THRIVING SMALL BUSINESSES IN WYOMING: Updated Cokeville Motel a Welcome Sight for Weary Travelers
New innkeepers explore the ever-changing world of roadside hospitality
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Jun 19, 2023
Megan and Paul Reid and their three children traded big city life in Seattle for motel ownership in Cokeville, Wyoming in 2021. (Courtesy photo from Megan Reid)
By Bob Wooley
Special to the Wyoming Truth
On paper, it sounds like the plot of a fish-out-of-water sitcom. But for West Coast transplant Megan Reid, and her husband, Paul, proprietors of Cokeville’s Hideout Motel, it’s a true-life adventure serving up new surprises daily.
Megan, 41, said the idea of moving from Seattle to a small town in rural, western Wyoming two years ago wasn’t exactly a lifelong calling. But fate sometimes has its own ways of flipping the script.
“My husband was a middle school vice principal at the time, and I was a stay-at-home mom — we were living the suburban American dream, but it was really just a lot of keeping up with the Joneses,” she said.
The hectic drum beat of big-city life kept the couple from spending quality time with their three children, ages 11, 8 and 5. And they realized a slower pace of life might be just the thing their young family needed.
By chance, the couple stumbled on a social media posting for the Hideout Motel in June 2021. They took a leap and headed to Wyoming to visit the property. (In case you’re wondering: No, they’d never even been to the state before.)
At first glance, Megan said, the notion of making the life-changing move, running a new business and taking on a myriad of unknowns was overwhelming. Setting all doubts aside, the couple forged ahead, and by August 2021, just two months after first driving into Cokeville, population 500, they’d bought the motel and made the small town their new home.
Using proceeds from the sale of their home in Seattle to fund half of the purchase price, they secured a business loan from a Wyoming bank for the balance. Megan said they felt good about the earning potential of the property based on its past performance—despite the fact that it needed a pretty serious remodel.
The new owners briefly flirted with the idea of closing the motel down entirely for the duration of the renovations. But they quickly realized that staying open while remodeling the rooms one at a time would provide much-needed cashflow.
Megan said the remodel took an entire year to complete, and with the help of family and friends, all of the motel’s 15 guest rooms have new paint, bedding, carpet and furnishings. The motel’s common areas have also been remodeled, and she said they’ve made a marketing push to attract prospective guests who might not have known the motel existed. All of the hard work and long days have paid off, Megan said, insisting the flexibility of working together to create this unique lifestyle has brought her family closer together.
So, you want to be an innkeeper?
On any given day at the Hideout Motel, the Reids’ schedule shapes up like this: Paul, 43, is up by 5:30 a.m. making coffee for early risers and members of road maintenance crews who sometimes frequent the motel. Right behind him, Megan is busy setting out the various breakfast treats on-hand for the continental breakfast. By 8 a.m., the dining room is hopping, with guests often congregating to chat and make plans for their daily activities. Some will go horseback riding at a nearby dude ranch, while others will set off to try their luck landing a trout in a local stream. Some will check out and move on to their next destination. And some, Megan said, really love to hear more about her family and what brought them to this isolated slice of Wyoming.
A slight lull hits between the 11 a.m. check out time and the arrival of the next batch of visitors. But the Reids and family friend Kyle, who moved to town with them, keep busy homeschooling the kids, wrangling needed supplies, doing office work, making repairs when necessary and ensuring that the housekeeper, Judith, has everything under control.
Megan said late afternoon brings newly arriving guests, dinner with the kids and maybe a few precious hours of sleep. And though it’s not uncommon for guests to check in after midnight — in some cases, creating workdays that last 18 hours or longer — Megan insists her family’s new normal is more normal than it was in Seattle. Living on site means Paul avoids a commute, so there’s more time for family activities.
That’s not to say the struggle isn’t sometimes real.
Megan said she knew life without a grocery store nearby (let alone Door Dash) would be different, although she didn’t truly understand what a huge adjustment it would be until their move was complete. Things that had always been easily accessible in Seattle gave her reasons to explore neighboring towns. For small shopping trips, she drives 30 miles north to Montpelier, Idaho. To shop for a wider variety of items, it’s south toward Evanston — about an hour’s drive.
Aside from Paul’s having worked as a server in restaurants during graduate school in Massachusetts, neither had any experience in hotels, motels or the hospitality industry. The transition from school administrator to innkeeper was a big one for Paul, but it has been rewarding in ways he never imagined.
“I’m happy with my career choice and feel lucky to be able to do something that allows me to spend this priceless time with my family,” he said.
A shot at the big time
One of the biggest surprises that’s come from the family’s move to Cokeville is Megan’s new-found status as a social media cooking influencer. Living in a small town can make it difficult to find the tasty treats that she had easy access to in Seattle. Megan’s passion for cooking and desire to expand culinary options for her family led her to make instructional videos to share on social media. Since signing up for a TikTok account, she’s amassed nearly 134,000 followers, and many of her cooking videos have garnered millions of views. Clever, fast-paced and infinitely watchable, it’s easy to see why her videos have become so popular. Her internet fame also led to an appearance on the latest season of “Master Chef,” as well as cooking segments and interviews on Wyoming TV and radio stations.
Find out what all of the fuss is about
As the summer begins, Megan said about 25% of the calendar is already fully booked—and that doesn’t include walk-ins and unexpected guests. Hunters frequently come to stay during the fall. And located just seven miles from Pine Creek Ski Resort, the motel is a good draw in the winter as well. Megan said they often sell out the entire motel to large groups looking to hit the slopes.
For the Reids, innkeeping has been nothing short of an adventure.
“Honestly, every day is different,” Megan said. “I love the people. They’re seriously characters. I’ve met everybody under the sun—from a guy who was hunting Bigfoot, to Connie Kemmerer, co-owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Everybody has a story, everybody wants to talk and everybody is welcome at the Hideout Motel. It’s kind of become this little hub in town, and it’s really a beautiful thing.”