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Stevensville hotel owners mix family, fun and hard work with his - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Stevensville hotel owners mix family, fun and hard work with history

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STEVENSVILLE - "B&B" stands for "bed and breakfast" in most travel brochures but at the historic Stevensville Hotel, it might also stand for "Bitterroot and best friends." It's all thanks to an Oklahoma couple that's bringing a Southern hospitality to this landmark property.

Mark and Dana Bateman's Bitterroot move last year came out of left field. Having sold successful businesses in Oklahoma, they'd moved to South Carolina before a call brought them to Montana to be near their ailing granddaughter. They thought they were downsizing but instead, they became the owners of the Stevensville Hotel.

"I said your tiny house turned into 9,400 square feet," said co-owner Mark Bateman. "She's our beast. "But it is a fun. A lot of projects. I'm sure there's going to be more surprises later. But that's just part of an old building."

This hotel started as the Thornton Hospital in 1910, with use as a nursing home, even a children's daycare before it was renovated by former Mayor Gene Mim Mack and Robbie Springs. For the Bateman's it was turn-key source of new friends to make themselves at home.

"People come here, they'll sit with their shoes off and like I said, in their pajamas. We've had a few that'll sit our here in their pajamas and we don't mind at all," Dana Bateman said.

The kitchen is homestyle -- there are games and books, touches of home and even a 6,000 piece puzzle that captured everyone's attention over Christmas.

"We literally had people sitting down there that didn't know each other. They were here visiting their family. They would come in, and that lamp was on top of it, and everybody was working on it," Dana said.

"There's so much bad in the world. And so you can come in here and kind of forget a little bit of that bad stuff sometimes. And feel a little bit of love," Dana said.

Marketing a historic property is unique. The Bateman's reassure guests the hotel has modern amenities, mixed with the hospital history. But business fundamentals are the same tools.

"In any business, you have to have a certain amount of hospitality I feel. But this is just different -- [it's] hands-on," Mark said.

"You learn slow times, busy times. Put back for the slow times," Dana added. 

Mark and Dana say there are still a lot of things on the 'to do" list. But you just have to take it one step at a time. "And that's what we tell people. Just be patient with us and it'll get done and it may not all be done this summer," Mark said.

With new paint selected -- and plenty of community support for what they've done so far -- the couple is excited about the future and ready for whatever hard work is needed.

"We just make it a fun, new adventure and it's worked for us," Mark said.

"Boy, it's hard work though. I will tell whoever wants to do it you can't be lazy," Dana added.

"We're putting a little Southern charm in the West you know and a lot of people get a kick out of that," Mark told MTN News.

The Bateman's have five children and lots of grandchildren. In fact, Mark says they feel like they're always been in the hospitality business. It's just that now, the family is a little larger.  

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