Native Texan Wes Anderson has a reputation for attracting fanatically devoted followers. His films, most notably Academy Award-winner The Royal Tenenbaums, have earned a place in the cultural lexicon of an entire generation, with scores of fans emulating their favorite characters’ style and drafting emails exclusively in Futura (Anderson’s preferred font). So it’s no surprise that his picturesque filming locations – which are often devoid of iconic landmarks and intentionally suspended in time – have become popular road trip destinations. For example, St. John’s School in Houston (Anderson’s real life alma mater) is a perfect photo backdrop for scores of would-be Max Fischers.
The Days Inn Hillsboro, however, hasn’t enjoyed the same notoriety. The main location for Anderson’s directorial debut, Bottle Rocket, it was formerly a Ramada, then the privately run Windmill Inn. Now, under the ownership of Bina Patel and her husband, Sonny, the painstakingly remodeled Days Inn franchise has fallen on hard times, and a group of devoted fans is determined to help.
Andy Valentin and Chris Durbin, Anderson fans from the Dallas area, learned about the Patel’s difficulties when they were planning a nostalgic weekend trip.
“Chris’ birthday was in May,” Valentin explains, “and I didn’t have any money to get him anything. So I said, this summer you and I will go down there and we’ll go have some drinks in Room 212, where they filmed a lot of scenes from the movie. I looked online to make reservations, but it said they were booked all through the summer and I thought, that’s strange, there’s not much to do in Hillsboro, what would the draw be?
“So I called Days Inn directly and found out that they hadn’t paid their franchise fees and that was one of the first things Days Inn took away from them, the ability to book online. Which seems silly, because wouldn’t that affect how you would make money?”
The two friends immediately created a Facebook event, hoping to inspire friends to go stay at, and support, the Days Inn. This led to a post on Anderson fansite Rushmore Academy, which led to a Dallas Observer post, which attracted the attention of Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League. This weekend, busloads of fans from across the state (and a few from farther away) will head up to Hillsboro for a Bottle Rocket screening and sleepover, with the intent to fully book the hotel's nearly 90 rooms.
A whole motel full of tracksuit-clad, Bowie-obsessed Anderson fans? It’s like a dream come true for the art film crowd. But will it help rescue the struggling motel?
“This is a business, it’s up and down, it comes and goes,” owner and manager Bina Patel explains. “We are not on any website because we were behind on paying the Days Inn, so they took us off. Now people don’t know that there’s a Days Inn in Hillsboro.”
The lack of online presence is making it nearly impossible for the motel to attract bookings – and maintain a full staff. “I’m the manager and owner and I’m working more than 95 hours a week, because we’ve had to lay off people,” says Patel. “I’m trying my best to cut the payroll, that’s the only thing I can do. I can’t cut other basic expenses. And I hate it, because I know it’s a small town and people have a hard time finding jobs, but people understand. I have a good relationship with my employees, they’ve been here a long time and they understand. They know that once we’re doing better they can come back, and I want them to come back.”
Patel is hopeful that things will turn in her favor. “We’re open, we’re not closed,” she reiterates. “I know lots of people think we’re closing, but we’re not closing the business.”
Ideally, despite being locked into a 5-year contract with Days Inn, Patel and her husband would love to continue running the motel and making renovations, branding themselves as a destination both for tourists and for locals looking for a quick getaway. Want to help? Since you can't book online, potential guests can reach the Days Inn at 254-582-3493 to reserve rooms. Additionally, Patel noted that Valentin and Durbin's marketing efforts have resulted in a huge increase in attention – so sharing information on the Days Inn and Bottle Rocket-themed events is a great start. Are you a web designer with some free time? We know of a small business that just might need some help setting up a site...