December 9, 2015 by Rebecca McKinsey
Alicia and Richard “Ski” Ciesielski purchased the motel from Sharon and Verlin Tharp — officially, as of this week — and are beginning to transition into running the business.
But both old and new owners want Guthrie Center’s residents and visitors to know that the business will remain local and friendly.
Although it’s passed hands back and forth between family members, Midway Motel has been in Sharon Tharp’s family for 43 years.
Sharon was raised in Des Moines, and her husband, Verlin, lived near Dalmanutha, southwest of Guthrie Center. Sharon has relatives from Monteith.
Between parents, children and in-laws, the Tharp family has run the business since 1972. Sharon joked that Verlin, who worked for years as an over-the-road trucker, bought the motel so she’d have something to do.
“I’d never stayed in a motel except on our honeymoon and maybe one or two vacations we had when we stayed overnight in a motel,” she recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t know anything about running a motel.’ He said, ‘You’ll learn.’”
And she did.
In between the times Sharon ran the motel, she and her family moved to Minnesota and Colorado, although there was always a Tharp family member running the business. Verlin gets a “seven-year itch,” Sharon said with a laugh — several of their moves happened after they lived in a place for seven years.
The Tharps’ son, Bill, who had run the motel for a time while Sharon and Verlin were in Colorado but wanted to move on, found a house for sale on 12th Street in Guthrie Center and called his mom.
“I said, ‘No, I really am happy in Colorado,’” Sharon recalled.
So Bill switched tactics — and called his dad.
Remember that house you used to draw for us when we were little? Sharon recalled her son saying. I found you a house that looks just like it.
A visit and some negotiating later, the Tharps owned the house on 12st Street, and Sharon began running the motel again.
That was about seven years ago, and this time, it’s Sharon who’s ready for a change.
“It’s time to retire and let a younger generation take over,” she said.
Now, after years of working long hours at the motel, Sharon wants to learn more about Guthrie Center and how it works.
“I’m one of those people that didn’t realize all the stuff that goes behind running a city,” she said. “I just figured it got done, but I didn’t know who did it.”
She’s already started getting involved with Main Street Guthrie Center. And she’s not expecting to leave.
“We’ll be here till we die,” Sharon said.
She added with a laugh that she knows this to be true because she lives on a dead-end street in Guthrie Center, just as she did in Des Moines — she’s come full circle, she said — and her house in Guthrie Center is the last one on the street.
“God’s got a sense of humor,” she said. Sharon said she’ll miss the motel.
“I’ve got so many good memories,” she said. “I’ll miss the business, and I’ll miss the people — not so much the work, but I will miss the people. “It’s fun times. You meet very nice people.”
The motel has 13 rooms and an apartment that stood empty for a time. There is also an attached three-bedroom house for the owners.
As the Ciesielskis take over the business, Sharon said she’ll remain available to show them the ropes and answer any questions.
“I’ll help them through the rough spots and any questions they need answered,” she said. “I want to make sure the community loves them. They’ve taken such good care of me — it’s a beautiful community to live in.”
She added that in addition to the community members who have supported the business, she is grateful to the people who have worked with her at the motel over the years.
“They’re a big part of this,” she said.
After 43 years, though, she was ready to hang up her hat. In fact, she’d been prepared to close the motel in December if she didn’t find a buyer — and she was particular about who would run the business next.
“I’ve been very choosy in finding them,” she said. “I wanted just the right personalities. I think we found them.
“It’s going to work.”
Alicia and Richard “Ski” Ciesielski, arrived in Guthrie Center from Denver just last Friday, and it’s been a busy few days.
Ski is from Wyoming, and Alicia grew up in Guthrie Center, graduating in 1982. Although she moved away in 1985, her family returned periodically to visit. Her parents, Wayne Nickel and Janet Clark, still live in the area.
In Denver, Alicia was the manager of an appraisal business for residential real estate and Ski worked as a career firefighter. The couple helped start a K-12 school in that area, Front Range Christian School, that now has about 500 students. Alicia worked as the assistant to the president at the school for about 15 years. The couple’s children all attended there.
After working as a firefighter for about 30 years, an injury forced Ski to retire.
“Alicia and I had four daughters, and they like to eat regularly and live inside,” he joked.
So he found new work — at an office promoting safety and safety equipment, primarily to fire departments in the western United States, Ski said.
The motel business is new to both of them.
They moved to Guthrie Center to be closer to Alicia’s parents, and their oldest daughter, Kayla, who has two young boys — Tanner, 4, and Colton, 2 — is considering a move to the area as well.
They have three other daughters: Cara, a Paul Mitchell graduate working at a salon on the Denver area; Krista, who lives in Guthrie Center and works at KidZone; and Cami, a student at Colorado State University.
The couple heard about the motel being sold almost by accident and fell into the decision to buy it fairly quickly.
“We decided to take a trip out here and see if it was for real, and we fell in love with Sharon,” Ski said. “I always wanted to do a business on my own.”
He joked that they both voted on the move.
“And here we are,” he said.
It’s an adjustment, though.
“Driving in, we met one car, and two porch lights were on,” Alicia said. “It’s not like Denver.”
Getting reacquainted with old friends and schoolmates has been nice, she added.
“You can trust people back here,” she said.
The Ciesielskis don’t expect to make major changes or renovations to the motel until they’ve run it for a time and have had the chance to assess how it all works.
“We’d very much like to keep up with the needs of the community,” Ski said.
But they have decided that their involvement with the business will be “very long term,” he added.
They plan to keep the Midway Motel name, for now, and expect to have a website up soon with information about the motel. The rates will stay the same for now as well, and those interested in staying at the motel can make reservations by calling 641-747-2261. The business is staying open throughout the transition between owners.
“I always try to exceed expectations,” Ski said. “That’ll be hard, because Sharon’s done such a great job. We want a comfortable, relaxing place. We want to serve others.”
Courtesy of Rebecca McKinsey, Guthrie County Times 12/9/15.