first published in the Harbor Country News, April 24, 2008
by Matt Fritz
Linda Jo Clough first met her husband, Rodney, when he visited a bed-and-breakfast establishment she operated in Chicago nearly 20 years ago. So when she told Rodney she wanted to start another one in Sawyer, he thought she was after another man. Fortunately she wasn’t, and now they both “run” Rabbit Run Inn.
Located at 6227 Elm Drive, Sawyer, Rabbit Run Inn is a new bed-and-breakfast-style establishment in Harbor Country that seeks to marry customer concerns for convenience with its owners’ concerns for the environment, all in one rustic setting. The inn offers guests in the Harbor Country area luxurious rooms, personable service and the comforts of home, along with geothermal heating, energy-efficient appliances and low impact lighting. It features four rooms with queen-size beds, plasma TVs, WiFi (wireless Internet), iPod docking stations, wet bars, tiled bathrooms and showers, refrigerators, coffee and espresso makers, and private decks overlooking its pond and grounds. Each room is approximately 450 square feet, and one, Gingko, is handicapped-accessible.
And it offers customers something else hard to come by: Privacy.
Visitors driving down Elm Drive in Sawyer may catch glimpses of a brown and blue facade hidden behind rows of robust bushes and trees, a white gazebo standing sentinel over a wide lawn and an inconspicuous roadway leading to the dwelling. Few would guess that this vista, hidden so well from the casual viewer, was the inn. And owners Linda Jo and Rodney Clough said that was the point.
“In the summertime you really can’t see around us, when it’s all green,” Linda Jo said. “We are trying, ultimately, to create a green barrier all season, and all winter as well.” Linda Jo said each new guest receives a wine basket with locally produced wines and cheeses; hot baked goods every morning; a refrigerator stocked with fruit juice, water and milk; and her cell phone number, in case there are any problems. “When they check in, pretty much their first night’s meal is there if they are too tired to go out,” she said. “We have plenty of food and drinks.”
An interior decorator by trade, Linda Jo has given each room its own decor, with designer furnishings, cut stone countertops, and vessel sinks and vanities in the bathrooms. These rooms are available at weekly, weekend, seasonal and daily rates. Right now they are being offered at discounted “introductory rates” on its Web site.
Despite being listed in the Chikaming Township code as a bed-and-breakfast, Linda Jo ex- plained that their business was really an inn.
“People are not going to be coming in and having breakfast in the morning with a bunch of strangers,” she said. “They are going to be self-sufficient. We are going to be very high tech and up to date.”
“The connotation when the bed and breakfasts got started was that they were rooms in someone’s house,” Rodney added, “whereas an inn was stand-alone or semi-attached to the house.”
The Cloughs went through five months of township hearings to get the proper variances for the project, and they thanked their neighbors for coming to the hearings to show support for their business.
The two-acre property also features two gazebos, a tree swing, and a pond filled with coy and turtles, and, of course, plenty of open land for its guests to use for sports or other activities.
“What we are trying to achieve is really a retreat,” Linda Jo said, “not just for people who want to come to the area, but for people trying to get away from the city for some peace and quite. We are not set up to be cottagey or big family-oriented.” She added that they did provide cots for families that wanted to bring older children.
“We did not want to impose rustic on people,” Rodney explained. “We wanted to provide a natural environment, but with amenities associated with city or suburban living. There are a lot of people that want to go to a cabin like (Henry David) Thoreau. That’s not our market.”
It was also only three minutes from Warren Dunes State Park, Linda Jo noted, which offers beaches, hiking trails, and parking. And the inn will offer guests bicycles, beach umbrellas, chairs, towels, and even crochet sets for their convenience. “We are encouraging people to come without all the things they would normally have to bring,” she said. “Just throw some things in a bag and come.”
Linda Jo previously ran a bed-and-breakfast in Chicago. She first met Rodney when he stayed there during a visit to an area trade show. He owned his own industrial design business in New York. “It was love at first sight,” he said. They courted for one year and married in 1989.
When she asked him about starting another bed-and-breakfast, Linda Jo said he looked at her and asked. “Are you looking for another husband?” Once she convinced him otherwise, he decided that it was a good idea.
As mentioned earlier, the Cloughs also set up this establishment to address their environmental concerns as well. This included the use of environmentally sensitive shampoos and soaps, remnant stone for its counters, and laying a half-mile of tubing underneath the house for geothermal heating.
For more information, or to tour the facility, call Rabbit Run Inn at (269) 405-1050, or visit its Web site at http://www.rabbitruninn.com.
Copyright 2008, The News-Dispatch, All Rights Reserved.