The Andrus Hotel set to start hosting guests

By 
M.P. Regan
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Andrus reopening

Dr. John Micha, the Andrus Hotel owner (second from right), and Donna Jones (right), a descendent of the Andrus family, cut a ribbon to signify the start of the businesses open house last Wednesday. Over 400 residents toured the facility. J.P. Plutt photo

The Andrus Hotel in downtown Dillon fast-forwarded into its future this past week, with direct descendents of the man who founded it over a century ago providing much of the horsepower.

“It was really amazing—I have to say that,” said Dillon’s Donna Jones of the July 1 celebration attended by around 400 people for the re-opening of the hotel originally opened in 1917 by her grandfather Harry Andrus.

“I felt the presence of my grandfather and grandmother and my dad,” said Jones, who, along with daughter Janet Jones Choate and son Kreg Jones played a major role in the revival of the Andrus from a slumbering architectural giant into a lively and lovely boutique hotel unveiled to the public on July 1.

“It was a great family package—to have three family members who love the building and understand it,” said Dr. John Micha, the current owner of The Andrus, which is set to begin hosting overnight guests again for the first time in decades, starting tomorrow, Thursday, July 9.

“Kreg Jones is a terrific architect, and the great grandson of the builder,” noted Micha.

“He knew this building inside and out. He knew about hidden stairways and rooms that others didn’t even know existed. Working with Kreg was great,” said Micha in a sentiment he extended to Kreg’s sister Janet, an interior designer who lent her talents and efforts to the Andrus makeover.

“I can’t believe how well this turned out. This is all Janet Jones Choate and Donna Jones,” stated Micha of the daughtermother pair who oversaw much of the hotel’s interior redesign, including the recreation of historical photos on its walls and even in its elevator, perhaps the first elevator built in Montana.

“A lot of people want to stay in places that are part of the history of the area,” said Choate, of the vintage photos and wall wraps that explain aspects of the area’s history.

“So, even in the elevator, instead of just a plain old elevator, we make a story out of elevator, something you can discover,” said Choate, who jumped ahead from the early days of The Andrus a few decades in her design of the hotel’s lobby in a mid-20th century art deco style.

“I never would have envisioned how beautiful they could make it,” said Micha, sitting in The Andrus lobby, which is located at the southeast corner of its ground floor, with an entry at 33 S. Idaho St. in downtown Dillon.

“I saw that lobby and thought, ‘we need to have some fun here, put some things in here that catch the eye,” said Choate, who snares that prey with, among other features, giant snowflakelike light fixtures in the lobby window, a towering white stone fireplace and splashes of unlikely orange.

“Boutique hotels are different than regular hotels— they have something different about them,” said Choate, who has stayed at numerous boutique motels around the country while travelling with her husband, Montana State University Football Head Coach Jeff Choate.

“I suggested keeping the façade and floor plan, and then instead of trying to recreate the old, I suggested more modern amenities,” added Choate.

Instead of just single rooms, The Andrus offers guests the chance to stay in a multiroom “apartment suite” with a kitchen and living room area, in addition to a bedroom.

“They have full kitchens, so guests can do their cooking there,” explained Michelle Cohen, general manager of The Andrus.

“If guests call ahead, they can give us their shopping lists, so they can have groceries waiting here in their rooms when they arrive,” continued Cohen, noting that Andrus guests will also receive a free lesson at the archery shooting range located in the building’s basement and the chance to arrange for horse and buggy tours of town.

Each of the Andrus’s apartment suites is unique, with good views of downtown Dillon and its surroundings. The space with the finest views at The Andrus got named in honor of another Jones.

“Donna Jones has put thousands of hours into making this happen. She deserves recognition. That is why we have the Donna Jones Rooftop Garden,” explained Micha of the naming of the gathering area atop the Andrus.

“You can see the most magnificent views—360 degrees. You can see of all the trees in Dillon, the courthouse, the university, the snow-capped mountains. When you see it, it’s a whole different view of Dillon, how beautiful it is and the whole valley and mountains beyond it,” said Micha, who saw something special in Dillon when he first came across it years ago during one of his many trips to visit relatives in Montana.

“Dillon is a treasure trove of historic buildings. They are incredibly well built. The Andrus has been here for 100 years—it’s been through hailstorms and earthquakes and frigid weather—and it doesn’t have a crack in it. It’s amazing,” noted Micha, who decided shortly after the stock market crash of 2008 to shift his investments from Wall Street in New York City to Idaho Street in downtown Dillon and some of its classic architecture, including The Andrus.

“We managed the pension fund for 34 years, and then we realized every five or six years there would be a stock market crash,” said Dr. Micha of the retirement fund he oversaw for his dozens of employees and partners in Gynecologic Oncology Associates of Newport Beach, the largest medical practice of its sort in California before he retired from it.

“Going through the last of the five of those crashes was my last straw,” recalled Micha of his frustrations with the stock market.

“I decided to give up on the stock market and do something I could understand,” said Micha of his decision to purchase The Andrus, the old Dillon Implement building and the Turret Building next to The Andrus.

“With these old buildings, there are things that can go wrong—maybe ten things that can go wrong. In the stock market, there are 10,000 things that can go wrong. These old buildings are a lot of work, but I sleep better not worrying about the stock market. And if I lose, I know why I lost—it wasn’t the right location or the boiler went bad—as opposed to with the stock market, which is pretty much just gambling,” commented Micha, who said he is just looking for a modest return of three percent annually on his real estate investments in Dillon, including The Andrus.

“The Andrus is on the na tional historic registry,” said Micha of a distinction afforded the building last December.

“It’s a great honor, but it also means the federal and state government believes we have renovated something that is going to be financially viable. They don’t want to put buildings on the registry that get boarded up two years later,” said Micha, who acknowledges he’s on new turf in the realm of hotels, but feels that may have helped him put The Andrus on the path to being consistently profitable.

“I’m a doctor, not a real estate person. I know nothing about hotels. But I think it’s been helpful to have gone in knowing nothing about it,” insisted Micha.

“Had I been an intelligent and knowledgeable hotel person, I probably would have done this cheaper and not as nice,” said Micha of his topshelf approach to renovating The Andrus, the early stages of which included the raising of the building by 18 inches under the direction of the late Kim Baker to compensate for sagging on its top floor.

“The building, from roof to basement, is all tuned up and everything is functioning well,” said Micha of the final result of years of renovations and improvements to The Andrus.

“We just have 12 rooms, but they are 12 great rooms, so we think it should work,” asserted Micha of The Andrus, which also features a board room available for meetings and conferences.

“In the end having a Grade A product—that will result in it being successful.”

Anyone wishing to inquire about vacancies or make reservations at The Andrus can call 406-925-5024 or go to its website at www.andrushotel.com.

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