Sprucing Things Up: Meeker couple partner together to build new hotel along Highway 13

It has been awhile since a new hotel was built in Meeker, at least one that is still standing.
Since 1896, to be exact.
That’s when the Meeker Hotel was constructed.
One hundred and thirteen years later, and one street over, the Blue Spruce Inn opened for business.
In fact, you can see the back side of the historic Meeker Hotel from the front of the Blue Spruce Inn.
“I don’t know if there has been another hotel built in Meeker since the Meeker Hotel,” said Harry Watt.
Watt and Melinda Parker are the owners of Meeker’s newest hotel, located on Highway 13, or Market Street, one block off of the town’s downtown district.
“The biggest reason we decided to do what we did, we felt the location (was right for a hotel),” Watt said. “We’re within two blocks of most of the retail trade. We’re within good walking distance of downtown.”
Watt and Parker opened the Blue Spruce Inn earlier this month. But it had been in the works for quite awhile. The project began in the summer of 2007.
“Spring of ’08 was the original date for opening,” Watt said.
“But we weren’t even out of the ground (at that time),” Parker added.
Better late than never.
“We will still be open in February or March, just a different year,” Watt said.
It may have taken longer than expected to complete, but Watt and Parker are glad the hotel is now open for business. It was an extensive and expensive process.
“I would never attempt to do a project again of this magnitude,” Watt said. “The things you have to go through … the rules and regulations. If I hadn’t had the store and a pretty good cash flow, I would probably have thrown up my hands a long time ago. But you can do great things with time and lots of money. I had a lot of time; and the bank had a lot of money.”
Watt owns the grocery store, Watt’s Ranch Market, and he and Parker also own and operate the 8th Street Bed and Breakfast, which is also their home.
When construction started on the new hotel, the state of the economy was drastically different from what it is now.
Asked if he was concerned about the financial downturn, Watt said, “Sure, if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be very smart.”
Still, Watt and Parker are confident there’s enough demand, even with the state of the economy, to support another lodging business.
“I think we have things to offer, that people will want to stay here,” Parker said. “That will get us through to better times.”
Locally, business has been booming in recent years, and Watt and Parker still see the economy faring well during the recession.
“You go back 10 years, and we’re still busier than we were 10 years ago,” Watt said.
The hotel has 43 guest rooms, including 10 suites with king-sized beds, and offers a complimentary continental breakfast, wireless Internet, exercise room and hot tub.
“(The only thing) we don’t have is we didn’t have enough room to put a pool in,” Watt said. “We have all of the amenities. We don’t have a pool, but we have everything else.”
Parker added, “We don’t have a restaurant, but we have one next door, and we’re close to several others.”
While the hotel is one of Meeker’s newest businesses, Watt and Parker are no newcomers to the business scene. Parker formerly owned the Rustic motel and restaurant.
“I loved it there,” Parker said. “I ran it for 15 years.”
Watt and Parker were partners in the Rustic for a time, before Watt sold out to Parker.
“I had it first,” Watt said. “Then she came down and we went into partnership. Then I sold out to her and she built the restaurant and motel.”
Parker built the restaurant in the late ‘90s, and the motel in 2000.
“There are 20 rooms, 14 in the motel and six in the cabins,” Parker said.
She sold the Rustic in 2004.
“After I sold the Rustic, I had all this free time. Harry wouldn’t let me sleep in and watch TV,” she said jokingly.
Parker came to town in 1985. It has been home ever since.
“The kids’ father was the hospital administrator. He left, and I stayed,” Parker said.
One of Parker’s four daughters, Michele Morgan, is the general manager of the new hotel.
“She’s going to be (running) it,” Parker said. “Michele has worked at high-end hotels. She worked at a four-star hotel in Washington, D.C.”
“This will be her first time to work at a five-star hotel,” Watt said with a laugh.
Watt had originally wanted a different name for the hotel, but he was overruled.
“He wanted to call it the Cowboy Inn,” Melinda said.
“They outvoted me,” Watt said.
They settled on the Blue Spruce, named for the large trees standing at the main entrance to the hotel’s parking lot.
“We are calling them Blue Spruce,” Watt said of the trees. “I’ve had some people say they are (Blue Spruce) trees; some say they aren’t. As far as I’m concerned, they’re Blue Spruce.”
Watt is familiar with the site of the new hotel. It has been in his family for two generations.
“This property has been in my family for over 50 years,” he said. “My dad bought it in April of ’55. I actually lived on this property. My mom and dad moved here when I was 2 years old. I’ve claimed Meeker as my home ever since.”
For years, Watt’s father operated a grocery store on the property. And the family lived in a house west of the grocery store. Eventually, Watt went into business with his father.
“I had a 10-year hiatus (from Meeker) to go to college and rodeoing. I was waiting for my dad to smarten up,” he said with a wry smile. “He learned a lot in 10 years. So I went to meat cutting school in Denver and then came back.”
Today, Watt’s son, J.C., is now in business with him at the Ranch Market, which has been in its current location, a few blocks east of the hotel on Highway 13, since 2005.
After considering different options, it was Harry’s idea to put a hotel on the site where his father’s grocery store used to be located.
“One day he came home and said, ‘I have an idea. Let’s put a hotel there,’” Parker said.
Asked to distinguish between a hotel and a motel, Parker said, “A motel, you drive up to the rooms.”
The Blue Spruce offers both. For most of the rooms, guests have a hallway entrance, but there are eight rooms that are accessible from the parking lot.
“We like outside doors when we go someplace to stay,” Parker said.
The Blue Spruce officially opened Jan. 14, and it already has bookings for some of Meeker’s major events.
“We have quite a few reservations for the (Smoking River) Pow Wow, the Sheepdog Trials, Range Call and the Old-Timers,” Parker said.
While the construction took longer than they had planned, Watt and Parker are pleased with the end result.
“It’s been frustrating how long it has taken and how much it has cost, but it has been a fun project,” Watt said. “When people walk in, we want their reaction to be, ‘Wow, this is nice.’ Hopefully, it’s not your run-of-the-mill hotel. Hopefully it will be something the town can be proud of.”