Four discoveries about owning our inn
23 SEPTEMBER 2015 6:35 AM
From spreading the word to building a Wi-Fi tower, becoming an inn owner has its challenges.
Seven months have passed since my husband Slobo and I left our corporate hospitality worlds behind us and pursued our dream of owning our own inn. Finding the 18-suite Goldmoor Inn in Galena, Illinois, was the right choice for us and we’ve made some interesting discoveries since taking the reins. Here are the four biggest ones we’ve made so far:
Sharing the secret
Though established decades ago, we found that the Goldmoor was a veritable unknown … not only to the visiting public but also in the local residential and business community. We are slowly changing that because we want others to find what we found: a gem is sitting on top of the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River Valley.
We started locally, hosting a Champagne reception and open house, which was attended by more than 120 key members of the business community. Countless times we heard that the guests had never been to the property, didn’t know what a great variety of event venues we offered, nor dined in the restaurant. That was enlightening to say the least. We felt this was the right way to say hello to a large audience, and to introduce our property to those who would hopefully refer business or become future guests themselves. We shuttled guests via chauffeured golf cart to the log cabins and encouraged a short walk through the grounds and up to the cottages, and opened the guest suites for a look. We toasted our guests and underscored our penchant for romantic retreats by inviting Peggy Stortz, an author and founder of the Galena Writer’s Guild, to read one of her spicy poems from the group’s collection of stories and poetry, Love From Galena.
Old-fashioned grassroots work, getting engaged in the community, supporting worthwhile causes, networking and participating never goes out of style and is a must. And word of mouth, another vehicle that is an old-timer and a bit slow, is very effective.
Our investment has paid off. Not only did we have the surprise opportunity of being included in a German tour operators’ FAM trip with Visit Galena, we also made new connections with businesses that we continue to use today.
Of course we’re investing in advertising through traditional and digital means, and we’re now diving in to build our social platform engagements through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. And we have aligned ourselves with promotors who can lead a sophisticated traveler to the Goldmoor, including joining Discovery Destination Hotels, a brand that focuses on exploring and discovering the unexpected.
The ultimate promotion is the message that gets out after you’ve provided perfect execution and made sure the guest’s experience was unforgettable, and we’re embracing the tools that can help us convert online visits to overnight stays, corporate and social events, and restaurant dining.
Sweat equity has new meaning!
When you’re the owner and your search for a beautiful property filled with character is found, there are realities that set in. In the fertile landscape of the Midwest, trees, grass and weeds grow faster than anywhere else in the country. The Goldmoor Inn has eight acres of manicured terrain and the grounds truly make a guest’s first impression when driving around the bend and down the hill. “Wow!” comes to mind, but it takes back-breaking work to inspire that reaction.
Established 30 years ago, the previous owners planned gardens and plants that ensure there is always something in bloom throughout the growing season, making it interesting and colorful at all times. While much of the terrain is lawn there are endless flowerbeds, bushes, rose gardens, potted plants and trees that all want to be tended. Each one of these, however, needs care and attention on their schedule, not ours! Gone are the days of having a commercial florist manage the philodendrons and or palms throughout the hotel. We’ve invested much sweat equity during our first spring and summer season, cutting, pruning, shaping, removing, transplanting, mulching and weeding. And we’ve learned to love the splendid rewards.
We are bracing for the beautiful fall season with the wonderful color pallete of leaves turning all sorts of shades. And then the leaves fall. Need I say more?
Finding top talent
One of the biggest challenges we’ve experienced is finding trained and experienced hospitality staff. The town of Galena has a population of 3,500 with a more mature demographic. Neighboring cities such as Dubuque and Platteville are potential sources of employees; however, these locations have plenty of work in their locale, so it is imperative that we offer something different, something enticing.
Finding talent is not an easy task in this sparsely populated area but we are steadfast in our efforts to find the right people to add to our growing team of individuals ready to offer the sophisticated level of service we ourselves demand.
We welcome your suggestions.
You think high-speed internet, fiber, cable, cell phone, TV and all the “normal” services we take for granted in urban markets are common all over the country? Think again! Sparse population means sparsely covered services. AT&T is not investing in infrastructure where they perceive they cannot make money fast enough.
As much as we’d like to encourage ‘getting away’ when you check in, we do live in today’s world. Fast internet and strong cell phone coverage is a must, not a luxury. So we set out to take on the task of improvement.
With the help of the local Wi-Fi provider we were able to install a tower in Iowa, yes—another state–that bounces signals to us across the Mississippi River. In all of my years in business, I never expected to have to go to this type of extreme just to keep my emails flowing.
It has taken four months to finish the project and today we have speedy Internet and reliable service. Next up? A cell phone signal booster. These infrastructure elements are essential services and tools we must offer to attract the corporate customer, the bridal couples and the families who want to stay in touch with their co-workers, friends and family. We will prevail.
Slobo and I are immensely proud of what we’ve taken on and enjoying living in this little corner of paradise even with these discoveries of ownership. Knowing we’ll have a doe and her fawns wandering across the lawn, more 27 species of birds to spot with our binoculars, and easy access to “one of the friendliest towns in the world,” it’s painless to pick up the pruning shears, listen to another ad sales pitch, look hopefully through the next potential employee’s application and Instagram the chef’s weekend special to the world.
After 25 years operating corporate hotels and food and beverage entities, Birgit Radin and her husband Slobo pursued their dream of inn ownership. Birgit earned a certified hotel business and management degree from the Hotel Business and Management School in Villingen, Germany, and has worked in key management roles on three continents, led several transition teams throughout her career, and managed hundreds of millions of dollars in renovation and repositioning projects along that path. Today, she and Slobo operate an 18-suite property which includes two log cabins and three English cottages plus indoor/outdoor event venues all situated on 21-acres overlooking the Mississippi River Valley in Galena, Illinois.
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