KINGMAN, Ariz. — It's been half a century since the neon signs at the El Trovatore Motel illuminated Route 66 in Kingman, but for about a week now those signs have been on in all their green, red and orange glory.
"This could be a shining beacon of America," said the motel's owner, Sam Frisher.
There was a time when neon signs and Route 66 were synonymous. Frisher and his wife, Monica, want to bring those days back.
They aren't stopping with the signs, though. The Frishers are in the process of remodeling the whole motel, which sits on El Trovatore hill. It just recently re-opened for business after unpaid electricity bills nearly dropped the property into foreclosure. It was closed for about a year.
Too many people use the clichÉ, "Everything happens for a reason." In this case, though, it's warranted.
As the property teetered on foreclosure, the Frishers worked to negotiate a lower interest rate and even secured an additional loan to remodel the motel.
They've already created 20 Hollywood-themed rooms and plan to create more. Maybe you would like to sleep under the gaze of Marilyn Monroe or John Wayne. Either way, El Trovatore can accommodate. There are even plans for an Andy Devine suite.
The idea of the themed rooms came from Monica. She was born in Hollywood, and her mother worked for Warner Brothers in the 1940s. She is also a classic movie buff.
"They made timeless films back then," Monica said. "They were not trendy. They were made to last."
Their work doesn't stop with decorating the rooms. The parking lot should be fixed in the next month, and the pool will possibly be opened within a year. They have a ton of repairs to complete, and they plan to repaint the outside. The couple doesn't want to change anything structurally, so the art deco, triangle sinks and all around retro look stays. Their main focus is bringing the motel back to what it once was — a tourist court.
"We want to bring it back to its original look," Sam said. "And bring back the neon signs to Route 66 — like it was before."
The clientele El Trovatore wants to cater to look for that Route 66 1920's, 1930's and 1940's nostalgia, Monica said.
"We're trying to make it a more unique experience to stay here by doing the little things," she added.
Sam believes the renovations will bring a lot of tourists to the motel, and he hopes that it prompts other Route 66 motel and hotel owners to step their game up.
By May, the motel will be cosmetically ready to host Route 66 enthusiasts, Sam said.
"If everything goes according to plan, this place will have a waiting list," he said.
People who stay overnight at the El Trovatore get coupons for free breakfasts at the Hot Rod CafÉ — another local business that uses the past to create an aesthetic for its clientele.
"Tourists need a break from the gambling sometimes," Sam said. "This is the west; come see it."
Information from: Kingman Daily Miner, http://www.kingmandailyminer.com