Winter can be busy for independents
17 DECEMBER 2015 9:34 AM
While occupancy might drop during winter, the season offers independents plenty to keep them busy.
When the leaves have fallen, the trees are bare and the shrubbery turns brown you know winter is coming.
Each season of ownership has opened our eyes, and we are pleasantly surprised to find that this small, historic town of Galena, Illinois, bustles with activity throughout winter and the holidays. In fact, we’ve found this is an outdoors enthusiast’s dream destination.
While we do expect a drop in occupancy at the Goldmoor Inn, we will be busy dressing up the place for the season, celebrating what we’ve accomplished and planning for the New Year.
While I have depended on decorators and engineers to put up the holiday finery in corporate hotels throughout my career, now we have a small team and a couple of golf carts to help us raise a 25-foot tree in the circle drive.
Downtown, the area’s decorations are serious business. Windows, streetlights and doorways have all been decorated with garlands, twinkling lights and ornaments to create the festive mood for the season. We’re a few miles from the town center, but we will complement the activities to support the community.
For instance, on 12 December during Galena’s annual Night of the Luminaria, streets glowed with nearly 5,000 candle-lit luminaries at dusk. We did the same to dress the driveway and steps for each cottage and cabin with our own lighted paths. This event is considered one of the most beautiful and romantic sights to behold each year, and our bed-and-breakfast mirrored the look.
Reason to celebrate
During this holiday season we have something extra to celebrate: a new executive chef.
The culinary experience is a vital part of our inn, and for the past eight months we have searched for the right executive chef to mesh with our culinary vision, ensuring an environment where his/her own talents can flourish and add to our guests’ experience. It was more challenging than we anticipated.
When you’re hiring for a position that is integral to your overall success, it takes time. We realized that our location, while desirable to so many, was more of an obstacle than we imagined. We sought someone who not only had the talent necessary, a personality that fit into our culture and a culinary vision that complemented our own, but one who would be happy making Galena and Jo Daviess County home.
After exhausting our extensive list of personal contacts and industry notables and interviewing numerous possibilities, we finally turned to an executive search firm who introduced us to Carlos Valdez. Originally from Peru, he has honed his culinary skills in renowned kitchens around the world.
When the winter snows fly and the temperatures drop, we’re happy to discover there are many things to do in the area. This is good news for potential bookings.
Nearby Chestnut Mountain offers a 475-foot vertical drop and 19 runs—from bunny slopes to black diamonds—for skiers and snowboarders. Blankets of snow on trails invite snowshoeing and cross country skiing. A fun activity with Nordic roots, skijoring, is one sport that looks incredible as skiers are actually drawn by dogs. Imagine! Horse-drawn sleighs, bird watching and a snow and ice sculpture festival during Mardi Gras weekend are all popular activities.
We’ve learned that the upper Mississippi River Valley is a famous breeding ground and nesting area for the magnificent American Bald Eagle. Special tours led by experts and viewing areas nearby allow guests to witness this magnificent bird in its natural habitat. Throw in a romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day and we’re almost ready for spring.
New year, new investments
By February, we will have experienced a full year of ownership. Over this time, we’ve identified some improvements we believe to be strategic investments that can help propel new business.
First, we’ve identified that our outdoor pavilion is a lovely place for an event, but if we install a semi-permanent wall system and add in air conditioning and heating elements, we’ll be able to use this space at least three seasons, expanding our ability to host parties of up to 150 guests. That brings in great revenue and offers our guests a wider window in which to consider using this venue. This will be a big investment, but it’s one we feel new revenue can pay off in time.
And while our first year has focused on the manicured property, we also own an additional 13 acres of wooded ground. We have our sights on carving a walking or hiking trail so guests can fully explore and enjoy the natural beauty surrounding us. We’ll explore the possibilities and budget required, and depending on the successes we hope to experience in 2016, this dream will become a reality.
This has been an exciting first year of ownership. It’s rewarding to see results of our efforts and the long hours and sometimes back-breaking work. It is simply what we do every day to continually maintain and update the property and to offer an exceptional experience to guests. And we love it.
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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