Woman’s Love Of Rodeo Led Her To Tackle Makeover Of Historic Greybull, Wyoming K-Bar Motel

Amanda McGrew left a teaching job in L.A. to pursue a dream. She loved rodeo and she loved renovating buildings. When she heard of Greybull's 'Days of 49' rodeo, she was hooked. She bought the K-Bar Motel and began a total

Renée Jean

July 02, 20237 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

GREYBULL — Amanda McGrew got a phone call from the city of Greybull that would be most any property owner’s nightmare. 

“We found a massive, we were just bleeding, like 2,000 gallons of water every couple of days,” said McGrew, who is renovating the motel. “We had known the pipes were not in great condition. As far as I understand, the building was not winterized before.” 

McGrew wasn’t just stoic about the leak. She was happy it had been found so easily. 

“The town of Greybull is awesome,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “They just called to let us know, because they were like a normal household is using 1,000 gallons a month and so they knew something was wrong when we were using 2,000 gallons in a day and no one is here.” 

Looking Out For A Neighbor

Without that kind thoughtfulness from the city, McGrew said the leak could have taken much longer to detect, although she knew, because she could hear water running, that there was a problem somewhere. 

“Part of the problem was we couldn’t see it,” McGrew said. “We knew it was underground somewhere, which was awful.” 

Initially, she thought they’d found it in Room No. 9 and capped it off. But the phone call from city hall let her know to keep looking, that there was still a pretty major leak underway. 

Many people in town asked McGrew how she was maintaining such a positive outlook when she was literally knee deep in water, but she saw it all as progress. 

“We got it fixed and plugged up, and now we move on,” she said. “I mean, if I was going to let every little thing that’s falling apart about this building get me down, I would have been out of here a long time ago.” 

At 20 rooms, the K-Bar Motel in Greybull is McGrew’s biggest renovation job so far.  

She came to the Cowboy State from Arizona, where she had rehabbed a couple of homes to place on AirBnB as a vacation stay. 

But here she’s looking at every room needing major rehab in a motel that was giving way to time and the elements. 

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Big Win

McGrew is coming off a big recent win in her motel renovation project. She completed the first room just in time for Days of 49, a small-town rodeo, which was part of what attracted McGrew to the small Wyoming community in the first place.

With the first renovation done, she was able to show lots of people who might one day be prospective guests just how cute these units will be once completed. 

McGrew typically does a lot of thrifting for her rooms, to create a unique space. She also reaches out to potential sponsors, to see if they want to provide some materials like wallpaper or flooring that she will then tout on her Social Media channels.  

But her first completed room does have one thing McGrew doesn’t favor. 

“I don’t love Amazon shopping,” she told Cowboy State Daily, “It’s not my favorite. I’d really prefer thrifting things, but I wanted to get this one done in time for Days of 49, and obviously there’s nothing quite better than, like, Amazon Prime, two-day shipping (for that).” 

That allowed her to stage the room much more quickly than usual. 

“I have a photographer friend who’s coming next week to get the professional pictures taken, and then those will be on the AirBnB listing,” she said. “My goal is to have it listed and live on AirBnB by July 1.” 

Leap Of Faith

McGrew’s path to Greybull, Wyoming, was anything but typical.  

First, she quit a perfectly good job teaching in LA to pursue a dream. 

“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 said. “And my dad has always hated me for that, because I just slowly started accumulating things in his garage when I was a kid.” 

Upcycling sad and old things to something new, happy, and bright just kept growing into larger and larger projects, until, finally, she was rehabbing homes. 

Along the way, there was a chance encounter at the airport between her sister and a Montana man who was also into rehabbing and up-cycling vintage spaces. After many long chats about their projects, McGrew and the man decided doing a project together might be fun. That led McGrew to start looking for a small-town motel.  

But there’s one more factor that led her specifically to Wyoming, and that’s rodeo.  

“I’m just a huge rodeo fan,” she said. “I realize how ridiculous it sounds, coming from what most people would deem a major city (in Phoenix). But I’ve always had an appreciation for rodeo.”  

Finding out about Greybull’s Days of 49 really helped seal the deal for McGrew. 

“I’ve made it a goal of mine to find the coolest small-town rodeos in my journey,” she said. “Because that is just what speaks to me.” 

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    Amanda McGrew puts a lot of sweat equity into her renovations. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
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All She'd Hoped For

So far, Greybull has been no less amazing to her than the adventures she had in Phoenix, where she was before arriving in the Cowboy State.

“The people in town have been so lovely,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “I’ve had tons of people come and introduce themselves and invite me to dinner or invite me to go side by siding up the mountain or shooting or paddle boarding.” 

A side-by-side is an off-load vehicle with seats positioned next to each other, enclosed by a roll-cage.

Fun stuff like that is one of her biggest temptations lately. 

“The weather’s getting nice, so now I’m like well it’s hard to like want to work Monday through Friday,” she said. “But I’m like, no, you have a lot to do, Amanda.” 

McGrew thinks she’s averaging about one hotel room per month, and expects to be in Greybull working for at least the next 18 months to two years.  

“The first month or so was me demoing a ton of units,” she said. “So it’s hard to gauge how much each unit, how long each unit takes, but if we can do, you know, a unit a month, I’ll feel pretty good about that.” 

After all 20 of the rooms have been reworked, she’ll start to work on the exterior of the motel. 

“We also own the area in front of the garage,” she said. “I have great ideas for it, but just, financially, we need to get rooms ready and rented first before we can start investing money into the outside,” she said.  

Eventually, though, she sees a picnic space with a fire pit along with some chairs and places to sit. She’s also hoping to eventually attract a mobile food truck or mobile coffee shop. 

“That would be fun, and just kind of bring a little more action,” she said. “So there’s a lot of potential for the outside.” 

Renée Jean can be reached at renee@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter