2017 Year in Review: Story No. 2

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A HISTORIC BUSINESS CLOSES

The Inn closing? Signs point to yes

This is part of a series looking back at 2017.

The Inn at Okoboji's financial roller coaster ride may have come to an stop in 2017.

Area residents learned in August that the landmark resort was going to hit the auction block.

The Acre Company of Spencer organized a private real estate auction of the property. Jon Hjelm, auctioneer and owner of The Acre Company, said the decision to continue business at The Inn would be up to the new property owner.

The Inn at Okoboji was previously owned by a group of banks.

“This kind of property is kind of rare and the fact that it’s up for auction makes it even more rare,” Hjelm said.

The property was originally owned by Aaron Dixon in 1867 and changed hands several times before J.A. Beck bought the land in two separate purchases, according to The Inn’s online history. A portion of the Inn Hotel, consisting of 24 rooms, was constructed in 1896 and expanded the next season. The hotel was quickly repaired after a fire in 1934 and was razed and replaced in 1955 by the New Inn Resort Complex. The Inn at Okoboji was restored in 1999 by David and Lisa Slattery of Omaha, Nebraska, who owned The Inn until 2011.

“There’s been a number of people who have been interested and have been looking at the property since the bank has owned it,” Hjelm said.

The 82-acre property includes both lakefront and inland portions, which Hjelm said is uncommon and a rare opportunity for those looking to enter the resort or hotel business.

The gavel sounded in late September for the sale of the landmark business — but the investor behind a multi-million dollar check remained a mystery as 2017 came to a close. Whitecap LLC submitted the winning bid.

Mike Jensen, of Jensen Real Estate, represented Whitecap during the sale process, but declined to comment as to the members of the company or whether the purchaser is based outside the area. However, Jensen indicated The Inn may not be opening as a hotel again.

"At this point, it doesn't look like it," Jensen said.

Hjelm said the property sold for $5.7 million. Hjelm said the sale price included nearly every tangible aspect of the business, including computers, office supplies and vehicles. The auctioneer reiterated the auction went well and attracted 10 bidders as well as some 90 inquiries. He said interest in the sale spoke well of the Iowa Great Lakes Area and the pride local residents have for their community. He said the landmark business will likely live on in memory, if not in name.

"It's a great property with a great history and, going forward, it'll always be known as The Inn," Hjelm said. "I think there's going to be a lot of memorabilia transferred to the Maritime Museum so they'll have a nice display of it."

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