30 years and counting …

McConnell Inn celebrates three decades of serving guests

ABOVE, leaning against the sign post, Mary-Jo Johnson reminisces about the various guests the she has met over the years as an innkeeper. Left, the McConnell Inn is a five-room Victorian bed and breakfast that celebrated its 30th anniversary on June 29 with an open house and a state commendation presented by Rep. Joan Ballweg.               Hannah Tetzlaff and Green Laker file photos

by Hannah Tetzlaff

People come and go, but one little bed-and-breakfast has always remained.

After hosting many guests over the years, the McConnell Inn in Green Lake celebrated its 30th anniversary Wednesday, June 29 with an open house. At the event, state Rep. Joan Ballweg presented a state commendation to innkeepers Mary-Jo and Scott Johnson in congratulations of their achievement.

The McConnell Inn is a turn-of-the-century Victorian bed-and-breakfast located two blocks from downtown Green Lake at 497 S. Lawson Drive. Mary-Jo and Scott bought it in 1985, and after renovations, it opened in June 1986.

The inn offers five rooms — one of which is a third-floor suite. Each room has its own unique amenities.

The Master Suite has a panoramic lake view, refrigerator, his and her robes, hearth stove fireplace, jacuzzi and a king-sized European Sleep-System memory foam bed.

Other rooms like the Dartford provide a king-sized canopied bed, walk-in tiled shower with heated tile flooring and vintage rocking chairs while the Bayside and Turret rooms offer great lake views as well. The Bayside also has a claw-foot tub/shower.

Booking a room can range from $99 to $199 per night for a minimum of either a two- or three-night stay, depending on the season.

In the bed-and-breakfast industry, 30 years is quite a feat.

“It’s not typical for someone to be in the business for 30 years,” Mary-Jo said. “The average I believe — I haven’t checked it lately — but in the not-too-distant past, five or six years was the average length of ownership for a B&B. I guess our length in this business shows how much we really enjoy it.”

She noted that most individuals enter the industry when they are at the end of their careers or have retired, which may explain the short span of ownership.

Mary-Jo and Scott, on the other hand, began running their inn when they were in their 20s. After they were married, the young couple — originally from Wisconsin — traveled all around the United States and lived out of a tent for three months.

When Scott got a job on the East Coast, the couple explored the area. After being guests themselves at bed-and-breakfasts along the coast, young Scott and Mary-Jo were smitten with the business and decided to open their own quaint inn.

“We didn’t know what to expect as far as how busy we would be,” Mary-Jo said. “We thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be kind of a side business, maybe weekends,’ and it’s just flourished into much more than we ever anticipated. We feel very fortunate.”

Over the years, the McConnell Inn has hosted guests from far and wide.

“We’ve had a number of foreign guests,” Mary-Jo said. “We’ve had people from South America. We’ve had some guests from Australia. A number of different people from Europe — Germany, France, Czech Republic — all over the U.S., Canada [and] Mexico. The majority of our guests are from the Midwest, but we’ve had people from all different walks of life and here for different reasons.”

To Mary-Jo, meeting new guests and learning about them is an amazing experience.

“We’ve met so many wonderful people,” she said. “In fact, our very first guests that first day we were open have been coming back. They come probably five, six times a year or more and they’ve gotten to be very close friends of ours … Happened just coincidentally — not planned — they were here the weekend when our first son was born … We feel like we have relationships through this business.”

According to Mary-Jo, what sets bed-and-breakfasts apart from motels, hotels and resorts are the personal relationships and interaction that each guest receives.

“There is just so much more opportunity for interaction and to meet people’s needs at a bed-and-breakfast,” she said. “If you’re at a motel or resort, you might check in and maybe you’ll see someone in housekeeping or you might see somebody else on the grounds, but you may never have another conversation with anyone there. I feel that it is a real personal touch that we can offer as a bed-and-breakfast.”

As an innkeeper, Mary-Jo and Scott provide for all the needs of the guests and are more than willing to help supply the guests with ideas for fun activities.

“I gave some of my guests maps and said ‘Here’s this. Here’s a variety of things to do.’ I helped one guest book dinner reservations tonight. I helped another guest reserve a jet ski to go on this afternoon … It’s also being able to share what I know about the community and the whole area and just helping people enjoy their time here in Green Lake.”

Mary-Jo is also the chef and dishes up breakfast for all the guests. She assists with anyone’s dietary needs as long as she is informed ahead of time.

Whether it’s a short stay or a long one, the Johnsons welcome everyone to relax and enjoy their inn. Even though you may leave, the inn will always be there for when you return again.