K-Bar Motel renovators undeterred by challenges

Marlys Good


(Editor's note: This is the final installment of a two-part series on the renovations taking place at the K-Bar Motel in Greybull.  Part one, which ran in the June 29 issue, shed light on the history of the motel, dating back to its construction in 1949.  Back then, it was known as the Reilly Motel. We pick up the story where that one ended, talking about the circumstances that brought Amanda and Kyle together and their vision to make the motel profitable and an asset to the community.)


Amanda McGrew knew when she first looked at the K-Bar Motel that it would be a challenge, but she also knew that she was up to the challenge. 

To get prepared for the interview we had with her recently, we went to her social media to learn more of her background and what motivated her choice of career that would eventually lead her to Greybull and the motel so in need of a facelift.

Amanda shared with her thousands of followers that she was on the path that would lead her to small-town rodeo and her first hotel renovation as a young teenager.

"I'm very much somebody who finds furniture in the alleys and on the side of roads and wants to take it home with me and my dad has always hated me for that," she told a reporter in an interview for the Cowboy State Journal. "I just started slowly accumulating things in his garage when I was a kid."

Amanda said in that interview that her first project was a six-drawer dresser for her bedroom, a shabby-chic white dresser with little distress around the edges.  Amanda still has that dresser in her bedroom, complete with the starfish knobs she put on the drawers.

The dresser, she explained, is solid wood. "It's the kind of furniture I need," she explained. "I'm not really much for things made out of particle board these days."

You can be sure this will probably be true when she's renovating the K-Bar.

Her interest and passion in upcycling "sad and discarded" furniture into what she described to the reporter as "happy and bright" led her to create her own Etsy business, transforming discarded wood into signs for weddings, baby showers, home decor and more.

 While Amanda was renovating The Cactus House in Arizona, she was posting updates all over Instagram.

Enter future friend and fellow investor, Kyle Black.

It was really a coincidence that the two met at all.  

McGrew recalled how it all came about, saying her sister texted her saying, "You have to follow my friend Kyle. He's up in Montana, but he does a lot of the same stuff (that Amanda did)."

Amanda checked the information and found out Black was in the middle of renovating a triplex he planned to rent out. "He and I hit it off as friends and talked about all the projects we would do to get into more real estate." To make a long story short, over time the conversation turned into "... we should try to do some projects together. It would be fun."

Amanda said she later found out her sister didn't really "know" Kyle. She had just met him in an airport about five years earlier; they had exchanged information.

 On hearing this, Amanda admits to a moment of "consternation," but then the sisters had a good laugh about it. After all, Amanda said, "I've never been afraid of taking a giant leap of faith." 

Kyle lives in Missoula with his fiancee and is busy with his renovation project.  Amanda is the overseer and chief renovator of the K-Bar.  The two are in constant contact.  Amanda said Kyle's fiancee has not only become a good friend, "it's like there are now three of us" involved (in this project).



With Kyle tied up with his project in Missoula, Amanda took it on her shoulders to turn the motel into something that would be profitable for them, but something that would be good for the community, offering both long-term rentals — something needed in the area — as well as Airbnbs that are more in demand all the time.   

The motel was an inverted L shape. The shorter part, on the east side, included the two-bedroom units with full kitchens. Not ideal for the vision the entrepreneurs had in mind, but Amanda said they couldn't overlook the necessity of full kitchens in long-range rentals.

The units on the north end, running east to west, were the units that were left to renovate into Airbnbs.

Also on the agenda is a complete remodeling of the laundry room, an essential need for long-term renters especially.

However, the first problem that had to be addressed were the water leaks. Not just one; they cropped up several times. Amanda didn't say how the problems were solved, but we are guessing she called in the professionals for this particular job. Are they all solved? Hopefully so.

Amanda has finished one of the apartments and that has been turned into her living quarters while she tackles the job of the remaining 19.

She is now on unit two, so she will be around our community for about another 18 months at the least. It's good that she loves this community, the small-town environment. But Wyoming in December?

Amanda isn't worrying about that right now. Her thoughts are on the "style" she wants in the Airbnbs and long-term units.  A big city girl who has moved West and says "I feel more at home here" than she did in the big city, she wants the rooms to reflect her love and appreciation of the west. She is striving for an "updated western (decor), to pay homage to where we are in the country and the region and bring us into 2023." 

She said no two rooms will be exactly alike. Each one will be unique in some respect. She laughed and said going into a motel shouldn't be "like going into the same house every night."

With her eye for color and texture and her love of real wood, making it all come together will be a challenge, but also a work of love.

Another challenge might be getting the "real wood" furniture she wants. She can't look around roadways and alleys and goodwill and other avenues to search are not often found in small locations.

In fact, on a trip home several weeks ago, Amanda said she should have taken a trailer - so maybe a roadtrip or two will be on her agenda.

But our bets are on Amanda's good taste, her love for what she's doing, the advice, help and encouragement of her partner, and her desire to succeed. It might be slow, but the end result will be something special.

Check out the exterior of the motel next time you pass by. Already you can see subtle differences. Change is slow, but it is coming.

As for the partnership of Amanda and Kyle, Amanda said this: "People thought I was insane, coming out here to look at the property, with this stranger, then committing to it with no idea of who was who. But Kyle and I agree that we have a little bit of a higher risk tolerance than most people we know."