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Venerable Atlantic Inn Lights Up with Boutique Makeover
Lighting Solution from LEDtronics Making 'Good First Impression' with Guests

A boutique makeover for The Atlantic Inn has reinvigorated the 65-year-old, family-owned business in Wethersfield, Connecticut. (Photo courtesy The Atlantic Inn)

The Atlantic Inn in Wethersfield, Conn. has been a family-run business since Michael Budney built and opened the motel in 1954, but despite all the bloodlines, sweat and tears put into the property well over a half-century, even his nephew had to admit the old place needed a makeover.

"We always maintained it well," said current owner John Kulesza, "but given the proliferation of new motel and hotel construction in the area, especially chain-affiliated, I felt we needed to both differentiate ourselves and celebrate the fact we're an independent property."

Kulesza, who in the mid-1980s became the fifth member of the family to own The Atlantic, was a trendsetter when he turned the single-level, 32-room property, originally named the Atlantic Motel, into a "luxury motor hotel" 10 years ago. The makeover, which today would be called "boutique," shed The Atlantic from its dated appearance to a look more retro and, thus, created a fresh and fashionable appeal to younger generations that didn't necessarily grow up with motels, especially those of the mom and pop variety.

The most visible upgrade would make an immediate impact on The Atlantic's transformation from square to chic. Kulesza designed a marquee sign in the style of yesteryear's grand hotels. SIGNlite in North Haven made his vision a reality, producing a channel (individual) letter sign that spells out "A-T-L-A-N-T-I-C" more modishly than the one it was replacing after 55 years. Below the name, acting at night as an underscore for the straight line of eight blue-lit letters, Kulesza installed a bracket-shaped row of 80 "true white" LED bulbs from California-based LEDtronics. The final look is exactly what the owner visualized, but only after a round of trial and error.

"We tried incandescent 'night light' bulbs, but they produced too yellow a light," Kulesza said. "I found LEDtronics on the internet and saw they had the right bulb for us – one that produced a clean, white light that complemented our building."

Paramount for Kulesza was making a good first impression with registered guests and potential business off the 44,000 vehicles that pass 1840 Berlin Turnpike on any given day.

"Since we are an independent property, people don't really have a name brand to reference or gauge quality," he said. "Lighting and signage play a critical role in any business, and even more so with ours. Keep in mind that most people check into lodging at night."

Once inside their rooms, guests will experience other boutiquey upgrades. Each unit's bathroom has been renovated with spacious, walk-in tiled showers. New Beautyrest mattresses and bed linens were put in each guest room, along with an ergonomic work area, iPod-compatible clock radio, large flat-screen TV and upgraded, complimentary Wi-Fi. Besides tapping the services of Connecticut-based licensed interior designer Donna Moss, ownership invested in an amalgam of amenities meant to appeal to Baby Boomers and millennials alike, as for example, Trinity College parents and their collegiate kids; the respected private liberal arts institution is under a 10-minute drive north, as is larger Central Connecticut State University to the west.

Another key to The Atlantic backing up its claim of "preserving its nostalgic roots for modern-day America," as stated on its website at, was joining the Expedia system. That move, alone, broadened The Atlantic's customer base beyond, well, the Atlantic. It also has spawned reviews so positive that the owner hopes people don't think they're fake.

"Business has improved, absolutely," Kulesza said on the 10th anniversary since the property metamorphized from a tired motor inn to a luxury motor hotel. "Guests are delighted, which pleases us immensely. We're saving money, too. Our monthly electric bill has gone way down thanks to the LEDtronics bulbs drawing 96 watts, not the 320 watts as the old incandescents did. Those 80 lights burn all night long! Just as impressive, most of the bulbs are still working perfectly after a decade of use every single night, even being exposed to rain, sleet, snow, etcetera. Couldn't be happier."

Not lost on Kulesza is the fact that the hospitality industry doesn't see too many 65-year-old independent inns successfully changing with the times, let alone one that manages to remain in the family.

That's a feather in the innkeeper's cap for the current owner and his deed-holding ancestors, starting with the man who built it. Kulesza's Uncle Mike is now 107, and thanks to his living next door to the present owner, enjoys hearing stories of the old place getting younger.

By David Dickstein

Originally posted in the Greater Hartford Local News, June 29, 2019

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