By Spencer Wilson

SALIDA, Colo. (CBS4)– Anita Kudasik had grown up around the hospitality business; her parents owned a hotel in Salida and her family lived on site. It was all she knew for several years of her life. Once she decided on a college, she thought she wanted out.

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“Originally I wanted nothing to do with hospitality, I was like ‘Heck no!'” Kudasik said, laughing in one of her own motel rooms on a recent afternoon.

She now runs the American Classic Inn off of one of the main streets of Salida, but it didn’t happen overnight. First she decided to transfer to Metropolitan State University of Denver and get her degree in hospitality.

“The moment I transferred into MSU it just felt like home,” Kudaski recalled. “The professors, the people, I thought it was something they really cared about, they cared about me, my success, and creating a community.”

After graduation in 2018, she purchased the motel from family friends who were ready to retire.

“It was in disarray; it needed a full renovation,” Kudaski said.

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She wasn’t prepared for what would come next, though. Nor would anyone be. After the start of the pandemic, 2020 became an incredibly difficult year for hotel and motel owners, with massive shutdowns across the country in place and no tourism to speak of.

“Every single guest that we had, we had to take down their info, ask why they were visiting and get approval from the health department to accommodate those guests,” Kudaski said, thinking back. “So it really was a hands-on process dealing with those guests … but I was kind of in a position of if we were not open during the pandemic, I didn’t know if we were going to make it.”

She did, and now she’s been named Salida’s entrepreneur of the year, as well as one of MSU Denver’s 10 Under 10 award recipients (Top 10 alumni of the past 10 years), an award given out to students who graduate and go on to do big things in their communities.

“I’m really thankful that we stuck through it because it made us stronger, made our relationships with the community very (important) and we all get along very well now,” Kudaski explained.

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The motel is now in the process of its renovation: all 21 rooms have different color schemes and designs and the outside of the motel is getting a facelift as well. Even the sign along the road will be updated, with all of the designs being done by family members and Kudaski’s boyfriend. A new age of motel, that holds local flavor with an updated look.

“Not necessarily your cookie-cutter chain but a boutique motel.”

Spencer Wilson