Posted 9/07/11 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
When the walls of the Four Eyes Motel start coming down this week, there will be some tears shed by Daryl and Esther Vance.
“There have already been a lot of tears shed,” says Esther Vance, who along with her husband, Daryl, have owned the Watford City landmark since 2005. “And I’m sure that there will be a few more tears shed in the coming days as we see the motel come down.”
Built in 1953, the Four Eyes Motel, a cozy 10-room motel, has served thousands of loyal customers over the years. And in recent years, it has been a “home away from home” for oilfield workers who couldn’t find any other housing.
But when faced with looming massive costs to remodel the motel, the Vances decided that it was time for them to do something different and to accept an offer from the Kum & Go Corporation to purchase the motel.
Kum & Go intends to demolish the motel and to build a new, larger convenience store on the location.
“It was time to sell,” says Daryl, who served as the Watford City Police Chief for 35 years before retiring last year. “I’ve had to deal with some health issues.”
But, according to Daryl, the main reason for them to accept Kum & Go’s purchase offer was the remodeling costs they would need to make to keep the motel operating.
“We’re weren’t just talking about making some cosmetic improvements,” states Daryl. “We’re talking about the need to make major structural improvements that would have been very costly.”
When operating a small motel, like the Four Eyes, it was easy for the Vances to get to know their customers on a first-name and personal level.
And for the Vances that is what they are going to miss the most.
“Our customers have kind of become our second family,” states Daryl. “Many of our customers have lived here for the past 1½ years so you get to know them pretty well.”
And they have had their loyal customers who have returned every year to stay at the Four Eyes Motel, whether they were visiting relatives or enjoying a hunting trip in the area.
“We have had one doctor from Grand Forks stay at the Four Eyes Motel every fall for the past 50 years when he came to McKenzie County to hunt,” says Daryl. “We made a lot of friends over the years and that is what we are going to miss the most.”
But even as the Vances close the door on part of their life, parts of the Four Eyes Motel will continue to serve others.
“We have been donating a lot of the items in the motel to people in and around the community,” says Esther. “This past Thursday, the Eckert Foundation from Williston came down and picked up some televisions, microwaves, fridges, beds, tables, chairs and lots of bedding and linens for their youth home.”
And what is in store for the Vances as the Four Eyes fades into history?
While Daryl intends to spend more time hunting and following his grandchildren’s activities, Esther has no plans to slow down.
“I never plan on retiring,” says Esther, who has been an aide at the Watford City Elementary School since 1985. “There’s too much fun yet to have.”