KEARNEY — Earlier this year, Paul Younes said his lodging business, Younes Hospitality, had forecast $3 million in business for July and another $2.7 million for August.
That all went down the drain after the July 9 deluge inundated his seven hotel properties in southern Kearney. Rather than making profits, he was funneling millions of dollars toward flood recovery.
Since July, Younes has orchestrated a step-by-step, systematic recovery, juggling employees, bookings and whatever buildings that could be repaired and reopened.
On Wednesday, Younes will celebrate a major milestone — the reopening of Holiday Inn.
“I have to say thanks to God and thanks to our employees for everything, and thanks to our customers,” Younes said.
He said after the flood he asked his employees to assist in recovery. They removed water-soaked drywall, tore out drenched carpet and helped in other ways to accelerate the recovery. “Our employees are superstars. They did everything we asked, but we’re not done yet.”
He estimated about eight more weeks until all rooms at the Younes hotels are reopened.
The reopening of the Holiday Inn is significant, Younes said, because it will add revenue to his business, which has been spending money on repairs for four months. His business’ income potential has been compromised without enough rooms to rent and conference facilities to book.
“We need the business, we need the revenue. We’ve had no income,” he said.
Other hotels in the Younes Complex were insured in various ways, but there was no insurance on the Holiday Inn.
Holiday Inn is Younes’ first hotel, a business he built with a million handshakes as tourists, convention participants, wedding partygoers, seed corn dealers and sandhill crane enthusiasts filled his rooms, restaurants and banquet and conference facilities.
Although Holiday Inn will reopen Wednesday, only the second floor’s 82 rooms will be available for lodging. Banquet halls and meeting rooms also will be available, but it will be several weeks before the 75 ground level rooms reopen.
Although Younes just reopened 21 ground level rooms at Comfort Inn and soon will reopen seven ground level rooms at Fairfield Inn, it will be another three weeks before ground level rooms are reopened at Hampton Inn, LaQuinta Inn and Candlewood Suites.
By mid-December, carpet will be installed at the Younes Conference Center. Younes anticipates that the remaining ground-level rooms at Holiday Inn will reopen by that time.
“The Holiday Inn is very important, we’re going to keep it now,” he said. He had been undecided what to do with the Holiday Inn when the new 100,000-square-foot conference center opens in 2021, but he now intends to keep the Holiday Inn open.
He said he’s been encouraged by the loyalty of his employees and customers. Although some had to rearrange conventions, weddings and other events after the July floods, some surprised him by not only re-booking but also by extending their contracts.
He said recovery was especially difficult early in the process.
“We talked every night for the first three weeks. You were in shock. You don’t know what happened to you.” he said. “But thanks to my family and to all my employees. Without them nothing can be done.”
He said he is grateful for the community’s support. “Without everybody else I wouldn’t be where I am at today.”