learn the rich history of this famous highway and how it still plays a role in Arizona’s rich history! Registration is requested for this free event as seating is limited. Breakfast refreshments will be served.
Click here to register!

May 192015


The Albuquerque Development Commission’s selection of a developer to resurrect the historic but rundown De Anza Motor Inn in east Nob Hill has been appealed by the company that came in second place.

De Anza Co., which includes Albuquerque businessman Jerry Landgraf, argues in its appeal to the City Council that its 65-room boutique hotel concept was shortchanged in a “scoring matrix” used to rank five proposals submitted for the project.

In its “Explanation of Appeal,” De Anza Co. also criticized the winning proposal by Anthea@Nob Hill, which is headed by Bill Smith of Construct Southwest and TLC Plumbing founder Dale Armstrong. Anthea envisions 30 furnished apartments rented like extended-stay motel rooms.

Contacted for comment on the appeal, Smith said in an email Tuesday, “We are excited about performing on this development for the City and Nob Hill and look forward to helping revitalize the area with a high end property that will have a positive economic impact.”

The five-member redevelopment commission makes the final decision on who redevelops city-owned property. Appeals of those decisions go to the council, which rejected similar appeals on what became Villa de San Felipe apartments in 1999 and El Vado Motel in 2014.

Both the De Anza Co. and Anthea proposals include restaurants. De Anza Co.’s $13.8 million emphasizes historic preservation with a tourist-oriented Route 66 theme, while Anthea’s $8.2 million proposal calls for substantial new construction and a focus on the business traveler.

De Anza’s appeal argues that its original proposal document was more detailed and based on a more realistic business analysis than Anthea’s rival proposal, yet received lower scores in several components of the scoring matrix, such as financial structure and financial capacity.

In addition to Landgraf, who owns redeveloped properties in Nob Hill, De Anza Co. principals are Trip Rothschild and Eric von Starck, both of Santa Fe,

By  – Albuquerque Journal

May 182015


Sputnik will twinkle again. Crews from Ace Sign. Co. of Springfield removed the iconic satellite over the weekend from its decades’-long perch atop the soon-to-be-demolished Bel-Aire Motel building.

The fiberglass ball of spikes, frayed wires and burned-out, multi-colored bulbs was in pieces Monday on a warehouse floor at the Ace Sign headquarters, 2540 S. First St.

Plans are to restore Sputnik for inclusion in a company museum of vintage Springfield signs.
We spoke with the owners, and they were very gracious,” said Dennis Bringuet, president of Ace Sign Co. “We told them we had a little museum here, and we were just getting started. They thought it would be a nice home for it and donated it.”
The last of the residents moved out of the Bel-Aire, 2636 S. Sixth St., early this year. The property is scheduled for demolition as part of settlement with the city of chronic code violations.

Sputnik won’t be ready for Tuesday’s dedication of an Ace Sign Co. museum through Local First Springfield, a shop-local business organization. The museum resulting from 75 years in the sign business is a neon who’s who of the city’s retail-commercial history from The Hub clothing store downtown to Reisch Brewery.
The best guess, according to the Bringuet family, was that Sputnik went up at the Bel-Aire in the early 1960s. Sputnik signs’ were common across the country as a way of grabbing traveler attention in the years after the former Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, into space in 1957.

After years of neglect and exposure to the elements, restoring Sputnik to its twinkling, multi-color glory likely will take a little creative tinkering, according to Bringuet.
“The electronics are antiquated,” he said. “The flasher made all the bulbs twinkle. They’d all come off and on at different times. We may have to do some searching to try to find that device.”
“Flashers aren’t used these days. A lot of municipalities have outlawed flashing signs.”

Sputnik completes an orbit in the sign business for Bringuet’s parents, Joe and Louise. The sign museum is named in their honor.
Joe Bringuet recalled installation of the original wooden and metal signs at the Bel-Aire, followed a few years later by Sputnik. He said the then-Bel-Aire owners purchased the Sputnik from a manufacturer in California.
“They made them as a specialty. They had salesmen on the road that would really target motels,” he said. “That (Sixth Street) was city Route 66.”
The Springfield Sputnik, said Bringuet, was a low-end model for its time. More expensive models, he said, would rotate. Bringuet also recalled seeing the real Sputnik in the skies over central Illinois in 1957. Historians credit the launch of Sputnik 1 with kicking off the space race and the eventual U.S. landing on the moon.
“In the evening, right at sundown,” said Bringuet, “it would shine on the bottom side of Sputnik, as it took its orbital flight around the world. You could sit in the yard and see it, because it wasn’t real high.”

Ace also installed a large, metal sign on the roof and a wooden “town crier” sign on the lawn of the Bel-Aire.
“It had a colonial man with a colonial hat,” said Joe Bringuet. “He had three bells on a flasher, and the bells would go up and down with an arm that would go with it. It was pretty neat for its time.”
Joe, 85, and Louise, 86, continue to work five days a week at the company now headed by their son. Louise Bringuet’s parents, Franklin and Alvina Horn, started Ace Sign Co. in 1940 with one truck and a handful of paintbrushes, according to a company history. Early company signs are part of the museum.

Joe Bringuet does much of the vintage-sign restoration work, while Louise works in the front office. Both said they had no plans to retire.
“There’s nothing to do at home but work,” Louise said with a smile.
In Joe’s case, 2015 marks 65 years at the company.
“She’s the boss’s daughter, and it was job security,” he said. “I married her.”
His next restoration, a vintage Anheuser-Busch neon sign, is in the works, said Joe, who speaks with detailed enthusiasm about his projects.
Why sit at home on the porch waiting to die,” he said, “when we can die here.”

