Stella Perkins, longtime operator of the Sunset Motel and Restaurant in rural Fayette County who once boasted she would never leave the place until "they put me ... in Lexington Cemetery," has sold the aging property.
Reached last week, Perkins said declining health led her to sell the 25-room establishment, which closed in February because she could no longer handle the upkeep.
"It just got too much for me," she said of the motel and restaurant, the latter of which she began closing around 4 p.m. daily in recent months. "I've got congestive heart failure, osteoporosis, emphysema. You name it, and I've got it."
The buyer, Mohammad Ahmed, once owned and operated Congress Inn on North Broadway with his family and remains a part owner of Bryan Station Inn.
The family also once owned a motel in Elizabethtown, he said.
"To be honest with you, I love the location," he said. "I'm so happy to buy it."
Michael Prather of Keller Williams Bluegrass Realty handled the sale, which he called a "unique transaction."
The $500,000 sale price included the four-plus acres on which the hotel and restaurant sit, and a smaller piece of land on which Perkins' house sits.
Because Perkins wasn't actively running the motel and restaurant, banks might not have been willing to finance anyone who would have needed a loan. Fortunately, Ahmed paid cash, Prather said.
"There were a lot of moving pieces to it, and it was pretty unique," he said.
Located near the Kentucky Horse Park, the motel, which opened in the 1940s, has long been a home for visitors to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Perkins said.
"I was getting customers here for the Rolex from Canada, England and Australia," she said. And with the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games coming in 2010, there's more business awaiting.
Ahmed has begun remodeling the rooms, changing all the doors and windows, he said. "You know ... shaping it up, painting outside and inside," he said.
He said he plans to lease the restaurant to someone else to operate.
After nearly 40 years of operating the motel, Perkins won't be going far. She plans to move in with her daughter "just two doors down" the road, she said.
And she has plans for her new residence. She wants to add a glass-enclosed patio and a front porch. Once that's done, she's taking a trip to Pawleys Island, S.C., where she and her husband vacationed.
Perkins met her husband, John David, in the restaurant. Soon after, they eloped to Cynthiana. That was 1946. When John David died in 1997 of a heart attack, they had been married 50 years.
She recalled how the couple once had WKYT (Channel 27) out at the restaurant one morning for coffee, doughnuts and even cheeseburgers. During the broadcast, the station's workers filmed video of the couple walking up toward the hotel, and Perkins still has a copy.
"That may be the first thing I watch when I get the house straightened up over there," she said.
She said she found it "kind of hard" to sell the hotel, even to Ahmed. "But I really like him. He's a real nice fellow and, in fact, he calls me mom and his kids call me grandma."