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
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
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
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
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."
for Kulesza was making a good first impression with registered guests and
potential business off the 44,000 vehicles that pass 1840 Berlin
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.
Beautyrest mattresses and bed linens were put in each guest room, along
with an ergonomic work area, iPod-compatible clock radio, large flat-screen
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
Trinity College parents and their collegiate kids; the respected private
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
claim of "preserving its nostalgic roots for modern-day America," as stated
on its website at www.atlanticinnct.com, was joining the Expedia system.
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
"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
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,
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