There is brown butcher paper covering the front doors to keep prying eyes from sneaking a peek at the renovations taking place in the Oakwood Inn. But The Mail-Journal recently received an opportunity to see how the renovations are moving along.
The old Oakwood Inn had the feeling of luxury, with rich colors such as burgundy and hunter green used, along with heavy drapes and heavy furniture. The new Oakwood Inn has a completely different feel, one that is lively and bright. The majority of the 77 rooms have been painted a sunny yellow, with the remaining rooms painted a light taupe. Light colored carpet and white furnishing invite natural light to flood the rooms and bring the focus to the views of the lake. The reason for yellow as a room color is the Parent family loves the color yellow. The 10 suites in the inn will be painted in different “lake” colors and have different furnishings from the basic rooms.
J.R. Parent, who along with his dad, Rex and brother, Jason, purchased the Oakwood property, said the only major issue with the building when they started working on it was the chiller. They are now in the process of exchanging the chiller for a geothermal system using a local contractor from Goshen. Parent said the system is similar to one Goshen College installed last year.
As for the amenities, Parent said, “We’re buying plenty of new things, but we’re using what we can.” Amenities such as the wardrobes and accent tables in the rooms have been refreshed with a new coat of paint. The chairs in the room have also had new life breathed into them thanks to new paint and new upholstery.
Parent said his mother, Connie, has been involved with decorating a lot in the hotel. “She’s helped with material and color,” he said. “She enjoys doing it and we want it to have a lake feel.”
At this point, all the basic rooms have been painted and crews are working on the suite decor. A new addition will be a spa, located where the old gift shop and offices were once located. “We feel like people can make a weekend (getaway),” said Parent. “It’s a destination.”
Most of the attention has been focused on the hotel. Parent said he and his family want to get it up and running. Once that happens, attention will turn to the former Academy building, now called the Hilltop Banquet Center. Parent said the Hilltop Banquet Center is in great shape and won’t take too long to get ready for customers.
Work is also underway at the cottages. Several have new decks and are being updated to be more attractive as rentals. Parent has a team of about 40 people working on the property at any given time. Approximately 15 of them are staying in the cabins. Parent said the 15 who are staying weekly wake up and work as long as they can, share dinner together. The whole crew, which has worked with Parent for many years, is bonded like a family.
For the restaurant, the intention is to have two types for customers to chose from, one offering casual fine dining and the other offering casual outside seating with a pub feel. The casual fine dining will offer plated meals, while the outside restaurant will offer burgers, fries and other pub food. “We want to cater to everyone’s needs,” said Jeremiah Heierman, Oakwood Resort general manager.
The restaurants will have an executive chef. “He’s been here for the last three months working on the kitchen,” Parent said. The Hilltop Banquet Center will have catering by Noa Noa Wood Grill and Sushi Bar in Warsaw for reunions, wedding receptions and business functions.
The plan is to open Memorial Day weekend. “We’re more getting this (the hotel) open for the success of Oakwood and for the community to at least get a start of the season,” Parent said. Parent and his team have been working aggressively to get the work done, but wants everyone to understand they are under a tight time crunch. “We will be continuing to improve the facility throughout the summer and into the future,” Parent said.
Oakwood is now taking reservations through its front desk by calling (574) 457-8500. In a few weeks the website, www.oakwoodresort.com, will be able to take reservations along with credit card payments. Room reservations start June 1 for the season. Already, Steve Fields, hotel manager, has taken a number of reservations including people booking and asking about plans for New Year’s Eve.
To book the Hilltop Banquet Center, call the front desk. Many Saturdays are already booked for this summer and October is filling up fast.
Community members have also been supportive by sharing their personal photos with the inn. Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum and the Syracuse Public Library have also been very helpful. “We’re wanting more,” said Heierman. He has been receiving phone calls from members of the community sharing their experiences with Oakwood.