By Tim Landis – The State Journal-Register

Mar 222015


Another classic Route 66 motel is being turned into ‘affordable housing’.

A child’s hand-drawn pictures adorn the walls. The television plays cartoons and Duchess, a bearded dragon lizard, rests in an aquarium next to a humming refrigerator. Jax, the family dog, sits on a bed.

Food, dishes and utensils nestle in milk crates, and a massive tool box occupies space next to the door.

Mom and dad sleep on the queen bed on the right by the door. The girl sleeps on the queen to the left.

“We get funny looks when we say we live in a motel,” said Mandi Creel, 23.

Mandi, daughter Arianna, 6, and husband Albert, live at the 66 Motel in Flagstaff, and now they can focus on saving money to find a more permanent place to live. The motel was taken over by a new nonprofit called ANEW Living at the beginning of the month.

“It provides a room to call a home,” said Lori Barlow, executive director of ANEW Living.

The mission: “ANEW Living offers a unique approach to meeting the housing needs our our community by converting older distressed motels into affordable housing alternatives. The rooms and small apartments available at ANEW Living are offered as a step up from the traditional transitional housing facilities while continuing to provide on-site services geared towards renewing and restoring hope to individuals and families seeking to end their cycle of homelessness and build pathways to a healthy productive lifestyle promoting self-sufficiency.”

Barlow, former executive director at Flagstaff Shelter Services, said that her experiences at the shelter prompted her to work toward making ANEW Living a reality.

“I saw a huge lack in affordable housing for working people,” Barlow said. “I saw many people at the shelter with jobs who couldn’t make that leap to apartment and home.”

She cited expensive rents and low-paying jobs as the primary barriers for people at the shelter being able to make that leap. ANEW helps with that, she said.

So, she approached the pastor of her church, Church for the Nations, and the church agreed to be the nonprofit sponsor agency to offer temporary financial backing. Barlow was quick to add that her organization is a secular one, and there are no requirements for religious activity.

The motel, leased from owner Indu Patel, has 20 rooms for about 40 people that vary from single occupancy to apartment size.


The expenses for the new project are the lease payment, utilities and insurance with a budget of about $149,000, Barlow said. Projected revenues, including fundraising, are $162,000. The money left over will be applied toward fixing the damaged rooms. The ReStore at Habitat for Humanity has been instrumental in donating supplies and materials.

“Our residents are all pitching in and donating all the labor,” Barlow said. “We have several tenants in construction.”

The residents who help receive deductions off their rent payments.

The bottom line, Barlow said, is that without the repairs, the organization would be self supportive, but the building is nearly 60 years old and has very little work done to it over the years – with plumbing, water heater replacements, roof repairs and electrical upgrades.

And, at some point in the future, she said ANEW is planning to expand to other old motels in the city if possible. The nonprofit is in negotiations with the building owner for a possible lease-to-own arrangement.

Whereas before the motel saw a large population of customers with alcohol and drug problems, those customers have moved on. And rents, which were collected weekly, as a motel, are now collected monthly. A single is $600 a month, which is $200 less than before.

Barlow said that one of the rooms will be devoted to offering on-site programs for the residents – financial literacy, job interview skills, interpersonal skills, coping from loss or trauma, social activities, cooking on a budget, computer skills and more.

“We want to create more than a social environment,” Barlow said.

The potential residents will be referred from agencies that have transition programs and work with people who are working their way to independence and self-sufficiency – Catholic Charities, Flagstaff Shelter Services, Veterans Resource Center, and Dorsey Manor and Hope Cottage at Sunshine Rescue Mission, Inc. The advisory board for ANEW is made up of representatives from those referring agencies. The people who stay at ANEW will have to demonstrate income, and if they have mental health or substance abuse issues, must establish that they are stabilized.

“This is truly a step up,” Barlow said.


Mandi and her family also qualified for the program.

“We were actually happy,” Mandi said. “We were kind of worried when we heard rumors of the motel sold and didn’t know if we were going to have to move.”

Their rent was lowered, too, and now they pay monthly. A $200 reduction in rent is important.

“For people who are struggling, that helps,” Mandi said.

Mandi works at Cracker Barrel, and Albert works in the area installing flooring. Arianna attends school at Killip Elementary. They moved to Flagstaff last summer to be with Mandi’s mother, Julie, who also stays in a room at the motel.

They’ve been saving from paychecks and their tax refund will also go toward building a nest egg to afford a home – first and last month’s rent, deposit, and breathing room to ensure they can cover rent. Mandi said she and Albert are in the process of looking right now – something in the $700 to $800 range.

“We need to make sure after the deposits, we can afford it,” Mandi said.

She said her hope is that they are in a permanent place in less than six months.

As for living in a motel, she said, “It’s not something you go bragging about. But it’s a roof over our head, with home-cooked meals. A place you know you can go to bed and be comfortable with.”

The family, this week, was able to move in a refurbished apartment unit on the property, with separate rooms.

Mandi said she appreciates what ANEW is doing.

“There needed to be a place like what she’s doing here,” Mandi said. “What she’s doing here, I can’t begin to say how great it is. It’s awesome.”


Barlow is willing to put her money where he mouth is. She said she will be living at the motel in the little apartment off the office.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it from afar,” she said. “It will help me see what we need to do to make this a safe community for our families – for me to live it.”

“We’re starting to chisel away at that hole with have in our continuum of care,” Barlow added.

By Larry Hendricks – AZ Daily Sun