The Autoport is not slated to close.
At least not this year, in which its owners escaped foreclosure, were criticized on national television and sued for alleged trademark infringement.
Enterprise Bank, which could have foreclosed a loan on The Autoport on New Year’s Eve, gave co-owners Greg and Lynda Mussi three more months to catch up on their bills. The Mussis declined to say how much the loan was for when they purchased The Autoport in 2007 or how far behind it is, but said their new deadline is March 31.
The key to the extended deadline and the motel’s future is a mystery investor, whom the Mussis declined to identify.
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“There’s been some movement in the last two months with the investors we’ve talked to, one in particular,” Greg Mussi said. “I don’t want give too much away about the potential investor, because I’m a little superstitious. I don’t want to blow it.”
He said the investor owns several hotels in Pennsylvania and wants to expand into and possibly move to the State College area.
“He’s doing the most legwork out of all the people that have come forward with interest,” Greg Mussi said. “He’s really doing his due diligence, because he loves State College and would like to live here with his family.”
The Mussis credit The Autoport having been featured on the Travel Channel TV show “Hotel Impossible” on Oct. 13 for attracting potential investors.
Hospitality expert Anthony Melchiorri, who stars in the show and critiqued the Mussis, could not be reached for comment.
“One of the things he told us to do was hire people more experienced than us to run the hotel,” Lynda Mussi said. “In order to keep it running, we’re trying find an investor that knows more than us, because our biggest issues have been a lack of knowledge running a hotel and a good marketing and sales strategy.”
The investor fits what the Mussis are looking for.
“I want someone with money to inject capital into the operation to continue renovating rooms, someone who has a lot of experience running hotels and someone who wants to use that experience to run The Autoport,” Greg Mussi said. “We’d also like to maintain majority ownership, and the other person would be a minority owner working full time to run The Autoport, and Lynda and I would run the restaurant and bar side of it.”
The investor would like The Autoport to become part of a franchise chain.
“A lot of older hotels have an identity, but from a marketing standpoint people from far away want to stay at a place that has a name they’re familiar with,” Lynda Mussi said. “We’d still like The Autoport name to be a part of it, but what we’ve lacked is far-reaching recognition, and a franchise would be great from a marketing standpoint.”
Greg Mussi said Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Choice Hotels International have looked at the property for it to possibly become a chain.
A potential hang-up in bringing in an investor is a lawsuit filed by Paul Grguric and Kathleen Andrews, who own Clem’s Cafe in Blairsville, against the Mussis for naming their restaurant Clem’s Roadside Bar and Grill.
“We’ve met with our lawyers, and if they want to pursue this, they can, but Clem’s Roadside Bar and Grill is legally registered with the state,” Greg Mussi said.
Andrews is the ex-wife of Clem Pantalone, who founded Clem’s Cafe in 1995, left the business to open Clem’s BBQ in Port Matilda in 1999, closed it in 2012 and now runs the bar and grill at The Autoport.
“We’re still pursuing the lawsuit, and we’ll sue anyone else using the name Clem’s,” Grguric said.
“I own the copyright, lettering and pig,” referring to the Clem’s logo.
He declined further comment.
The Mussis, however, said the lawsuit doesn’t worry the investor.
“I’m excited about bringing someone else on board, and it’ll be soon I hope,” Lynda Mussi said. “It’s just a matter of time.”