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Hotel Impossible is an Emotional Journey for Autoport Owner

by on October 14, 2014 6:35 AM

Greg Mussi is about to appear on national television, and he admits to feeling anxious about it.

The Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible program will feature the Autoport when it airs Tuesday night at 9 p.m.

Mussi is holding a viewing party and will see the episode for the first time along with friends, family and loyal customers. Watching it, he’ll relive the brutal and stressful process that unfolded over the summer as host Anthony Melchiorri guided Mussi and his wife, Lynda, through renovations at Pennsylvania’s oldest motel.

One promo for the program shows Melchiorri driving past the Autoport several times, frustrated by the lack of signage. Another has him discussing rumors of the Autoport’s past as a swinger’s bar with a housekeeping employee.

“What we get to relive [Tuesday] is all the, at points, absolutely excruciating honesty Anthony gave us in terms of our problems and our deficiencies,” Mussi says.

The rumors of the Autoport once being a swinger’s bar are a perfect example, Mussi says. He’d heard the rumors, but had no idea if they were true. To avoid hurting his business, he ignored them and hoped the shadow they cast would blow over.

As Melchiorri was quick to point out, ignoring rumors is a bad public relations policy – something Mussi didn’t want to talk about in private, let alone on national TV.

“I have an 89-year-old dad and young daughters that are going to be watching this,” Mussi says with a touch of embarrassment. “Looking back now, I agree it had to be brought out, but I’m a little nervous about that part of the show.”

As nervous as Mussi is about watching the show, there was a time when he was more nervous it wouldn’t even happen.

The Mussis applied to Hotel Impossible once in 2013, seeking help for the struggling business. They were turned down, but heard back from the show earlier this year.

As it turned out, things were even worse off than Mussi thought. Less than two weeks before Melchiorri came to town (and after already being accepted for the show), Mussi got a letter from the bank informing him the business was about to go into foreclosure.

During their very first conversation with Melchiorri, he asked the Mussis how bad things were. In response, Greg Mussi told him about the letter. Melchiorri stopped the conversation. He turned off the cameras. As he informed Mussi, he doesn’t do foreclosures. The show is about struggling hotels, not failed hotels.

“So I said, ‘Listen: we were told to be brutally honest with you, and that’s what I’m doing,’’ Mussi says. “I told him, ‘The name of the show isn’t ‘Hotel Improbable’ or ‘Hotel Not-Doing-So-Well,’ it’s Hotel Impossible. This is it. This is do or die for us.’”

Melchiorri and his crew ultimately decided to keep filming, but that didn’t mean things were going to be easy, as Mussi found out. At any given moment – in addition to helping run the Autoport and adjacent Clem’s restaurant – Mussi could be called across the property to shoot a scene. He could be in the kitchen preparing for the dinner rush at Clem’s, and a camera crew would walk in and suddenly they’d be filming without any preparation. 

Mussi says Melchiorri “didn’t pull any punches.” When something was mismanaged – and the Autoport was – he told them. When something needed to be changed, he made changes. But more importantly, Mussi says Melchiorri equipped them with the tools to continue growing into the future.

The show gave Lynda Mussi, now the motel’s manager, an education in motel and business management. After renovating one room in the motel, Melchiorri helped them understand how to create a budget to renovate the rest. 

“The brutally honest nature of his approach was somewhat disconcerting. … It can be difficult hearing things for the first time that you need to hear,” Mussi says. “It was a very emotional process, with lots of tears along the way.”

Even with the film crews gone, a handful of renovated rooms and a new lobby, Mussi realizes there’s still a long way to go. If anything, the experience has taught him that it’s okay to ask for help – which is exactly what he’s doing.

After their episode airs, Greg and Lynda Mussi will launch a $50,000 kickstarter project to continue renovating the Autoport. Though Mussi says they’ve already renovated about 20 rooms on their own, there’s still 65 more to go. With the help of the State College community, he’s confident they can succeed.

“We want to appeal to anyone who’s interested in maintaining an important, historic site in State College,” Mussi says. “People have so many memories and stories about the Autoport, and that’s something we want to continue on.”


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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