The question seems funny now.
When Rich and Karen Avery bought Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs, someone asked them what sort of experience they had in the hospitality industry.
“Our experience was we had stayed in motels,” Rich said, laughing.
Turns out a lengthy resume wasn’t necessarily required for success. Rich, a former engineer for Lockheed Martin, and Karen, a former manager with the software company Oracle, spent 13 years building Box Canyon into one of the most highly regarded lodging properties in Ouray County.
And last month they turned over the 39-room lodge to another couple who has only slightly more familiarity with entertaining guests in one form or another.
Troy and Melinda Callender met years ago in a restaurant — he was a dishwasher, she was a hostess — but with the Averys’ help the Texas residents aim to provide the same high level of service to visitors looking for a stay-and-soak getaway in the San Juans.
The sale means Rich, 57, and Karen, 55, will come up a bit short in their plan to operate Box Canyon for 20 years. They put it up for sale in the spring of 2019, not intending to sell it right away but wanting to start the process, knowing hotels are unique properties for whom it can take years to find the right buyers.
“We did not want to be 75 years old and not having sold it,” Karen said.
They figured the market for the property might be especially slow to develop in the midst of a pandemic. But then along came Troy, 58, and Melinda, 56, late last summer. Troy, a 25-year ear, nose and throat surgeon, and Melinda, a physical therapist, had been thinking about transitioning into new careers.
“Our financial advisor suggested this as an opportunity to do something different but maintain involvement in a new venture,” Troy said.
The Callenders aren’t strangers to Colorado. They built a home in Breckenridge in 2013. One of their daughters played music in Durango a few years back, affording them the opportunity to hop aboard a train ride to Silverton. They arrived in Ouray last summer as the Averys were applying a new coat of paint to the hotel’s exterior and, like so many, were taken with the beauty of the area.
As the new owners of Box Canyon, the Callenders plan to come to Ouray at least once a month and eventually relocate full time here. In the meantime, Troy will take two or three years to transition out of his practice in Tyler, Texas. They acknowledge they have plenty to learn about the lodge. The Averys intend to stay in Ouray and will be here to help — along with the entire staff, which will remain intact.
“We want them to be successful, because this is our baby,” Karen said.