Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

After looking at motels along the Oregon Coast, in Seattle and

Boise, the Singh family of Omak, Wash., chose to buy the Eldorado and

Rodeway Inn motels in Baker City.

"I like the potential of the ones in Baker City the best," said

Rajbir Singh, who bought the two motels along with his brother,

Sukhvinder Singh, and another relative, Majit Singh, for $1.8 million

on June 21.

The lodging businesses were previously owned by the Bootsma family of Baker City.

Singh said Baker City's location, along Interstate 84 between the

Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains, along with the town's authentic western

ambience, appeals to him. The Western heritage was also one of the

things that attracted the Singh family to invest in Omak, a Northern

Washington town that's home of the Omak Stampede Rodeo and World Famous

Suicide Race.

"I like small towns. It is more comfortable to be in small towns," Rajbir Singh said.

Singh said he and his Seattle Realtor were acquainted with the

Bootsma family, who sought to sell the motels after the death of John

Bootsma in January.

"My dad built the Baker Truck Corral in 1976, the Eldorado Hotel in 1979, and the Ramada Inn (now named the Rodeway Inn) in the 1980s," said Lanae Jones, daughter of the late John Bootsma.

The Bootsmas moved to Baker City in 1973 after selling a motorcycle helmet and accessories manufacturing business and an electro-plating operating that did contract work for NASA in the 1960s and early 1970s.

"After he sold the business, my dad wanted a slower lifestyle," Jones said. "We looked at farm and ranch property all over the U.S. and when we found Baker, he decided this is where he wanted to move to."

She said her father's family operated dairy farms in the Netherlands before immigrating to the United States after World War II, and he always wanted to return to farming.

"When we moved here from California my dad bought the Allen Ranch out on Sunnyslope and was content farming for a while," Jones said.

While the Bootsma family still raises hay on the 3,000-acre farm, John saw a need back when Interstate 84 was under construction in the early 1970s for services for truckers and other freeway travelers, so he turned his attention to developing businesses to provide those services, including the Eldorado and the Rodeway Inn.

John Bootsma died Jan. 10 after a series of strokes and related health problems.

The Singh family owns a motel and two gas stations in Omak, as well as two gas stations in Brewster, Wash., and Bridgeport, Wash., north of Wenatchee.

The Singh-owned motel on Main Street in Omak is called Nichols Motel, and they own the Texaco station along Highway 97, and the Stampede gas station and minimart in town.

The Singhs immigrated to the United States from India in 1994. They settled first in Los Angeles, then moved to Seattle before buying the businesses and moving to Omak in 2002.

The Singhs visited Baker City a couple of times since last November to look at the motels and had the opportunity to meet and interact with locals.

"The people are very friendly. It is a very friendly town," Singh said.

As for his future plans for the motels, Singh said the family intends to do some upgrading, particularly at the Eldorado.