1930s motel bridges gap between Santa Fe locals, tourists

Community Reports

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Instagram is beginning to influence the way people see places. Architects are designing buildings based on what will look good on social media in order to attract the app’s 1 billion users to the latest bar, hotel, or outdoor park. They say “Instagrammable” qualities include bright pops of color, minimalist designs, warm soft lighting, geometric angles, and some sense of nostalgia.

El Rey Court, a 1930’s era motel off Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, has found a space for itself on the app. People from Austin, San Francisco, and even as far away as Melbourne, Australia travel to the motel, sometimes simply for the pleasure of snapping a photo.

“We have really been popular with a lot of social media and so people are constantly just stopping by on their way down to the plaza or booking us to stay here based on the Instagram following that we have.”

Tohnia Miller, General Manager at El Rey Court

The motel was recently reviewed by Conde Nast Travel Guide, which labeled it as “A next-gen Route 66 motel that’s full of character and mezcal— and just as popular with locals as out-of-towners,” but it’s also been featured in the New York Times, Sunset Magazine, and Vogue.

El Rey’s General Manager Tohnia Miller who says the co-owners, a couple based out of California, wanted to revitalize the space’s old adobe charm, embrace its kiva fireplaces, nichos, and wooden ladders and share the region’s rich history with locals and newcomers alike.

“We feel it’s really important to give back to the community and at the same time be able to provide a really authentic Santa Fe experience for people from out of town.”

Tohnia Miller, General Manager at El Rey Court

They also wanted to draw a different kind of crowd, one outside of the usual vacationers from Texas and Colorado, and find ways to give back to the local community. They hoped by bringing more young people to the area and providing a trendy bar, food trucks, and creative spaces, that Santa Feans would begin to see the place as a hangout for locals too. A successful mission, proven through the tongue and cheek display of a real Trip Advisor review on the motel’s marquee which reads, “Beware of unkept and scruffy young people.”

“Our guests are coming in from New York City, Los Angles, and Austin so I think we’re appealing to a little bit of a younger clientele than Santa Fe’s used to.”

Tohnia Miller, General Manager at El Rey Court

El Rey Court says thanks to the space’s popularity on Instagram, they’ve spent almost no money on advertising. They host free events for both guests and locals, like yoga classes, and a first Fridays Makers Market, where artisans show and sell their wares. They also function as a wedding venue, beer garden, and swimming club.

Miller says working at a place with so much potential means they have no plans of slowing down anytime soon. They hope their own success will help nearby businesses, draw a new crowd to Santa Fe, and pass along a piece of the past for generations to come.

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