The Female Entrepreneurs of Elkhart Lake
by Stefanie Michaels
It’s not hard to fall in love with Elkhart Lake. Beauty abounds, locals are inviting, the food scene is flourishing and what I love so much, entrepreneurship is a “thing” here. Perhaps the bitter cold winter months inspire grand ideas to be launched by spring, or maybe it’s simply embedded in the town’s DNA. At any rate, on top of all of this, there’s a happiness and magic to this tiny township by the water.
I dropped my bags at the massive Osthoff Hotel and headed to the bar area to meet up with one amazing Lola Roeh.
Lola is the general manager and heartbeat of the hotel. Her heart and soul is poured into each and every nook and cranny of the place. In fact, the Osthoff’s onsite restaurant is named Lola’s after her. Yes, Lola is THAT special!
A bevy of information, Lola chatted about the hotel’s history and location–perched perfectly lakeside with emerald green lawns and a pristine beach.
She also shared stories about the three Indian tribes who had lived there together peacefully, unlike the warring tribes to the west and south. A peacefulness remains everywhere, especially in the quieter off-peak seasons.
It’s also through Lola, that I learn how female entrepreneurial-oriented the town of Elkhart Lake is. I’ve come across female business leaders before, it’s just that in a small town of 600 people, to have such a saturation of women owned and operated businesses from hotels to a wine shop, to eateries and a tea room, I found it most interesting.
And the best part is that all of these ladies in this story help each other out in what I like to call, this special “hamlet of sisterhood”.
Starting with Vintage Wines owner Jaclyn Stuart, who moved from San Jose, California after marrying a Wisconsiner, to open the first wine shop in town. She carries over 300 wines, including my favorite vintner—a small producer, called Tank Winery from Sonoma.
The shop also sells craft spirits and brew lines and offers wine pairings with Wisconsin cheeses. Don’t miss cheddars from Deer Creek. Their Asiago Fresca from Saxon, blue cheese with juniper berries is unreal.
Side note: Jaclyn’s shop is the only retailer in the world that carries the special Foo Fighters wine.
Judy Salzwedel owns and runs The Victorian Village Resort, which has 1-3-bedroom lakeside suites, a ballroom large enough to hold 150 person events and concerts. Her Back Porch Bistro is known for their handmade desserts and water views.
The Tiki Bar is a summertime must do. It’s famous for miles around for hosting beach parties and the best sunset happy
hours. Even in the dead of winter, especially for New Year’s Eve and day, it’s the place to meet locals and celebrate.
Across the street from the Victorian sits the Siebkens Resort. Laurie Stecker and her sister, Lisa Sadiq have run the hotel for the last 21 years, having it past down after three generations to them. Their family has lived in it over the past one hundred years.
Started by their grandparents, Laurie’s grandmother had much to do with helping Road America get its wheels. She was the first woman to get a loan from the bank and raise money to help build the race area.
Siebkens’ onsite bar was voted “best bars in the racing circuit in the world”. Post racing events, this is the place to mingle with drivers and their crews. It’s also been visited by racing’s elite— the Andrettis, Unsers, Paul Newman and more.
I was able to catch up with friends at the Jay Lee Inn’s high-tea service. Owner Monica Lettow had retired and wondered what to do with all of her free time, so she purchased a Victorian home needing restoration and turned it into a seven-bedroom pet-friendly BnB.
What else would you do if you owned a BnB? Well, why not start a high-tea service! For the last two years, she’s been cooking and sharing her love of teas with visitors and has hosted everything from bridal showers to “sewing weekends” for small groups. Her food is incredible and tea options are sensational.
Chef and Owner Lynn Chisholm and her sister Cheri Hau run Paddock Club, a downtown restaurant located in a turn of the century building. Their menu consists of New American plates, and next-door bar offers draft beers, wine & craft cocktails.
Everything is fresh, seasonal, and handmade from the pasta to Lynn’s masterful desserts. Don’t miss the smoked trout salad, baked brie with Riesling ground cherries, huckleberries, hazelnut and tarragon, the grilled hanger steak with jasmine rice, and the chocolate chai mousse cake with coconut sorbet.
Almost next door from the Paddock Club is Lynn Shovan’s Lake Street Café.
A warm and cozy feeling place, with a diverse menu offering starters from homemade potato chips to seared ahi tuna. Don’t miss her classics, such as Orecchiette Con Carne with Italian sausage and beef ragu, or the grilled salmon with white truffle cauliflower puree.
Side note: Hands down, I have to say, the sweet potato hash at Lake Street is the best I’ve ever had. Order it!
Working off all of the calories from dining around the lake, means getting outdoors and time for exercise.
Rachel Montaba owns the Quit Qui Oc Golf Club. Passed down from her parents, she’s a third-generation golf club owner and, not to mention an LPGA member, teacher and golf program developer for women’s clinics and junior golf programs.
The Club offers 27-holes, an on-sight pro shop, learning center and golf range. The Clubhouse restaurant and full-service bar serve up a casual atmosphere and delicious homemade soups, sandwiches and salads. On Fridays, they put on a traditional fish fry featuring locally caught perch.
For more information: Check out Elkhart Lake
Stefanie Michaels, aka ‘Adventure Girl’, spends more than 180 days a year on the road seeking out great spots for adventures, dining, shopping, hotels and more. Dubbed “America’s Sweetheart” by Vanity Fair Magazine for being one of Twitter’s first icon’s to reach over 1 million followers, her fans continue to grow across all of her digital media platforms. Follow her @adventuregirl as she shares photos, updates and more.