Have you ever noticed there are people who are nice because they have to be, and there are others who are nice because they’re just genuinely nice?
If you stay at a high-end hotel – say an Aman or Auberge, for example – chances are good that every person working there is going to treat you like gold. It’s expected. The vast majority of the people who can afford to stay in places like those are used to being treated a certain way. And heaven help the employee who isn’t the ultimate in being helpful, respectful and polite.
Welp, a hotel in East Tennessee has just won an award for being the “Nicest Place In America,” and I suspect it’s more because the people running it and working there just are nice, as opposed to having to be nice.
No offense to the helpful, respectful and polite people working at your neighborhood Aman, or Auberge. 😉
And what is that place whose owner and workers are so great that it’s considered the nicest place in America?
The Quality Inn, in Kodak Tennessee. That’s in Sevier County. It’s about a half-hour north of Dollywood.
And who determined this distinction?
Reader’s Digest, of course.
OK, stop laughing. 😉
Reader’s Digest has been around for just shy 100 years. Its demographic profile from 2014 is overwhelmingly female (2:1 over men), and over half of its readers are over the age of 50. Married, blue-collar, homeowners, with a median income of about $60K.
Obviously, most Reader’s Digest readers are generally not the type who are going to stay at an Aman or Auberge 😉 However they have their own priorities that are just as important to them as are those of anyone else, and Reader’s Digest is aware of that. That’s why for the past 5 years the magazine has recognized places in the U.S. that, “believe in kindness, civility, and each other, neighbors help each other out, and strangers are welcomed as friends,” as per their website. And this year, the Nicest Place in America is the Quality Inn in Kodak. Its owner is Sean Patel (psst! This is why so many Indian-Americans own so many motels and hotels).
Patel welcomed locals who had nowhere else to turn when snow and heavy winds left thousands of Sevier County residents without power on Christmas Day 2020. He put a heated roof over their heads and food in their bellies for the lowest price corporate regulations would allow. This was when many other hotels in the area either turned away or price gouged locals.
“Hello neighbors! If you are affected by the power outages, please call us at Quality Inn in Kodak, right off Exit 407. We will take care of you,” Patel wrote on Facebook. “We are not charging the usual holiday or weekend rates. We had a few cancellations and have allocated those rooms to help out.”
Patel initially wound up helping close to 80 locals (and a few stranded tourists) when they had nowhere else to go during that storm.
The next day he offered free coffee and snacks to those who were working around the clock to restore power and keep everyone safe during the holiday. “It’s Christmas, but some people have Sacrificed their Family time to keep us safe, and at the moment a lot of lineman are working long hours to restore the power. Well to those overnight working heroes…PLEASE STOP BY OF YOU ARE WORKING THE NIGHT SHIFT. I have coffee ready, and some coffee cakes too.”
The storm had been bad and the power outages extended into the next week. Patel continued to welcome those in need of a warm room, hot shower or just a friendly face. “Bring your towels,” Patel wrote on Facebook. “And guess what, it’s free!”
Patel told Reader’s Digest he was drawn to the reputation of southern hospitality when he immigrated to Tennessee from India in 2004. “I saw how much people helped each other in the South, and it got to me,” he explained. “It’s not always about money.” After staying with an aunt who cared for him while he acclimated to his new country, Patel earned a degree from the University of Tennessee and began running hotels to support his family.
He never forgot that he had someone who took him in and got him on his feet when he was a new resident.
According to Readers Digest, Patel owns a second hotel, the Segovia Lodge in Junction, Texas, which is near San Antonio. When the area had its record-breaking freeze in early 2021, Patel let his guests stay and eat, for free, all week. And when the Segovia Lodge lost power too, stranded truckers kept the fire in the lobby fireplace going all night, keeping the lobby warm while guests slept on the floor.
“It wasn’t about who was Black, White, Democrat, Republican. COVID, or no COVID. Everyone was a family,” says Shelly Shirley, a manager at the Segovia. “I’ve never witnessed someone like Sean.”
So, yeah…nothing against any of those high-end hotels out there. They definitely have their place. But sometimes it doesn’t take multiple stars and awards to be priceless, y’know? 🙂
Feature Photo: Brent Moore / flickr
Want to comment on this post? Great! Read this first to help ensure it gets approved.
Want to sponsor a post, write something for Your Mileage May Vary or put ads on our site? Click here for more info.
Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and sign up to get emailed notifications of when we post.
Whether you’ve read our articles before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!
This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary