After 21 years under the same owner, Dave Paradis of Visalia announced this week that all that’s left for him to do is a few more days operating the venerable lodge. As of Monday, Jan. 15, the buyer’s offer for Sierra Lodge cannot be rescinded.
The eight employees will all be retained. The new owners of the 22-room lodge are two brothers who own a number of Southern California properties.
Paradis, who bought the property in April 1996, said he has no regrets even though he says California is one of the most expensive states to do business. He’s been a long-time advocate of hotel/motel owners who he said are at a disadvantage competing against the proliferation of vacation rentals that aren’t playing by the same rules.
Paradis cites the example of the State of California’s water standards and workmen’s compensation as two areas where lodging owners have to pay thousands of dollars to serve the public. Owners of vacation rentals are not required to operate by the same standards.
“Of course, there are exceptions among the local vacation-rental owners but recently there has been an explosion of an underground economy in Three Rivers,” Paradis said. “A number of these local owners are paying their workers under the table and not paying their fair share of taxes.”
Paradis says he knows this to be true because many of the same people have worked as employees for Sierra Lodge.
Meeting the State’s new water quality standards has been a source of consternation, Paradis said. In the last two years, he has spent $70,000 upgrading his water system and installing a slow sand filtration system as mandated by the State of California.
“For the last 21 years, I’ve taken two water samples down to the County once every month,” Paradis said. “One sample is from the river and the other is from my system. The river water has never passed once; the lodge water has never failed.”
Paradis said the two-parts-per-million drinking water standards are a bit overkill but he made the improvements because it is the law. Those upgrades have added to the value of the property and sweetened the deal for the new owners.
Paradis said the new owners plan to make some upgrades of their own, including solar panels and thermal windows.
The two wings that make up today’s Sierra Lodge were built by Dick Lang (1927-1999) — one in 1954; a second in the early 1960s.
The property was operated for one year as Lang’s Motel by Dick Lang's parents.
Mountaire Motel and Restaurant
In 1955, Lang’s Motel was purchased by Maynard and Charlotte Simmons, who changed the name to Mountaire. The Simmons family, which included their teenage daughter Valerie, had an inauspicious arrival to Three Rivers from Southern California. They pulled into town with all their belongings during the recent aftermath of the December 1955 flood, which had washed out most of the bridges in town, including the South Fork bridge on Highway 198, the main access to the community.
Over the years, with the help of their daughter, Valerie, and a bunch of local kids, the Simmonses also operated a restaurant on the motel property. They owned the property for the next three decades.
During the ownership following the Simmons family, the name was changed to Sierra Lodge, sometime in the 1980s. Beginning in 1988, the property changed hands to a succession of owners, the last of which was Ozzy Abdalla.
Valerie Simmons, by the way, is today Valerie Abanathie, and she still resides in Three Rivers with her husband, Bob. She graduated from Woodlake High School as did the next two generations of her family.
“The golf cart will be up and running soon, the last water heater is fixed, and after 21 years, the time has come for me to step aside and make way for someone to take over Sierra Lodge for the next 20 years,” Paradis said.