On The Road With Renee: Retro-Modern Makeover For Lander Motel — And New Brewery

The Lander Motel is back from the dead, and the service station next door is on track to become a brewery, continuing a trend to renovate classic motels around Wyoming.

RJ
Renée Jean

July 22, 20238 min read

A renovation and rebirth for the retro Lander Motel is nearly complete.
A renovation and rebirth for the retro Lander Motel is nearly complete. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Dreams are coming true on Main Street in Lander, in an unlikely place.  

Fabian and Krista Lobera have taken a dilapidated motel at 569 Main St. that most would think doomed to a wrecking ball and are turning it into the next trendy stay in a nostalgic space. 

“We’ve driven by this place 100 times, 1,000 times probably, and always thought of what it could become,” Fabian Lobera told Cowboy State Daily. “We were not contractors or homebuilders or renovators that probably watched too much HGTV, but we were somehow inspired to try to rebuild this place, and yeah, it’s a little daunting.” 

Pictures of the place when the Loberas first bought it are “a little scary,” Fabian said. And photos of the instagram journey show how piles and piles of junk have had to be stripped away — to the point Fabian thinks that most would simply have demolished the place and started again.

But a new space would have lost the charm that the old structure offers, and the challenges in saving it arealso what has made this project so rewarding. 

“The only thing that was here (when they bought the motel) was the block walls, and some of the wood floors and the window frames,” Lobera told Cowboy State Daily. “Everything else had been pulled out of here.”  

In the room that now serves as office space, Lobera could see all the way through, clear to the other end. 

“We just had some studs, old sagging floors with mold, and the walls,” he said.  

There was asbestos, too, which brings an additional layer of red tape and work to clear it out. 

“It’s like hard to imagine how bad it was two years ago compared to what you’re seeing now,” Lobera said. “It was kind of almost a little bit of a blighted area here between the garage and this field of properties. But that’s what makes this so rewarding is seeing this place take some leaps forward.” 

  • The Lander Motel has a modern, yet still retro, look.
    The Lander Motel has a modern, yet still retro, look. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The service garage next door is being converted into a brew pub. Eventually, it also will offer food, but will start life as a tap house.
    The service garage next door is being converted into a brew pub. Eventually, it also will offer food, but will start life as a tap house. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Some of the units are large enough to include a roomy kitchenette, making them perfect for an extended stay.
    Some of the units are large enough to include a roomy kitchenette, making them perfect for an extended stay. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Very thick tiles have been chosen to support the brewery thats going in next door to The Lander Motel.
    Very thick tiles have been chosen to support the brewery thats going in next door to The Lander Motel. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The new rooms at The Lander Motel feature large walk-in showers.
    The new rooms at The Lander Motel feature large walk-in showers. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • New mattresses are arriving at The Lander Motel, which is close to completing its renovation.
    New mattresses are arriving at The Lander Motel, which is close to completing its renovation. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

A Retro Modern Look 

Today, The Lander Motel is approaching completion, and looks like a brand new space, even though the bones were built in 1941.  

The color scheme feels like something both modern and retro. The yellow pops of color break up a grayish-black, blocky exterior, hinting playfully at fun inside, just as you open the door. 

Inside, the floors are all wood, mostly salvaged from the motel, but re-sanded to perfection with a new coat of acrylic that makes everything sparkle and shine. It’s hard to tell the wood is almost 82 years old.  

That flooring was actually a pleasant surprise, Lobera said. 

“They were all hidden by years of carpet. And we pulled that back, we were like these are gorgeous,” he told Cowboy state Daily. “I’m sure some of this wood came right out of the Wind River Mountains.” 

Salvaging them wasn’t an easy task, however, Steve McKinney, the contractor in charge of the flooring, told Cowboy State Daily. 

“These were covered in all kinds of different types of mastic and tar paper and oils,” he said. 

There were lots of places where a four-by-four chunk of wood was missing. These were patched with new wood sometimes, or salvaged wood from another space. 

In either case, McKinney took care to choose wood with similar variations, or to stain brand new wood so it would look just right. 

“I didn’t get the same color, but the variation is pretty similar,” he said. 

Integrating The Ultra-modern 

While the hotel has a definite retro, take-me-back vibe, guests today demand a certain quality of stay.

