When Kendra Sinclair and Jared Vengrin toured a rundown motel, they decided to buy it and make it better than ever. Now, they’re using that can-do spirit to breathe new life into the rest of the neighborhood.
The night Kendra Sinclair’s friends introduced her to her future husband, Jared Vengrin, she checked him out—never guessing they’d someday handle literal checkouts as co-owners of a motel. She was instantly attracted. “I liked his booming voice,” she remembers. After graduating from college in Canada, the couple lived in Austin, then San Francisco. Both times, they renovated their properties. In 2018, a year after getting married, they moved to Brooklyn, chasing their dream of New York living.
But when Covid hit, working in a small condo became a low-key nightmare. Their jobs—Sinclair is in financial tech, Vengrin is an engineering recruiter—meant overlapping calls. Vengrin’s ‘booming voice’ dominated. “I had a signal for ‘Please turn down the volume,’” says Sinclair. Their thoughts turned to Red Hook, where Vengrin had grown up. As frequent visitors, they adored its scenic pastures and mountain views. “We knew it would be amazing to have more space, and we had the time to take on a construction project,” she recalls. Within months, they’d bought a single-bathroom fishing cabin in town. Working alongside plumbers, electricians, and other pros, “we spent about a year renovating it,” says Sinclair. They consolidated the cabin’s tiny bedrooms into three roomy ones, plus added a second bathroom.
Then a new challenge appeared. “Jared had the crazy idea to look at a dilapidated motel for sale,” she says. The property, the Hearthstone Motel, had always intrigued him. “My school bus drove past it,” he explains. Travelers knew it too and had thrown shade online. (One called it “The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Hotel.”) But, Vengrin says, “there was real opportunity.”
This time, the reno took just over a year. As before, they left tasks like plumbing and electrical work to pros, while handling others, like painting, themselves. In January, the newly christened Reclaimed Motel, a boutique property, opened. Each of its eight unique rooms feature a record player and vintage décor. One has an old Metro North timetable sign, for instance, while another is themed around a bank robber who hid out at the motel in the 1970s.
Now, the couple is working to get more people checked in to Red Hook. Sinclair is on the board of The Daily Catch, a local non-profit newspaper (founded in 2021) and has joined the Chamber of Commerce. “I’m excited about the concentration of local businesses run by women,” says Sinclair. “There’s The Crows Nest, a gorgeous home goods store; The Corner Counter, which is a cheese shop and eatery; and The Red Hook Stationery Company. Verse Work/Shop, a design store, is run by two sisters.” She also wants to help other nonprofits flourish. Thanks to a stint at Meta helping charities promote themselves through Facebook and Instagram, she’s got mad skills. “I hope to organize a social impact summit where I’ll host experts in the nonprofit space at the motel for free, and facilitate educational conversations with our local causes,” adds Sinclair.
Vengrin always encourages pals to attend the fundraising dinners held by Historic Red Hook, the town’s historical society. “I like to bring along friends who maybe aren’t as aware of community events like this,” he says. In June, he partnered with Sinclair to host a booth at the Red Hook Then and Now Festival, which celebrates the town’s past and present and draws both tourists and locals. Their display featured original and current pictures of the motel.
In their spare time, Sinclair and Vengrin enjoy hiking and events at Bard College’s Fisher Center. They also love owning Red Hook’s hottest place to stay. In July, they had a ribbon cutting. “It symbolized opening our doors to the broader community,” says Vengrin. “So many people wanted to tour the motel.” The event also raised funds for a local farm that suffered a barn fire.
As for the ways Red Hook will continue to change, Vengrin hopes for an emphasis on supporting local farmers. Sinclair predicts the economy will rev up even more. “Every time you see something that’s fallen into disrepair or feels like it’s been forgotten, and then new life is brought into it, to me feels like the future of Red Hook,” she says.