ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Oacoma’s Oasis Inn sold, locals hopeful for future

OACOMA -- Seven months after a fire forced Oacoma's most popular hotel to close its doors, local officials are confident in its future success under new ownership.

The Oasis Inn, which suffered significant damage in a May 30 fire, was recently sold to a company in Chamberlain, according to its former owners. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)
The Oasis Inn, which suffered significant damage in a May 30 fire, was recently sold to a company in Chamberlain, according to its former owners. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

OACOMA - Seven months after a fire forced Oacoma's most popular hotel to close its doors, local officials are confident in its future success under new ownership.

The Oasis Inn suffered significant damage in a May 30 fire and was recently sold to a company in Chamberlain, according to Brenda Schmidt, chief executive officer and president of Kelly Inn Hotels, the Oasis Inn's former parent company. Schmidt declined further comment on Wednesday.

Oacoma Town Board President Mike Schreiber said he believes the plan is for the new owners to renovate, repair and reopen the hotel, but said he was unsure about the timeline for when work will be completed.

"We're just looking forward to everything moving forward and getting it back up and running," Schreiber said.

The fire destroyed the main section of the building due to heavy smoke and water damage, and a section toward the front of the building collapsed. But a second section of the building sustained minimal damage.

ADVERTISEMENT

State Fire Marshal Paul Merriman determined the cause of the fire was a mechanical failure in the whirlpool area of the Oasis Inn - not from a lightning strike as some locals originally speculated - and was not deemed suspicious.

Al's Oasis serves as a rest stop off Interstate 90 with a restaurant, gift shop, grocery store and hotel. The hotel portion of Al's Oasis is separated from the shopping area, standing on its own to the east.

The Oasis began in 1919 when Albert Mueller built a grocery store in Oacoma, and when the business continued to grow, it expanded its 10-stool lunch counter to a full-scale restaurant. In 1989, the 10,000-square-foot restaurant, bar and warehouse were completed.

The May fire and the current status of building

In 2003, a 17,000-square-foot expansion was completed, including a supermarket, gift shop and clothing.

While locals wait for the hotel to reopen, Schreiber said the community has taken a hit financially.

ADVERTISEMENT

Those who were staying at the hotel at the time of the fire were forced to find different places to stay, with many opting to leave town. And in the following months, people who would have stayed at the Oasis Inn went elsewhere, affecting restaurants, gas stations and other establishments, too, Schreiber said.

But, most importantly, dozens of people were left unemployed.

"Whenever you lose an entire motel in a community our size, it has an impact," Schreiber said. "It has its multiplying effects, but it hasn't crippled us."

Oacoma City Finance Officer Val Moore said the financial blow the fire had on the city's economy was softened by the opening of the Mitchell-Rapid City rail line from Chamberlain west through Reliance and Kennebec to Presho, which had been closed since the mid-1990s.

The railroad has had a "huge financial impact" on all of the communities it runs through, Moore said, and was especially beneficial for Oacoma this year.

But, she said, the Lyman County town has more to offer than just Al's Oasis, including Cedar Shore Resort, Harry K Chevrolet, Ray's Western Wear & Saddlery, various franchise hotels and more. So, regardless of the Oasis' future, Moore said she's confident the town will manage.

"(Al's Oasis) has always been the nucleus of Oacoma and its prosperity," Moore said. "It's very popular among travelers on I-90 as well as the community, and I'm hopeful that business will get back on track in the near future."

And Mike Normile, executive director of the Chamberlain-Oacoma Chamber of Commerce, is sure the hotel will be in operation before tourism ramps up in the summer months.

ADVERTISEMENT

He said his faith stems from names of people he's heard are involved in the project who he said are "competent," and "know what they're doing," but declined to identify the people involved in the restoration.

But, regardless of its opening day, Normile said he and the community members he's spoken with are excited, especially since seeing the first signs of construction beginning in the past weeks.

"I'm going to tell you right now I believe it will be open (by tourist season)," Normile said. "It will be as welcomed and as good as what was there in the past, if not better."

2566968+0B6mdMHpnRAY7WWlwaGxvU1dDYWM.jpg
Damage from a May 30 fire that forced the closure of the Oasis Inn in Oacoma is shown. (Republic file photo)

What To Read Next
Throughout the county party election season, stretching from mid-November to the end of January, delegates have succeeded in changing the makeup of key county parties, like Minnehaha and Pennington.
Members Only
“In our industry there aren’t a lot of young people in it. I like the fact that there are a lot of young people in agriculture here,” he said of the Mitchell area.
Members Only
After the departure of longtime superintendent Marje Kaiser and the hiring of Dan Trefz, who recently resigned, advocates say the specialty school needs help from lawmakers to reach its past heights.
Over the past year, the city has been mulling over bringing a secondary water source to Mitchell – a move Mayor Bob Everson said is aimed at positioning the city to grow.