This week’s interviewee is Al Lukiman, owner of Northtown Arcata’s Fairwinds Motel and Arcata Chamber Member for 31 years.
How long have you owned the business?
I have owned it for 13 years. But it first opened in the mid-1960s. I had never been in the motel industry before, but I had a friend in it and I thought, “I can do that.” I searched on the Internet for a place to buy and saw this place and so I bought it and moved up from Southern California.
What is a pro and a con of owning the Fairwinds?
Pros are it’s very dynamic. You meet new people every day. New employees every year. Mostly employees are students and mostly they are here for a year or two. Cons are in the beginning we had a lot of lot those “local” people and those are the most difficult. Grossest, dirtiest and no respect and so we blacklisted one by and one and we have a list of about 500 at this point.
What is it like doing business in Arcata?
Very good business place to do business here. You have to know your customer. Half of this town is students and you have to cater to students or people in that age group no matter what business you are doing. If you can adjust to that you will be fine.
Were there any certain books or influences from your youth that shaped your path?
I grew up in an environment very different from here. I moved to this country 30 years ago. I come from Indonesia. The books I read when I was younger don’t relate to anything in this environment at all. Mostly I read the Kung Fu stories. There are around 30 volumes. When I was in college I remember reading On the Origins of Species by Darwin. I majored in electronics in Indonesia. After I graduated I worked as a field geophysicist, a computer system engineer and by trade I am an electrician while my hobby is a carpenter and I became a plumber by necessity.
What brought you to the United States?
My parents always wanted to move abroad from Indonesia. A year or two after they moved to California they applied for a green card and then I moved here. I am now a naturalized citizen. Of course that was before the current administration. In my free time I go home to Los Angeles area where my daughters, wife and some siblings are – I go down every so often.
Any advice to people considering the motel industry?
Be handy. You have to be a handyman because if you depend on people to do all the maintenance it will be very hard, not only financially, but timing-wise.