- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

NORTH BEND, Ore. (AP) - Although the North Bend hotel they own is tiny from the outside, there’s nothing small about the lives and personalities of the Itty Bitty Inn’s owners Rik and Donna Villarreal - or the inn itself.

Located right on Sherman Avenue in North Bend, the single-story inn, with its white terraces and red-painted panel doors, is easy to miss. But step inside the innkeepers’ tiny office in search of a warm bed and a clean place to stay, and the impression is likely to stick.

It’s an impression that the Villarreals hope encompasses not just their small hotel, but the community itself.

“We want people to come here and see what this place has to offer,” Donna Villarreal said. “We’re strong believers that we can help the economy of this area while we promote everything that it has to offer from the unique businesses to the geography, the crabbing, beaches, dunes, the water - the amazing things. We think it needs to be talked about.”

Donna is the sunny personality of the husband-and-wife team, while Rik is no-holds-barred in the enthusiasm area, not to mention having a habit of being chronically optimistic. Together, the two took a leap of faith in July 2014, cashed in their life savings and purchased the hotel for approximately $300,000.

“We were creative souls to begin with - we were born into this world desiring to create,” Donna said. “This is the first project we’ve been able to come together on collectively. It is truly a love child.”

Although Rik grew up in North Bend, he has since lived in Texas (where he met Donna), but had been visiting periodically and wanted to come back home. It was while the two were traveling up the Oregon coast to relocate that they first stayed at the Itty Bitty Inn while waiting for permanent housing. Finding out about a 2012 murder at the motel didn’t deter them from purchasing it.

“We never would have known about it,” Donna said. “The place seemed so familiar to me, and I remember thinking, ‘This place has some history.’ I looked up and saw the ‘For Sale’ sign and told Rik we should inquire. We knew from the get-go that if we really thought about it too hard we wouldn’t have done it.”

“This place has some really good bones,” Rik recalled thinking.

With a background as an electrician (his dad Rick Sr. was the last electrician left standing at Midcoast Electric in Reedsport before it closed) Rik saw nothing but potential in terms of remodeling. “Structurally speaking - the plumbing and electrically - it was in great shape.”

So the Villarreals began to impart their love for history and mid-century modern design on the inn’s rooms, finding most of the furniture and accessory pieces in local thrift stores. “The Swanky Fox” room, as it’s called, features a vintage Elgin Atomic Starburst clock, an Atomic radio and traditional Bassett furniture.

The Villarreals also recently put vintage Atari games from Recycled Video Games in North Bend in each of the rooms, while locally made products are also featured throughout. They include coffee from Bridgeview Coffee Roasters, custom sweets from North Bend’s The Makery, soaps from Soap Opera Handmade Soaps out of Canyonville, and cinnamon raisin bread from Hannah Marie’s Bakery a few blocks away.

“A rising tide floats all vessels.” That’s Rik and Donna’s philosophy, and they hope their own work will lift up others in the community. Having been one of the first electrical contractors in New Mexico and West Texas installing solar electricity, Rik holds free solar electric power workshops locally.

“We want not only to highlight some of the great things from craftsmen and businesses that Coos Bay and North Bend has, but highlight the beauty here,” Donna said.

That’s why there’s a row of vintage beach cruisers lined up outside the hotel that the Villarreals routinely use to take hotel guests on bike tours.

“People say, ‘We had no idea of the beauty here.’ They stay a night and then come back to stay for a week,” Rik said.

The Villarreals both work as consultants for out-of-state clients, so they definitely have more than just hospitality on their plate. Still, they wouldn’t trade the stories they have of different guests who have stayed with them.

There was the elderly woman from Great Britain traveling through Oregon that Rik just “happened to bump into and give a ride back to the inn” after a call from Liberty Pub that she had “one too many.”

“This Oregon beer really packs a wallop!” Rik recalled her saying.

Then there’s the German couple Rik recently escorted crabbing who had more than enough crabs to contend with when all the boats full of rowdy fishermen arrived back to the docks on a Friday night.

Vincent, the typically proper and orderly German husband, ended up waxing philosophical with some outspoken but sentimental pirate-types about the big Dungeness that got away.

“We have so many of those types of stories,” Rik said. “Our place is definitely not for the person who calls and says, ‘What’s the lowest rate?’ This is for someone who wants to walk away with an experience.”

“From the minute they walk in to the minute they walk away, we want them comfortable and to have fun,” Donna said.

“When we say ‘clean and cozy’ we mean it,” Rik said. “We want you wrapped in our warmth.”

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Information from: The World, https://www.theworldlink.com

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