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Motel owners excited to be part of New Richmond community

Almost half of the motels in the United States are owned by immigrants from India.

It's a perplexing figure, until you talk to Rao and Lakshmi Morusupalli, the newest owners of Riverfront Inn and Suites in New Richmond.

"There is probably no town in America with a population of 5,000 or more without a motel owned by someone originally from India," Rao said.

It turns out that motel ownership is the perfect business for family-focused natives of India.

"Few cultures have perfected taking care of their families as India did for thousands of years," he said. "We really value our homes and our families."

As a result, many people from India buy into a motel so that the wife can stay home with the kids and family.

The business allows the husband to find a job elsewhere, and also provides the family a place to live and a second income to pay the bills.

Lakshmi said the second income is important so parents can give their kids a chance to go to college and get a good start on life.

"And it's a good business for me," Lakshmi added. "I love people, and being part of a motel I always have people coming to my door to talk to me."

The Morusupalli family previously owned a motel in Montevideo, Minn. for 10 years. At the time, Rao worked in a neighboring community as a food scientist.

He eventually took a job in Roseville, so the family started to shop around for a motel to purchase in the Twin Cities area.

But many of the lodging properties in the metro area that were for sale were priced way too high for the Morusupallis.

Lakshmi said it was a "miracle" that they found the New Richmond facility. They purchased the motel from fellow Indian native Raj and Bonnie Yuvaraj.

"I fell in love with this town," Rao explained. "And this is a nice property."

He said the fact that Riverfront Inn & Suites is located on the Willow River was a big selling point for his family.

"It has a really pleasant back yard," he said. "And we're the only motel in town that has patio and balcony rooms looking over the river."

Amenities such as an indoor pool, hot tub, outdoor grills, room microwaves, game room, party room and room refrigerators were also a big selling point, Rao said.

Since taking over Riverfront Inn in late August, Rao said they have been working on improvements a little at a time.

A nice gas fireplace has been installed in the lobby and new curtains have been ordered for the rooms. The motel rooms are also being converted to a card key system in the coming weeks.

"People who come here are going to be happy," he said. "We're not a franchise, but we're equally as good or better in terms of service."

As for long-term plans, Rao said the new owners may consider expanding their 30-room facility and are exploring the idea of installing kitchenettes in some of the rooms.

The Morusupalli family also is offering a unique service at their motel facility. Rao and Lakshmi are both henna artists and offer the non-permanent body art on an appointment-only basis. They offer their artistic talent to birthday parties, wedding parties and more.

"We plan to stay here a long time," Rao said. "We truly want to become New Richmond's motel."

Since buying the local motel, Rao has been laid off from his Twin Cities food science job. As a result, he plans to spend more time with his family and better promote the family business.

The Morusupalli's children, 12-year-old Sarala and 8-year-old Surya, are enrolled in the New Richmond School District and are making friends.

Of course it's nice that the kids can invite their friends over for a swim year-round, thanks to the indoor pool.

Rao is also busy getting to know people in New Richmond.

"I plan to get involved in the community," he said, noting that he's already attended a Rotary Club of New Richmond meeting and stopped by several Vision 20/20 meetings. Vision 20/20 is now meeting at Riverfront Inn after Rao offered his meeting room to the group.

The Morusupallis are originally from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India.

They came to the United States in 1991 when Rao was enrolled in the Ph.D. program the Cereal Science and Food Technology Department at North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D.

Although he came here for higher education, it didn't take long before he wanted to stay and raise a family.

"And the American dream catches up to you," Rao said.

Both of the Morusupalli children were born in Minnesota.

For more information or to make a henna art appointment, call 246-4606.