KODAK, Tenn. (WATE) — The Nicest Place in America is just off of Interstate 40 according to Reader’s Digest. The group awarded the Quality Inn Kodak in Sevier County the title.
The owner, Sean Patel, moved to Tennessee from India in 2004 with very few resources. “When I first came here I had no roof on my head, so out of the mercy of my aunt, she took me in.”
It was her hospitality that allowed him to continue his education at the University of Tennessee. He said southern hospitality is what kept him here. Now, as the owner of a Quality Inn, he’s sharing that hospitality with others,
“Not everyone’s been able to make ends meet. So we’re not trying to give a free hand out, we’re just trying to give them a hand up.” Last Christmas, Patel took that to another level,
“We’re seeing the snow pick up, it’s coming, it’s coming and I’m still loading my car up with the gifts and I’m telling my wife, ‘I think we’re ready to go. Let’s go, it’s three hours,’ and she says, ‘We can’t go’.”
Patel put his Christmas on pause to make sure others were safe, calling Holiday guests and telling them not to drive any further so they wouldn’t get stuck on the roads. Then, he welcomed locals who has nowhere else to go when thousands of people were left without power on Christmas Day.
“Yeah we lost revenue,” he said. “But at that time me and my partners were not really thinking about revenue we’re thinking about the community.”
Patel said he wanted to show a little hospitality to those who needed help during the holiday. Being awarded the Happiest Place in America is just a bonus,
“If I got an opportunity to pick someone up and help them, then why not? It’s not going to hurt me. I think I’m depositing, like one of my good friends says, I’m depositing into the bank of karma. So I’ll take that.”
Patel adds that with everything he does, he just wants to set a good example for his son,
“I just want to make sure my son looks at what I do, I want to be a role model for him. I don’t have o be a basketball player, football player, or anything. I just want to be a good role model.”
Readers Digest has been recognizing different locations as the ‘Nicest Place in America’ for the past five years. Tennessee has been home to three of those places. The city of Gallatin took home the first-ever ‘Nicest Place in America’ award in 2017. Knoxville restaurant Yassin’s Falafel House was named the Nicest Place in America in 2018.