MOREAU — After 45 years in the family, the Landmark Motor Inn has been sold.
But former owner John Naja is still there every day helping the new owner learn the ropes.
Shawn Asghar of Albany bought the hotel on March 16 for $3.67 million. He sold a hotel in Albany to buy the Landmark on Route 9.
While he had been happy in Albany, he said, he wanted a different sort of hotel.
“I looked at a lot of property,” he said.
Then he fell in love with the Landmark, which has statues of horses, betters, gambling clerks and even a Native American on the grounds. There are also two pools — indoor and outdoor — and a conference hall.
Plus, Naja has kept up the property, he said.
“And if he survived for 45 years, I think I can retire in 40 years from here, too,” Asghar said.
But taking over a bustling inn just in time for a huge basketball tournament was not easy. The first few nights, Asghar couldn’t sleep.
“I kept sitting up — what about this? What about that?” he said. “John (Naja) helped me a lot, and the staff helped me a lot. It’s all the same staff.”
After a week in the saddle, Asghar is getting a handle on the operation.
“Now I wake up and I come to a beautiful place,” he said, miming relaxing the moment he walked in the door of the hotel.
He plans to keep the horse racing themed decorations in the hotel. But his favorite is the Native American statue by the front door.
“Those are real Americans. We’re all foreigners but them,” he said. “I have real respect for them.”
Naja is having a hard time leaving. He is retiring and will stay in Moreau, saying there’s no other place he would consider living.
But he was glad to be at the Landmark when Christ the King qualified for the Federation Tournament of Champions, held last week.
“They hadn’t been here in a few years, but as soon as they qualified, they were on the phone,” he said. “They just took over the place.”
The 77 rooms were filled, not just with the team, but also family, friends and alumni. Naja has known some of them for years.
“They came in for the tournament, but they also pop in during the summer months,” he said.
Naja looks forward to other regulars, too, that he’ll have to say goodbye to this year, including the 140 children that fill the hotel every Christmas. The Ukrainian church members arrive on Christmas Day and spend six days skiing at Gore, every year.
During the horse-racing season, he’s watched four generations of the same families grow up.
It’s been a wonderful experience, he said.
“I really would like to thank the town of Moreau, all the residents, for all of their support,” he said.