A series of fortunate coincidences have set an Arizona woman’s feet on a path that leads to the Cowboy State.
Amanda McGrew and investor Kyle Black of Montana have swopped in to buy the once-popular Best K-Bar Motel in Greybull, Wyoming, saving it from a likely death. McGrew will move to Wyoming to completely renovate and restore the motel from one end to another.
She’s expected to arrive sometime next week.
The path that led McGrew to Greybull was not typical. It all started with a chance encounter at an airport, which led to a Facebook friendship between McGrew’s sister and Black.
A few years later, McGrew quit a teaching job and delved instead into renovating houses and popping up new Airbnbs for short-term vacation rentals in the Phoenix area.
Among the houses she’s flipped is The Cactus House, a Boho-style desert home with heated pool that can host eight people. It has four nicely appointed bedrooms and two cozy baths, along with many other nice features for a vacation rental.
That successful renovation led to many more property rehabilitation projects as family and friends reached out seeking her help.
Enter Kyle Black, Stage Left
While she was renovating The Cactus House, McGrew was posting updates all over Instagram.
“My sister texted me and said, ‘Oh, you gotta follow my friend Kyle,” McGrew told Cowboy State Daily. “He’s up in Montana, but he does a lot of the same stuff.”
McGrew did and discovered that Black was in the midst of renovating a triplex he planned to rent out.
“He and I hit it off as friends and talked about all the projects we would do and, you know, the hope to get into more real estate,” McGrew said. “And eventually it turned into like, ‘Oh, we should try to do some projects together. That would be so fun.’”
It wasn’t until McGrew got deeper into an actual real-world, real estate deal with Black that McGrew learned her sister didn’t really know Black all that well.
“She was like, ‘What, I don’t even know him that well!” McGrew recalled. “Like, we just met in an airport like five years ago and exchanged information. And I was like, “OK, Christy, you made it seem like he was your good friend.’”
After a fleeting moment of consternation, McGrew and her sister started to laugh, because if there’s one thing McGrew has never been — afraid of taking a giant leap of faith.
After all, she quit a perfectly good teaching job in Los Angeles to chase her dream of renovating houses in Arizona. That’s been an amazing adventure so far.
Nothing was going to stop her now.
The Most Important Skill Of All
As a teenager, McGrew was already on the path that would lead her to Greybull in search of both small-town rodeo as well as her first hotel renovation.
“I’m very much somebody who finds furniture in the alleys and on the sides of roads and wants to take it home with me,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “And my dad has always hated me for that, because I just slowly started accumulating things in his garage when I was a kid.”
The first project she did was a six-drawer dresser for her bedroom, a shabby-chic white dresser with a little distress around the edges. She put starfish knobs on the drawers, and today it still sits in her bedroom.
“It’s solid wood,” she said. “It’s the kind of furniture that I need. I’m not much for the things made out of particle board these days.”
McGrew appreciates the super solid, sturdy wood furniture of old.
Upcycling sad and discarded furniture into something happy and bright eventually led her to create a little Etsy business transforming discarded wood into signs for weddings, baby showers, home decor and more.
“That kind of honed my skills a lot more,” she said. “I was able to mix colors and font styles and types of wood that I was using, and all sorts of things like that. So that’s where it all kind of started, and I think I’ve just continued to slowly bite off bigger and bigger projects.”
What it’s taught her is probably the most important lesson of all – most mistakes can be fixed.
“There’s always something new that I’ve never done before (with these projects,)” McGrew said. “And that feels like a really cool way to learn. But really, it’s about just kind of not being afraid of what you don’t know how to do, and not being afraid to mess it up and do it again.”
McGrew and Black met for the first time in Greybull to tour the motel they would ultimately buy.
“One of the many reasons why most people might think I’m out of my mind,” McGrew said. “But I have full faith that it’s going to work out. It’s been amazing up until this point.”
Black and McGrew both started laughing when they saw the motel.
It was so run-down that it would need to be gutted inside to outside, with new flooring, new paint, basically, new everything, to bring it up-to-date.
It was right across the street from a much newer, nicer, bigger motel as well, which just emphasized how far behind their motel would be starting.
“I was like, ‘Well this is gonna be a lot,’” McGrew recalled saying.
And then Kyle said the words that have become their new motto: Bite off more than you can chew, and then just chew like hell.
“So that’s kind of where we’re at right now,” McGrew said.
Both Black and McGrew expect the job will be as crazy as people think it is, but McGrew is focused on the journey to the end game — turning a sad space into a something thriving and fun, a true Western destination.
For the 20-unit motel, the plan is to make one arm into longer-term housing and the other arm into short-term rentals, Airbnb style.
“The layout works out pretty well for that,” McGrew said. “There’s some rooms that are already two bedroom, and some rooms that have a full kitchen in them. Other rooms are built more like a traditional motel style, where it’s just one room with a bed and a small closet area and a bathroom attached.”
That means she won’t have to do any major construction work to most spaces. The biggest job will be just updating all the bathrooms, which are pretty dated.
“We love the idea of like an old-school vintage retro motel, but we want to make sure that it’s completely updated for pool in a way that it still gives them the old-school vibe,” McGrew said.
Most of the construction work will be on Amanda’s shoulders as Kyle, who is engaged to be married soon to his high school sweetheart, has full-time work in Montana. But McGrew expects he’ll take at least some time off to come down and help put in the flooring at some point.
Rodeo Also Is Part Of The Journey
Deciding to buy the hotel in Greybull was easy for the business partners.
For Kyle, who is just a friend and an investor in the project, price point was key. The hotel was just $250,000 — not much more than a single-family home.
With a housing crunch in Greybull, the pair met lots of people who were very interested in the units, which McGrew said she hopes to rent out for between $600 to $800 a month. The exact amount will depend on how much money it takes to restore the hotel.
But the big selling point for McGrew wasn’t necessarily the price point. Of course, the place had to be within their budget, but what really sold her on the motel is the small town’s rodeo, Days of 49, which starts in June.
“I am just a huge rodeo fan,” McGrew said. “I realize how ridiculous it sounds coming from what most people would deem a major city, but I’ve always had an appreciation for rodeo.”
And not just any rodeo. It’s small-town rodeo that really jibes with her vibe.
“I’ve taken a bunch of road trips, you know, from California, up the coast north, out toward Texas, up through the Grand Canyon and up through all the way to Whitefish, Montana, and back down through Wyoming,” she said. “So, I’ve made it a goal of mine to find the coolest small-town rodeos in my journey, because that is just what speaks to me.”