DEXTER, Maine — Corinna’s Don Smith saw a need for a motel and some entertainment in the Dexter area. In a few weeks, he’ll have his wish.
The old Dexter Motor Lodge on Route 7 was within days of being bulldozed after years of neglect before Smith decided to buy the property, which first opened in 1962, for $100,000.
“The whole place was full of mold and it was ready to fall over,” said Smith, who also owns Dexter Discount Tire.
Smith said he has put in a year’s worth of work with five full-time employees and about $400,000 in improvements to ready the renamed Moosehead Trail Motor Lodge for opening in December.
“Everything’s new. All the beds are new, all the walls, electrical, plumbing, carpeting,” he said. “We put in an indoor pool and we’re going to have a hot tub.”
He added that the building also has a new roof, windows and kitchen.
The lodge will feature 18 rooms with a sports bar and pool tables, a stage, a second bar and dance floor that can seat at least 200 people.
“Every day people come to me and ask, “When’s it going to open?” Smith said. “Everybody’s just excited for this place to be open again.”
Smith said he’s hoping to escape the building’s past problems.
“The reputation, I was told, wasn’t very good. There was a lot of fighting and there was a lot of drugs,” said Smith. “That isn’t going to happen again.”
Dexter police Corp. Alan Grinnell confirmed there were a lot of problems under old ownership at the Dexter Motor Lodge.
“In general, we dealt with some disorderly conduct and fights,” said Grinnell. “We had our hands full at times, for sure.”
Charles Bither, a band promoter who is also promoting the new business, remembers the problems of the old lodge and aims to correct those mistakes.
“[We’re] just changing the reputation of this place,” said Bither, of Garland. “It was bad. The bouncers at the door were intimidating people. People just want to come here and enjoy themselves and they didn’t feel comfortable. We want to have people come here and feel comfortable and not have to worry about getting into a fight.”
Smith’s wife and business partner, Aline Smith, said they’re going to take a hard stance against troublemakers.
“If anyone’s caught fighting, they’re going to be barred for life,” she said. “We want it to be respectful.”
The lodge not only will be a motel, sports bar and dance room, it also can host weddings and birthday parties, said Don Smith.
Smith said he’ll employ at least eight to 12 full-time and part-time employees.
“I’ve had at least 200 people come in with applications and applying for jobs,” he said.
The lodge will have a country theme, he said.
“It’s kind of like when you go to Texas Roadhouse,” Smith said. “Everything’s country and that’s what I wanted here.”
Despite being weeks away from opening, he’s had many calls from people looking for a place to stay.
“I must have gotten at least 20 calls from people from Massachusetts wanting to rent for hunting season, but we weren’t open yet,” said Smith.
When the lodge opens, he said he’ll be happy to welcome a snowmobile crowd that’s eager to sled to Moosehead Lake.
“You can come in here with your snowmobile, stay for the weekend, go snowmobiling all day, come back at night, go in the pool and hot tub and then go dancing and not have to leave the property. That’s what’s good about it,” he said.