‘Motel Makeover’ – Turning ugly ducklings into swans

No experience necessary for Toronto entrepreneurs

Sarah Sklash (left) and April Brown

Imagine opening a motel rehab business with no DIY skills or experience in design or the hospitality industry, only a vision and a boundless passion. Welcome to the world of April Brown and Sarah Sklash of “Motel Makeover.”

Premiering Wednesday, Aug. 25, on Netflix, the half-hour series follows the longtime friends as they take on the renovation of the Knights Inn, a rundown motel in the up-and-coming resort area of Sauble Beach outside of Toronto. Armed only with an eye for what they like and what they think millennials will want from a vacation experience, along with the help of craftspeople, they work to put their thumbprint on the place as they turn it into The June, a hip, upscale resort that they hope will become a destination.

“We’re very new to the industry of hospitality, to design,” explains Brown, whose previous career was in public relations, “but we also say that’s a bit of an advantage because it means that we look at the industry with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. And we really always kind of put ourselves as travelers ourselves. As guests ourselves, what would we want the experience to be? What kind of room would we want to check into? So we had a lot of fun with just coming up with the concept from a guest’s perspective.”

And that concept was proven successful when they purchased their first motel, the Sportsman Motel in Prince Edward County, in 2016 and turned it into The June, a hip, wine-themed concept designed to appeal to the millennial market. The place was a hit from the get-go, with sold-out weekends during the summer and a lot of media attention.

With their brand now established, Brown and Sklash hope to work their magic on this current project and any other opportunities that may arise in and outside of Ontario.

“I think one of the reasons we chose to even do the show,” Brown says, “is we really want to show more people what’s possible … . I think that hopefully one of the messages that really comes through in the show is that if you are passionate and excited about something, you have to make those bold decisions and take that leap. And you can do whatever you set your mind to.”

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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