LIBERTY — Casey County entrepreneurs Nicki and Doug Johnson first wanted to open what is now The Bedford Inn in 2007, but it took five years for them to realize their dream.
The Bedford Inn, located on U.S. 127 in Liberty, was once a thriving motel called The Royal Inn, Liberty-Casey County Economic Development Director Blaine Staat said. Charles and Lillian Brown were the original owners and started the first phase of construction in 1960. As the years passed and the couple aged, The Royal Inn changed owners several times. Lillian Brown now lives in Florida, and Charles Brown passed away.
Even before the last owners abandoned the property more than a year ago, most people visiting Casey County did not want to stay at The Royal Inn because it was rundown and sometimes attracted unsavory people, according to Staat.
“For a long time, there was no suitable hotel in the county for visiting family members and friends to stay,” Staat said. “We had to send our visitors to Danville, which, of course, is a nice place but is not terribly convenient especially if someone is visiting for a special event that is in Liberty or another Casey County community.”
The Johnsons, both Casey County High School graduates, already owned two businesses in downtown Liberty as well as multiple rental properties. They first tried to purchase the motel in 2007 but could not come to what they felt was a reasonable price agreement.
In early 2012, Staat told the Johnsons the motel had been abandoned and a Realtor was showing the property.
“We had heard rumors that they were going to tear it down or that they would turn it into a flea market,” Nicki Johnson said.
She told her husband she knew the motel was in bad shape, but they should go look at the property so they could finally get their mind off of buying it.
“I love old buildings,” Nicki Johnson said. “I hated to see history just demolished and run over. It was heartbreaking”
Her passion for history won out. The Johnsons sold their rental properties so they could start The Bedford Inn in March 2012.
While most of their extensive renovation project is completed, there are still some finishing touches to make to one of the motel’s 22 guest rooms.
Contractors built a family-style dining room adjacent to the office, where the Johnsons serve guests continental breakfast on the weekends. They also shared their own family holiday celebration with the people staying at The Bedford Inn on Christmas Day.
Many weekends, The Bedford Inn is fully occupied, but weekday occupancy rates are still somewhat inconsistent so that is why continental breakfast is only offered on the weekends right now, Nicki Johnson said.
The entire motel is non-smoking. All rooms have new carpets and queen beds. Amenities include a flat-screen television, a fully-equipped bathroom with a hair dryer, complimentary wireless Internet access, microwaves, and refrigerators. Standard room rates range from $55 to $90 per night. The only type of special pricing available is a “bereavement rate” for people attending area funerals; the Johnsons are researching membership requirements for popular hotel discount programs through organizations such as AAA or the AARP.
Some of the guest rooms are pet-friendly, as the Johnsons respect that some people consider their furry friends just as much a part of their family than human beings. Cats and dogs are the most popular furry visitors, though the motel has had pet birds as guests. Visitors with pets pay a one-time extra fee of $10; this enables one of the motel’s nine employees to give the room a special cleaning in case a future guest of that room is allergic to animals.
By the summer, the Johnsons hope to have a mini-golf course on the grounds, which would be open to guests as well as members of the general public.
Last summer, Lillian Brown visited The Bedford Inn for its open house and literally wept when she saw the extent of the renovations performed.
“The community has been so good to give (the motel) another shot,” she said. “They have recommended us to their family and friends.”
If you go: The Bedford Inn, 579 N. Wallace Wilkinson Blvd., Liberty. (606) 787-0145. https://www.facebook.com/thebedfordinn579
New owners give old Liberty motel a rebirth
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