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Hometown gal returns with husband to run motel

After growing up helping her parents run the Crescent Beach Motel at 1455 Hwy. 101 S., Marilyn Brown later returned in 1979 with her husband Karl to take over the business. She now runs it with help from her mother-in-law Irene Brown and six employees.

Q: How long have you lived in Del Norte County?

A: I grew up here. I've lived here since 1956, except for three years in Sacramento and of course I lived in Arcata when I was going to Humboldt State University. My husband grew up in Arcata.

Q: What inspired you to go into this line of work?

A: We didn't care for Sacramento, too hot and too many people. My dad had health issues, so we decided we would come up and take over the motel. My husband applied for a job at Del Norte County in the Public Works Department and went to work there.

Q: How has your business changed over the years?

A: It's changed quite a bit from when my parents first moved up here. Everything was a small proprietorship. There were no chains. It would get extremely busy in the summertime. There were times when there just wasn't a bed to be had. That happens very rarely now.

Before the 1964 tsunami, the motel had lots of little cabins on both sides of the highway. The tsunami destroyed the cabins on the west side, and my parents got a small business loan to rebuild it as a single structure motel. The cabins on the east side were later removed.

Q: What business decision or action would you change if you could do it again?

A: I probably would have remodeled everything at once using an architect to draw up plans for it. We totally remodeled the rooms, a little bit at a time, because we didn't want to go into debt so we paid for things as we went.

Q: How do you distinguish your business from your competitors?

A: Being located on the beach and being more family-run. People see the same people when they come into the office, so a lot of times it's a more long-term relationship. You get to know people on a more personal level.

Q: How do you define success for your business?

A: Having happy customers and being able to pay my bills and my employees.

Q: What are your goals for your business? What are you doing to reach those goals?

A: Just to continue what we've been doing and to have satisfied customers who want to come back.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your business?

A: Long-term customers. People that I've known since I was a kid, a lot of them.

Q: What advice could you offer to budding entrepreneurs?

A: Be ready to work hard, put in the time. In Crescent City, if you're based in a seasonal business, you need to save your money in the summertime for the winter, because it can be a long winter.

Reach Christine Walters, business columnist, at

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