SHERIDAN — It started with a chance encounter at Sheridan College.
Student Shin Young Gautam was walking across campus when she passed Tara Gautam, who was working at the college that day.
Shortly after introducing themselves, Shin Young and Tara had lunch at the Wyoming Culinary Institute on campus.
The relationship blossomed from there and they eventually married in July 2012. Instead of an official proposal, the couple mutually came to the same conclusion.
“One day we just decided, ‘OK, how about today?’” Shin Young Gautam said.
Their wedding did not involve the pomp and circumstance that accompanies most marriage ceremonies. It cost about $100 — spent on new clothes and a ring — and took place at a city administration building in Vernal, Utah, a town in the eastern part of the state.
The bare bones union was done out of necessity. Shin Young moved to the U.S. from South Korea and Tara hailed from Nepal, so the distance was too far for their family members to attend. They were both in school at the time as well — she was pursuing a graduate degree in secondary education and he was working on a certificate in petroleum technology — and money was tight.
Since marrying, the Gautams have carved out a life for themselves through love and labor. They have two daughters, ages 6 and 3. He has worked in the oil industry and she taught math and English as a second language at a middle school.
After living in Utah for most of the past seven years, the couple returned to Sheridan this January to run The Budget Inn Express on North Main Street. They wanted to eventually move back to Sheridan, which they both consider their home in the U.S, so when the opportunity arose to purchase the motel, they took it.
The couple also has many fond, shared memories in Sheridan, like spending time together in Kendrick Park. They appreciated the quality education available to their daughters as well.
The Gautams said they enjoy the communal aspect of Sheridan.
“We really wanted to come back here because of (the) people,” Tara Gautam said.
They do not have previous experience operating a hotel, but both of them enjoy helping people and hearing their stories.
“It fits my personality and it’s kind of my nature,” Tara Gautam said. “We have seen that a lot of people in this industry can do well.”
Tara Gautam grew up in a tiny village in Nepal with no running water or electricity. He worked as a guide in the Himalayas for seven years before moving to Sheridan in 2004 due to a connection he made as a guide. His parents and siblings still reside in Nepal.
Shin Young Gautam grew up in Chungju, South Korea, a city of around 300,000 people about 90 minutes southeast of Seoul. She moved to Sheridan in 2011 through a work study exchange program at Sheridan College for nursing, though she later switched her major to education.
The Gautams run the motel as a family business. Her parents moved to Salt Lake City from South Korea in 2016 to be closer to her and moved to Sheridan in January to work at the motel. Her younger brother is also a student at the University of Wyoming.
Shin Young Gautam’s parents clean rooms, watch over their grandchildren when necessary and help out with any odds and ends at the motel.
Their assistance has especially come in handy during the first two months because Tara Gautam only lives in Sheridan for half the time. To provide income, he holds a job as a plant operator at an oil field in Midland, Texas, working alternate weeks and traveling between Sheridan and the Lone Star State. That situation is not ideal, but they will make it work until they feel comfortable that the Budget Inn Express is operating well.
The Gautams said the first two months have gone pretty well, though the job involves working essentially around the clock. For example, a customer came in earlier this week around 1 a.m. with four children looking for a place to stay. The current guests are mostly longer rentals for a week or month, but the owners hope to have an increase in business with tourists as the weather gets warmer.
They are remodeling a few things — including adding smart TVs and upgrading furniture in the rooms — and have had plenty of repair and maintenance work, especially with recent subzero temperatures.
“We are in the process of making this place better, but it might take a little while,” Tara Gautam said.
They usually enjoy meeting an array of different customers, but that can also be the most difficult aspect of the job, depending on the guest.
“It’s rewarding, (but) at the same time it can be challenging, too,” Shin Young Gautam said. “Sometimes you need to get to know the person to provide the right service.”
Overall, though she appreciates the consistency and familial environment associated with the job.
“It’s a family business and you don’t feel like you’re always going to somewhere to work, and you can always stay around with the kids,” she said. “…It’s been a good change.”
After moving away for several years, the couple returned to a place that holds special memories, one where they hope to make lasting experiences for years to come.