The Sonora Inn and Rodeway Inn in downtown Sonora were recently sold for $5 million to a couple who work as digital consultants in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jeff Michels and his husband, Dominique Piotet, purchased the two hotels under their newly formed company, Sierra Nevada Hospitality LLC.

“I thought it was just a wonderful opportunity for a radical lifestyle change,” Michels said during a telephone interview on Tuesday.

The couple moved from the Bay Area to Las Vegas five years ago after selling their former digital strategy consulting group to Fabernovel, an international digital agency representing luxury brands.

Piotet has since served as the United States chief executive officer of Fabernovel, while Michels served as the company’s U.S. chief operating officer and vice president of luxury and retail until July.

They are planning to move with their 5-year-old son, Lucas, to a house in Groveland that they purchased as a vacation home seven years ago.

Michels said he would visit the Mother Lode with his family for vacation while growing up in the City of Clayton in Contra Costa County.

“My father’s side of the family has a very long history and were pioneers themselves going back and forth into Yosemite,” he said. “I guess I’ve always had that connection growing up.”

The couple plans to renovate the Sonora Inn, but Michels said they are not yet ready to discuss all of the details at this early stage.

Michels said he’s excited about the opportunity to do a project in the region to share with the local community, as well as both domestic and international visitors.

“We’re in the early stages of discussions with some internationally recognized design firms on a potential renovation of the Sonora Inn,” he said.

The historic hotel came as a package deal with Rodeway Inn, located directly behind it at 128 S. Green St.

Jayesh Desai was listed in county records as the seller of the Sonora Inn, while Travel Inn Associates LP was listed as the seller of the Rodeway Inn.

Michels said they plan to find new tenants for the Sonora Inn’s storefronts off South Washington Street that previously housed the recently shuttered Bedazzled clothing store and Ryderz Restaurant after the renovation.

The Sonora Inn originally opened in 1896 as the Hotel Victoria, according to marble plaque attached to the front of the building.

The plaque stated that the building was later remodeled into the current Spanish style and reopened as the Sonora Inn in 1931.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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