River Front Motel earns kudos from Trip Advisor
By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer
What better way for a motel to celebrate its 15-year anniversary than to get a letter from TripAdvisor saying the business has been ranked one of the top hotels in Bandera? The ranking is based on positive reviews from travelers.
The letter of commendation from the world's largest travel site surprised and pleased River Front Motel owner Cathy Clamon. "I've been fortunate to have an excellent staff and they work very hard, so I feel like this is for them," she said.
Clamon purchased the historic Bandera property in August of 1997 from Henry and Anna Moeller and their son, Tom Laxson.
"I moved here in 1988 to work for the USDA at the ASCS office. I stayed at the River Front and the Moellers became family to me," Clamon said. In addition to her regular job, Clamon went to nursing school for her RN degree and, on weekends, helped around the motel cleaning rooms and filling in at the office. "They became parents to me and grandparents to my children, Candice and Chas."
She financed the purchase of the property through Bandera Bank and has appreciated the business help given her through the years by bank president Ken Finley.
Today, Clamon and her efficient staff run the motel out of the office perched at the back of the property.
The building, dating from the 1840s, features thick stone walls, wooden floors and ceilings, and two hand-built fireplaces. The office suite was added across the front some years ago.
The entrance gates, also of stone, stand atop thick concrete bases that were constructed by RB Autery Construction Company in November 1945. According to Clamon, during the old cattle drives through Bandera, the motel property served as a holding pen for the stock.
For eight years, Clamon's daughter Candice acted as general manager for the property. She continues to work as an assistant manager, but in January of this year, Cheryl Betters became the general manager. Mary Jane Upton and Gloria Brown serve as day managers. Evelyn Lavergne acts as bookkeeper and office assistant and Rachel Corales is Clamon's personal assistant and office assistant.
Housekeeping staff include David Ewing, Ronda Bay, Michelle Cantu, Lydia Sparks, Katie Rose, laundry service and maintenance, maintenance by Gunnar Witt, and Chas Clamon, computer assistant and night clerk.
Clamon attributes much of her success at River Front to her staff. "We get customers from all over the world, thanks to the world wide web. They want a clean room, crisp sheets and attractive grounds. That's what my staff provides."
The economy has not affected the business in a negative way, Clamon said. It has changed the clientele slightly. "We have been getting more families who travel shorter distances and then stay for several days instead of just overnight."
Clamon also appreciates the business she gets from bikers. "I know a lot of people who don't like the noise, but that noise is the sound of money to us. They rent the cabins, buy food and gas in town, the wives shop. And a lot of them come in January and February when things slow down for us."
Clamon enjoys making her guests comfortable. They come from all over the world, especially Germany, England, Ireland and Italy. "We had a couple from England who renewed their wedding vows here after 30 years, then they brought their friends back to get married here." Clamon and her staff go out of their way to provide a "Bandera style" wedding for those special clients who want to tie the knot.
She has recently turned the iconic stone fountain in the center of the forecourt into a covered gazebo. Twinkle lights and plants will turn it into an eye-catching feature.
In addition to weddings, the motel plays host to reunion groups, and they are pet friendly.
The River Front's low-lying location over-looking the Medina River and Bandera City Park subjects it to occasional floods. "Flood insurance is expensive, but necessary," said Clamon. "We had our first flood in 2002. It was an opportunity to renovate."
As for those customer reviews that earned TripAdvisor kudos? They say things like "[you] feel like you have your own place rather than a hotel room," "the cabins are basic with pine furniture but are kept very clean," "front porch was great for relaxing," and "the manager always makes us feel like returning family."
If you are expecting out-of-town guests and want to be assured they will have a nice place to stay, take TripAdvisor's advice and make reservations at the River Front Motel. Call 800-870-5671.
As they say at River Front, "Come stay and play in Bandera, Texas."