By Pete Wurdock
At first sight, you’d think that a place with the name of “Bates Motel” would be a creepy tourist trap playing off the famous movie Psycho, starring Anthony Perkins. But in the case of the Bates Motel and adjacent Bates Corner Bar and Grill in Gould City, it’s not.
Co-owners Theresa and Jay Bates are the new owners of the place, formerly known as the Wolf Den Inn.
“I honestly didn’t make the connection at first, because that’s our name!” Theresa Bates laughed. “When I named the motel, I had no idea about the movie Psycho. I never watch TV or scary movies.”
Plenty of people do, though, and almost every day a vehicle pulls up just to take pictures in front of the sign.
One day a sprint car pulled up into the parking lot. Theresa ran outside to get a photo. As it turned out, the car was part of a scavenger hunt/road rally that ran from Wisconsin to Sault Ste. Marie, and one of the stops along the way was for the participants to get a picture with the Bates Motel sign. All in all, about 150 cars stopped by during the event.
Jay and Theresa are an unlikely couple and how they came to own the place is a story in itself. And it’s not a horror story.
Between the two of them, Jay and Theresa Bates have five kids and have fostered 14 more over the years. The fostering started with Theresa’s kids bringing their friends home and saying “Mom, our friend has nowhere to live.”
She opened her house up to that first child like she did her own children. After that they kept coming.
Theresa grew up in Saginaw and took over her father’s asphalt and seal coating business when he became too ill to work. Jay was a union carpenter who spent much of his life on the road, building everything from skyscrapers in New York to casinos in Las Vegas. His uncle was a car salesman and occasionally would call for repossessions. Theresa’s dad was the repo man.
They had known each other most of their lives, but it took decades before they finally got married. After that it didn’t take long for Theresa to coax Jay to the Upper Peninsula.
When Jay retired from the Carpenters union, where he had been superintendent, he had never been north of the Mackinac Bridge and wasn’t ready to move. Theresa got him up to the Gould City area to hunt. The bar/motel was under a land contract with another couple who became tired of operating it. Their friend who owned it offered it to them.
They left the tavern and drove to Dual Lake so Jay could show Theresa where he went hunting. With the thought of the business still fresh in their minds, an omen occurred. As they arrived at Dual Lake still talking about their friend’s offer, they saw four bald eagles and something about that moment sealed the deal.
Since purchasing the buildings outright, they have spent in excess of $60,000 on improvements of the property with many more enhancements to come.
Instead of giving the kitchen a heavy cleaning, Jay cut a hole in the wall and they threw out almost everything.
They hauled away junk from behind the business and established a campground where $10 buys you a rustic site for your tent, and $40 buys you a site with power. A dump station is available for $5.
Inside the motel, the Bates upgraded TVs, painted rooms, patched walls, and bought new beds. But just like in that scary movie, room number one holds a special surprise for those who spend the night.