Seaport Inn motel opens for second summer

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The Seaport Inn in Ocean City is one of the few motels in town. The Vanderslice family opened the business last summer.  The Seaport Inn in Ocean City is one of the few motels in town. The Vanderslice family opened the business last summer. OCEAN CITY — Bucking the trend of the “condo-tel,” converting aging motel rooms into condominium efficiency units, the Seaport Inn Motel opened last year as Ocean City’s newest, actual motel.

Boasting 22 newly-renovated rooms on three floors, the family-friendly motel is located at 1116 Wesley Ave. one block to the beach and boardwalk.

“We are really excited,” said Dawn Vanderslice, who with her husband, Harry, opened the motel last summer. “A lot of people can’t stay a whole week, there is a big market for an easy, inexpensive room for a shorter stay.”

Buying a motel was not even remotely on the couple’s radar, but when Harry, a real estate broker and developer, came across the abandoned building last May, it was the serendipitous offer they could not refuse.

“Harry is always looking for a good investment, but we never really considered a motel,” Dawn Vanderslice said. “We started to think about it and it became an opportunity we could not resist. We had very little time to think about it, we had to just jump in and do it.”

Built by Andrew “Tippy” Trofa in the 1960s, the building was once a thriving family-operated motel. The Trofa family sold the business and it eventually ended up in the hands of a developer. It was a work in progress when the developer ran out of funding and abandoned it.

“It was a short sale,” Vanderslice said. “We bought it at the end of May last year. We had six weeks to get it done. Our first day was July 23.

“The bones were there, a lot of the work was done,” she said.

They did encounter one unexpected issue: the building needed new beams, so they lost a good chunk of the six weeks they needed to get it ready.

“We bought it as is, on a short sale. It did have some leaks; we had to fix some things. The beams were the whole support of the building, that was a little crazy, but we did it. That left us with three weeks to get ready,” she said.

Vanderslice laughs as she thinks of the whirlwind of the previous summer.

“It was insane,” she said.  “Somehow it all came together. We were high-flying by the end of the summer.”

The couple enlisted family and friends to assist them in getting the motel ready to open. Harry, one of eight Vanderslice children raised in Ocean City, has a slew of nieces and nephews who helped do everything from clean to setting up the requisite technology, including checking guests in on opening day.

Painting and furnishing 22 rooms was no easy task; Vanderslice relied on skills she honed over the years working with Harry’s real estate clients. Putting her extensive designer and decorator experience to use, she outfitted the rooms in soft seashore shades of blue and tan. Each room has a table and chair and a small kitchenette.

“They’re fully equipped; people love the rooms,” Vanderslice said, adding that she aimed for cool, comfortable furnishings with a seashore theme.

“I wanted a nautical feel,” she said.

The awnings outside are navy, with red, yellow and sea blue stripes. “This really tapped into my creative side. I enjoyed picking out all the things and putting the rooms together. For a first endeavor, I think we did really well. We really didn’t have much time to think about it.”

For the Vanderslices, the opportunity came at a good time. As the youngest of the couple’s four children heads to sixth grade, Dawn Vanderslice finds herself with more free time.

“I was looking to do something, take on some kind of challenge. I didn’t know it would be a motel, but it’s been a lot of fun,” she said.

The motel had no existing clientele when it opened, but quickly filled as families were able to book an affordable, flexible vacation. Many are returning.

“The motel is family run, and family-oriented and people are so happy to find us,” she said. “The motel definitely has a homey feel to it, it’s very comfortable. We have a lot of families, but also couples. We really cater to people who want to come down, go to the beach and boardwalk and be able to walk everywhere. Some people don’t need a lot of room; they just want something clean and simple.”

Business is brisk; the motel is booking up fast. They are filled for some of the bigger weekends and plan to be open on weekends into the fall.

“We’re offering specials, for Labor Day, block party weekend,” Vanderslice said. “We’re going to be open for First Night. We want to be a part of everything, part of the fun and excitement, part of the tradition.”

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