The Loberas are very conscious of modern requirements, but Fabian is going a step further and planning to integrate a few ultra-modern ideas that are not yet common. Some of those ideas come from his own experiences as a seasoned biker and traveler, as well as his wife’s expert advice. She’s the hospitality manager for Holiday Inn Express in Lander. 

“I was biking through Colorado at like 1 a.m. in the morning and I stopped in Granby, a little, off-season, cute town next to a lake, outdoorsy for sure. You could tell it was very touristy, with lots of hotels. But, at 1 a.m. in the morning, looking around — and this was like three, four years ago — I was like gosh, we’ve got these phones in our hands. I should be able to just jump online, book the room, pay, and go and stay.” 

So, The Lander Motel will offer the kind of process Lobera wished the motels in the small Colorado towns he was biking through at 1 a.m. had. 

Each room at the remodeled Lander Motel will have an electronic door that can be opened with a unique key-code, issued at the time the room is booked. Travelers won’t necessarily even need to check in at the front desk, if they don’t want to. 

“That just didn’t exist at the time, though you are starting to see that now a little bit more,” Lobera said. “COVID prompted it even more, because people got very sensitive to touching surfaces. So (it’s going to be) a kind of whole contactless experience, that low friction of driving through a town, making a reservation, paying for it online, then walking right up to my door and entering my key code that they just emailed me, without ever having to go to a front desk.”  

  • Fabian Lobera poses in front of his computer showing a photo of The Lander Motel before work started to renovate it.
    Fabian Lobera poses in front of his computer showing a photo of The Lander Motel before work started to renovate it. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The Lander Motel is close to being ready to open again.
    The Lander Motel is close to being ready to open again. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • New bathrooms are part of The Lander Motel's renovation.
    New bathrooms are part of The Lander Motel's renovation. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Furniture has a definite retro vibe.
    Furniture has a definite retro vibe. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Steve McKinney adds a coat of varnish to a shelf built into the window-sized cutout in one of the larger rooms that includes a kitchenette.
    Steve McKinney adds a coat of varnish to a shelf built into the window-sized cutout in one of the larger rooms that includes a kitchenette. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Side Benefit Of Tech 

This approach should help with another, perennial problem in Wyoming, Lobera told Cowboy State Daily. That is the serious lack of workforce during the height of the tourism season. 

“It’s just getting harder and harder to find an hourly workforce, especially one that wants to work odd hours, and be consistent, and provide that great customer experience,” he said.  

With technology streamlining aspects of the business-like check-ins, the staff he does have can focus on ensuring the guest experience is the best it can be.  

“More and more guests are looking for that kind of experience,” Lobera added. “And you’re starting to see it in larger hotel chains, where there’s like a kiosk for check-in. I think the kiosk is your phone. You can get on your phone, see all the pictures you want of a room, ask your questions — hey is this pet friendly — and get an immediate response.” 

Personal contact is still available, Lobera added, but it’s just being redirected.  

“It’s there when they want or need it, but isn’t in the way when they don’t, like at the front desk, having to go sit and listen to the spiel at the front desk counter of, you know our breakfast bar is open from this hour to that hour,” he said. “We should be able to provide all that information in a way that the consumer can absorb that on their own time and in their own way.” 

Brewery Next Door Almost Ready 

In addition to the motel renovation, the Loberas have purchased the property next door, and it’s being worked into a craft brew pub. 

That evolved as the couple were re-envisioning the exterior of the hotel and its limited parking space. 

“Back in the 1940s, when this was conceived, not everybody had a big F-350 truck, you know,” Lobera said. “So, you know, in Wyoming you can fill up a parking lot pretty quickly.” 

So, the Loberas decided to turn the area in front of the motel into an outdoor seating area, surrounded by plants, and just buy the lot next door, where there’s an old service station, for larger parking spaces.  

It just so happened, the guy next door was looking to retire, so the timing was perfect. 

“We knew we wanted a food and beverage option (in the service station),” Lobera said. “But somebody approached us pretty quickly. He was a brewer, and it was his lifelong dream to have his own brewery. So, he’s been helping manage the project to restore this old building and turn it into a brewery.” 

The timeline on that project calls for brewing to begin in September, after which a tap house would open up inside. 

“Later plans include adding food options, but we’re just not there yet,” Lobera said. 

The motel, meanwhile, should have a soft opening sometime in July, followed by a grand opening sometime in August.  

Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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RJ

Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter