Since the Fall season of 2015 the staff and owners of the Gardner Hotel have had to keep a tight lid on the details of their immense personal and business changes as it relates to the taping of the Travel Channel’s television show Hotel Impossible. Host Anthony Melchiorri, with 20 years of hospitality experience under his belt, travels the world helping to resuscitate ailing hotel businesses.
The series kicked off its 2016 season with an episode featuring the historic Gardner Hotel and hostel in our Downtown, El Paso. The show finally aired on Monday, April 18th, lifting the non-disclosure agreement for those involved. Prior owner, Joe Nebham passed the business on to his daughter Stephanie Nebham after making sure it was in better shape to succeed going forward. We caught up with Stephanie to get her thoughts on the show and what it might have missed.
Stephanie wanted to express that the show portrayed the 94 year old hotel as just a hostel but in fact there are only four hostel rooms in the 50 room hotel. “Since we do have challenges with the [buildings configuration], like half of our rooms have a shared bath, we market them as hotel rooms with a hall or shared bath. The [show] felt it would be best to focus on the business as a hostel.”
Shedding light on the challenges of being the only hostel in a city like El Paso, Stephanie points out that the spike in cartel related violence in Juarez and post 9/11 border security have contributed to the drop in hostel occupancy. “Because of these issues, our business has not been primarily a hostel, but we are trying to build on it, like trying to get more international visitors.”
Besides the renovated hostel rooms designed by the show, Stephanie has expanded efforts to slowly renovate the rest of the hotel rooms. “All of the hostel rooms are now complete, but we’ve also done six of our hotel rooms. For those rooms we’ve kept the same antique furniture that is almost as old as the hotel itself and done things like powder-coat the bed frames. Those will last another hundred years. We also tried to keep all of the antique furniture such as dressers by sanding, painting and re-staining them.”
“We’re also playing around with the idea of using adjoining rooms to create parlor rooms. We want to integrate rooms that don’t have an in-room bath and make them into a different experience,” Stephanie told us.
Certain scenes, such as the passing along of the ring Stephanie’s father Joe had kept for decades that symbolized the marriage to the hotel, were short but Stephanie points out that the conversation was vast. “We spoke about how the hotel had really consumed my Dad for so long, he apologized for all of that.”
Stephanie recalls the time and passion her father poured into the hotel over the years, “My Dad has been at the hotel since he was 8 years old and took over the business in the 80’s. I don’t remember him taking a day off, and when he took over the hotel didn’t have any showers, he did maintenance himself, he refreshed the façade, remodeled the front area, and even designed the stained glass windows himself to look like keys.”
Since the visit by Anthony Melchiorri, Stephanie told us, “The hotel has implemented the computer system, retrained housekeeping, continued renovations and modernized our online presence. So we are definitely using the resources Anthony gave us.” To watch the full episode while it’s still available online, click on the image below!