The Decline and Fall of the Salt Creek Inn

Occasionally on this blog, I write about my travels through rural, “Middle” America. This article will fall into the “wow, experiencing the US outside of wealthy urban/suburban clusters is crazy” category of this blog. 

The Salt Creek Inn is a testament to the past, when America was great and the world was simpler. The rooms are dingy and dim. The wallpaper and bedding have probably not been updated since around 1980. The floral print covers and dank carpeting (I use “dank” literally) are from around the 1950s. The structure was supposedly built in 1988, but I doubt that, for some reason. There is a flatscreen TV on the wall, but that is the only thing that screams “21st century” in the room. The rooms smell of cigarette smoke and must. The lobby is covered by pictures of stars from another era, when Elvis was relevant (and alive) and the Soviet Union still clung to existence. I’d say the rooms are definitely livable, but not for very long. If you ever want to go into the past, when America was obviously better, just stay a night for $80 at the Salt Creek Inn. If that’s the greatness you want, be our guest.

Oh yes, take me back to 1955.
This is significantly brighter and nicer than the room we stayed in.

Let’s not kid ourselves, the Salt Creek Inn was never great. The Inn sits in the quaint town of Nashville in the beautiful natural expanse of Brown County, Indiana. It was not supposed to be luxurious. It was supposed to service travelers on a budget. That mission was clear.

What a great fact!

It is a miracle that the Salt Creek Inn still exists in 2017. Its decline and fall is chronicled by an endless stream of TripAdvisor reviews and the best local reporting you will ever see.


I was at the Salt Creek Inn because I was running the NIRCA National Championships (the club outdoor track equivalent of the BCS Title game) in Bloomington, Indiana. As we are a destitute track club with no real means of advancement, we shacked up in the Salt Creek, along with track clubs from Virginia and St. John’s (there must have been more). It was pretty clear that this was the most popular weekend of the year for the Salt Creek Inn. Nashville, Indiana, for all its charms, has a limited tourism industry. The Comfort Inn across the street also suppresses business for the Salt Creek Inn.

No matter, it gets enough clientele to survive, it seems. After all, for college students on a track club budget, the Salt Creek is somewhat ideal.

However, we have to talk about the owners. According to that article from the Brown County Reporter (and personal observations), the owner is one Danny Patel, a former gas station owner from Chicago who moved out to Brown County to run a crappy motel.

Wait what? Why would he do that? Let’s go through the article again.

His first decision to improve the hotel was not to fix the crappy rooms, carpet, wifi or wallpaper. His first decision was to fix the parking lot. Strange.

He had to get rid of the staff and is cleaning 66 rooms with 2 housekeepers. Doable, but strange.

He planned to serve breakfast for everyone without a kitchen or any staff to do so. And then he decided it would be a good idea to tell the health inspector about it. But the complimentary breakfast is still advertised!

I will swear to you that there was no coffee or breakfast snacks in the lobby.

 

In fact, thanks to the fearless suggestion of one of our members (shout-out to the Day 2 Crew: Megan, Adam, Julia (the breakfast thief), and Emma), we snuck into the Comfort Inn across the parking lot and stole complimentary breakfast the next morning. The front desk was locked at 6 AM, which was odd, because our Expedia booking stated that the hotel had a 24 hour desk.

We woke the owner up and he told us to just leave the keys in the room.

So, everything advertised about this hotel is a lie. When the track club went to check in on the first night, a member spent 30 minutes arguing with the owner about our reservation, as the owner said he didn’t have a “sticker” marking our reservation down. Good thing there are, you know, the Internet records of our hotel reservation that are easily accessible on a mobile device! That was stupid.

Also, the owner decided to hold off on renovating the hotel because he thinks it’ll be absorbed by a franchise. Is he crazy? How on earth would a franchise want to come into Brown County, especially with another franchise next door. In addition, the remodeling and modernization of the hotel would not be worth it for a county with 15,000 people. Why did he buy this building? What was he thinking?

“It’s good,” he remarked, pausing to watch traffic on State Road 46. “It’s a unique town, a nice place for tourists — nice and quiet.” – Danny Patel

Danny boy! Supposedly moves out from managing a restaurant and gas station (surely more profitable than this) in Chicago for this random hotel in Nashville, Indiana? I found a link in which the previous owners put the Salt Creek Inn up for sale so they could retire.

In 2005!

And again in 2008! They obviously failed to sell! Who in their right mind would buy this dump? It’s a cursed asset, being peddled for nothing.

I found an online auction for the building through Curran Miller Auction/Realty Inc. This is what Danny Patel presumably won. The old retiring folks who owned it just resorted to a dirt cheap online auction.

None of this makes any sense. Running a motel is incredibly time consuming and difficult. There are schools for hotel management where you learn to manage hotels and guests. Or you could just buy a cheap motel in the middle of Indiana and just try for yourself, completely alone, without any hope of a franchise.

The reviews, predictably, are mixed. “The hotel was fine, really, I guess, except for the misery” is the main consensus.

Yep.

You got it.

How could it possibly go downhill under new ownership? What could it possibly have been sitting on beforehand? You are implying there was somewhere to fall from.

Wait, the owner drove you to some bar? Why the hell would you want that? Also, what even is this story, I have no clue.

The end of the newspaper piece, with Danny Patel staring into the incredibly boring Route 46, is a good summary of this inn.

“I’ve made a huge mistake.”

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