The old lady in the Old Pier Motel: Owner Kathi McGowan celebrates three decades in Destin

old pier motel
Kathy Harrison | The Log
Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 03:06 PM.

Kathi McGowan was not happy when her husband decided to purchase a motel in Destin.

"I thought I died and went to hell," she deadpanned.

After years of family vacations in Destin, McGowan's husband Bob decided to buy property there. McGowan hadn't even seen the small motel before she arrived.

"He said, 'If I can sell our home in Iowa , would you agree to move down there and live?'" she recalled. It was the early 1980s and the local economy was down, McGowan said. By answering yes to her husband's question, she thought she was calling his bluff. But he sold the house and set his eyes on a quaint motel on Pompano Street .

"I was 48, we had a really nice house and I belonged to every local organization," McGowan said of her Iowa roots. "The hardest part was leaving my mother, who was in a nursing home. But it was Bob's turn. He moved to Iowa for me."

With their kids grown and scattered across the country, they headed south. But the motel wasn't exactly paradise.

"It looked like Bates Motel," said McGowan's daughter, Molly Tietgen. "There wasn't even a number three unit. It just went, one, two, four, five."

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