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Alaskan Hotel gets makeover

Travel Channel's 'Hotel Impossible' refurbishing oldest standing hotel - unveiling Saturday

Posted: September 26, 2013 - 10:05pm  |  Updated: September 26, 2013 - 11:06pm

After heading up more than 30 hotel renovations over three seasons of Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible,” it only took designer Blanche Garcia about an hour to come up with a new concept for the Alaskan Hotel.

Crews from the hotel makeover show have been filming at the Alaskan Hotel & Bar since Tuesday, and will wrap Saturday evening. Garcia said the historic nature of the hotel — it recently had its 100th birthday — provided her “a lot of culture” from which to draw inspiration.

She said she has to change her mindset each time she develops a vision for a hotel so “it makes sense for each location.” And 17 years as an interior designer have given her the ability to work with quick deadlines.

“It’s so intense because we only have a couple days to get it right,” Garcia said. “It’s our work on steroids.”

The experience has also been intense for Alaskan Hotel owner Bettye Adams, who was first approached by the television show in May. After months of emails and calls, Adams decided to give the hotel over to the “Hotel Impossible” team for a makeover, led by host Anthony Melchiorri. He evaluates the hotels his team visits and provides owners with his unfiltered opinion on how to turn their businesses around.

As of Thursday evening, Adams had only one interview with Melchiorri, but she’s “already learned a lot” and there is more to come this week, she said. Because of Travel Channel rules, she couldn’t say what advice he had for her, but it was intense, she said.

“I was not prepared, I was surprised,” Adams said. “I tried to go in without any preconceived notions and that kept me going.”

Adams knew going in that Melchiorri is not one to parse his words when it comes to the hotels he works on. The first time she watched the show, she had to turn it off and take a break.

“Then I watched a couple more and decided not to watch it anymore,” Adams said, laughing.

She said that although her business is not failing, she recognized there are aspects of the hotel that could be improved. That’s why she agreed to open her doors to “Hotel Impossible.”

“When the universe presents you with something, I think it’s your job to recognize it’s your opportunity to take it,” Adams said. “I don’t know how this could do anything but help business.”

Garcia said prosperity usually follows the show.

“If they (hotel owners) do it right, they play it up,” she said. “There’s a huge surge, when we do a hotel, in their business.”

Adams bought the hotel in 1977, and opened the bar in 1981. The bar side of the building will go untouched, she said.

The Alaskan is the oldest continually operating hotel in Alaska, Adams’ son, Joshua Adams, said. Garcia said that although the age of the building helps give it character, it makes it a little harder to work quickly.

“You don’t know, when you’re ripping something off, what’s behind it,” she said. “It needs a little more TLC.”

The Alaskan Hotel’s facelift will be available to the public Saturday after “Hotel Impossible” crews leave. The episode will be the first of the show’s fourth season, and will air in spring or summer of 2014, Garcia said. Local businesses Stopher Construction, Herr’s Painting Contractors, Alaska Renovators and the Alaskan Fudge Company have been working on the project alongside the show’s staff, she said.

Adams said she has no idea what the new design will look like, but knows it will take a lot of work to get to that point.

“And then, Saturday, Santa Claus will come,” she said.

Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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