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New Year Promises Hope and Hardship for The Autoport Motel

by on December 29, 2014 6:00 AM

The end of the year is hectic time for many people, but the past few months have been especially frantic for Greg and Linda Mussi.

The co-owners of the Autoport Motel and Clem’s Roadside Bar and Grill have been sued, torn apart on national television and have narrowly avoided foreclosure on their long-standing business – and the challenges keep coming.

“The bank gave us until the end of the year to proceed with the foreclosure, which is rapidly approaching,” Greg Mussi says. “But subsequent to that, there have been several people that have expressed interest in partnering with us.”

The Autoport, which is Pennsylvania’s first and oldest motel, was the subject of an October episode of Hotel Impossible – a travel channel reality show in which a team of experts provide guidance to struggling hotel owners. Host Anthony Melchiorri worked with the Mussi to fix staffing issues, address scandalous rumors about the Autport’s alleged past as a swinger’s bar and renovate one of the motel’s room in a vintage style.

Linda Mussi, who now runs to the hotel side of the business, says the entire process was “really overwhelming and mortifying,” even if it attracted the attention of potential business partners.

“There were some spaces we went into that I was embarrassed about, or maybe it was my mouth and my temper I was a little embarrassed about,” she says, recalling an obscenity-laced tirade she went on at one point in the episode.

Linda Mussi – a teacher by trade – says she’s learned a lot about how to run the business from two college classes paid for by the show, but admits that's no substitute for years of experience in the hospitality industry.

“This is really an awesome piece of property, but we just need a little bit of help,” she says. “One of the things Anthony told us on the show was: ‘From now on, hire people more experienced than you are.’”

And that’s exactly what the Mussi’s hope to do.

Greg Mussi says that several large, corporate hotel chains have expressed interest in the business. He says that even if the Autoport were to fly under a corporate flag, the business would still remain the Autoport and hold on to its small town charm.

But that’s not really what Mussi wants to do. Given their strained finances, he knows he doesn’t have the time or resources to be as selective as he would in picking a business partner. However, he says that some things are more important than money.

“This isn’t just a flip. We want this place to stay here,” Mussi says. “It’s a piece of history, built back in 1935. It’s a landmark in our town, and just selling it off wasn’t even an option.”

Mussi says he is currently in negotiations with one particular hotel owner for whom he has high hopes. As an individual with experience in hotel management and with ties to State College area, Mussi thinks this possible partner recognizes the Autoport’s potential.

He’s wary about giving away too many details – given that negations are ongoing – but says he has no doubt the Autoport has a bright future.

However, the Autoport’s future has been complicated by a lawsuit brought against the restaurant side of the business, Clem’s Roadside Bar and Grill.

The owners of Clem’s Café in Blairsville sued Clem’s Roadside Bar and Grill for alleged trademark infringement. One of the owners of the Blairsville Clem’s is the ex-wife of Clem Pantolone, who founded the State College Clem’s with the help of the Mussi’s.

Mussi says the name of the restaurant is registered with the state of Pennsylvania, and their lawyers have given no indication that Pantolone using his own name in his business constitutes trademark infringement.

According to court documents, both sides of the lawsuit are required to submit briefs to the court by Jan. 14. Mussi says he trusts in the judgment of the courts to make the appropriate decision.

In the meantime, the Mussi’s plan to introduce a new menu at Clem’s and to continue renovating their motel rooms based on a template provided by the Hotel Impossible staff. Mussi says the bank has been lenient in providing time for them to find a business partner, which he hopes to have finished by spring. 

“I think, overall, this has been a very positive experience for us, and, with a little luck, we look forward to being around for another 70 years,” Mussi says. “Hopefully we won’t have anymore reality TV shows done about us.”

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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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