Pioneer Hotel & Motel has stayed in the family

By
Jonathan Hamelin

HUMBOLDT, Sask. —Back in the 1960s, Werner
Wittke went from farming to hotel ownership in what was quite a grand entrance
to the hospitality industry.

“After spending several
years farming with his father, my dad traded some farmland in 1962 to purchase
both the Windsor and Arlington Hotels in Humboldt,” said Russell Wittke. “In
1966, he built and opened the Pioneer Hotel in Humboldt.”

Eventually, Werner sold
the Windsor Hotel and tore down the Arlington Hotel in 1981 to build a mini
strip mall with 10 double rooms with kitchenette's. These new rooms, combined
with the rooms and features of his remaining Pioneer property, became known as
the Pioneer Hotel & Motel.

Werner passed away in
1991, but his business has carried on through the ownership of his sons Russell
and Murray.

“I started working for my
dad right out of high school and was with him for nine years before he passed
away,” Russell said. “When I first started working for my dad, he was in charge
of the business decisions. When he passed it was an eye opener in a way to
figure everything out he did to keep the business going.

“My brother and I were
kind of thrown into the family business and kept it going from there. I didn’t
realize I was going to be here for this many years, but I’ve enjoyed working in
the industry. You meet a lot of people. By owning your own business you’re able
to take time off when you want time off, but it also is a 24/7 job. When
there’s something wrong, you’re going in to fix it.”

Russell and Murray have
worked hard over the years to build upon the legacy established by their
father. They have tried to make the 41 rooms on the property as inviting to
guests as possible. High speed Internet is available in all the rooms, along
with features like 32″ LCD Cable TV's, free local calls and courtesy
in-room coffee. There is air conditioning in 30 of the 41 rooms and 20 of the
rooms feature queen size foam beds from D&J FoamSmiths, which earned one
testimonial from a customer who said it was the “best sleep I ever had.
I'm getting one of these beds.”

When guests aren’t in
their rooms, they can head to Johnny’s Bistro on the property for a mouth-watering steak and other popular Canadian cuisine. There’s also a licensed
beverage room with ice-cold beer, wine and hard liquor, along with electronic
games and pool tables for entertainment.

The Pioneer also features
three meeting rooms that accommodate groups ranging 10 to 200 people for
meetings, conferences, banquets or other gatherings.

“Guests appreciate that
we have very comparable rates,” Russell said. “The rooms are quite large and
very clean. The building may be a little bit older, but it has some very nice,
unique features from when it was built. The steps are made of handmade
granite.”

Russell said there isn’t
one type of clientele that the Pioneer exclusively caters to.

“It’s not like 40 or 50
years ago, when all our rooms had one bed in them and every person that came to
the area for a meeting basically stayed overnight; it was the just the way of
life back then,” Russell said. “Now a lot of meetings are done via the
internet. While we still get some travellers in that respect, we also welcome
construction crews that stay during the week. Your weekends pretty much rely on
the what’s happening in Humboldt as far as events like sport tournaments,
weddings, etc.”

Russell said his father
became a member of the Saskatchewan Hotel & Hospitality Association (SHHA)
very early on. As the business ownership has transitioned, themembership has
remained in good standing.

“The SHHA is always
looking at the bigger picture,” Russell said. “They fight for our rights when
it comes to liquor laws, tax laws and other legalization. We probably don’t
even recognize all the work they’re doing. It’s helpful to everyone in the
industry.”

Story courtesy of SHHA.