Why Norwich, Ohio for Zane Grey Museum
Events – Fall Festival – Saturday, October 7th – 2023
Let’s go back to 1960 when the idea of an interstate system, I-70 was going to be coming through Ohio and I.B. Baker owned the motel and the land on both sides of the Historic National Road back then though it was the main road east to west and Baker’s Motel and Restaurant were booming. This was all about to change though as I-70 was coming and all business on the National Road would be in jeopardy.
History of Zane Grey Museum
The owner of Baker’s Motel had the foresight to see what was coming so he got ahead of the game and contacted the State of Ohio to negotiate land for a museum here in Norwich, Ohio and in return the state would put an exit for Norwich, Ohio. In 1963 when the interstate came through an exit was built and the Zane Grey Museum opened, the motel was saved from extinction unlike most other lodging properties that did not have an exit for I-70 near them. Back then the restaurant and the motel complimented each other but I.B. was getting older and wanted out of the business so he sold the property to General Theaters Company out of Cleveland, Ohio which owned a lot of the Drive-In Theaters in Ohio and wanted to expand their business into lodging, ten years later though they sold out to Kim Zachary in 1973. At this time the motel was on the decline as even with I-70 the business started to dwindle as more and more lodging properties were being built and the traffic was not keeping up with the number of properties. Additionally, the traveling public started wanting more of a standard of quality which at that time became chain motels and hotels. For independents AAA was the standard and the more stars meant the better the property. During this stage of lodging history most lodging properties had restaurants as the traveling public wanted easy access to food.
Travelers Changed and Business Changed
During the 70’s – 90’s travelers changed and with the change Baker’s Motel changed also, still having The Zane Grey Museum across the street was an asset and we still worked closely as one businesses growth had a lot to do with the other business even though they were separate. In the 90’s we saw a lot of change in the traveling public with their wants and needs, at Baker’s we removed our swimming pool and added fridges and microwaves to all rooms our travelers changed from families to work crews, senior citizens, and salespeople most of which could care to hoot about a swimming pool. During this time period also, the museum saw a lot of changes as their traffic was starting to wain but as we both saw the change we both adapted though with shorter hours at the museum motel guests we unable to see the museum as the museum did not open until after the guest checked-out and closed before the guest checked-in. It was a fun time then as we were always thought of as being old but everything was going to change again as our Country was finding a new interest in history and Baker’s Motel was no longer being thought of as old but now was Historic. Since we were on The National Road and were one of the most historic motels that was still in operation our business started to grow again.
Leveling of the Playing Field
In the late 90’s with the advent of the Internet the whole game started to change, we no longer needed highway signs which were a huge expense in the 60’s – 90’s, along with many other changes for the good of this business. With the advent of the internet the playing field was leveled, and you no longer really needed to be a chain or affiliated with anyone which meant you could put more money back into your business, astute operators saw this and added a website to drive traffic to their locations. Though once again change was coming in the 2000’s with reviews and people started to feel some power and for many it was and is away to make big businesses yield to their needs, with abuse though comes change again and over the years the chains have created a large portion of our society that abuse this for which we are seeing another change coming. Big business is who started the problem and big business is paying for that problem today, we are seeing many large businesses closing their doors and small businesses getting tired of many of the ridiculous reviews with no merit and enhancing our properties as we see the needs change for us it is a unique mix of the old and the new.
Changing the way of Business
Covid changed everything but our business continued to be needed as with motels the traveling public did not need to enter hallways or stay on the second or third floor but with motels guests could park in front of their room and not see anyone, we took this to the next level for our guests by already having digital locks and the ability to book online and receive a digital code if coming in late to access rooms.
At Baker’s Motel we continually are updating our property unlike chains which only update when new owners take over we are constantly performing update both online and offline, today we offer something the chains cannot and that is history, our property continues to offer exceptionally clean rooms and a safe outdoor environment for our guests, we welcome all travelers today just like was done over 85 years ago. We have operated continuously for as long as the doors have been open, Why? Because we have a continuous standard that we attempt to meet and rarely does that vary.
The Museum Website: http://nationalroadandzanegreymuseum.org/