Kristina Lindemulder and Sarah Peterson have been friends since second grade. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise the two have decided as adults to go into business together.
The two South Haven residents are now the operators of one of the oldest existing resorts in South Haven – The Last Resort. Lindemulder recently bought the lodging establishment, at 86 North Shore Drive, while Peterson will serve as chef and operations manager.
“It was a dream of ours,” Lindemulder said, regarding the purchase of the sprawling, historic resort
“We were comfortable with our jobs but this opportunity came around,” Peterson said. “The history drew us here.” There’s a story around every corner.”
The dream, however, almost didn’t happen for the two women and their families.
In January they were set to close on the real estate transaction, but a glitch occurred.
“The deal fell through. We were heartbroken,” Lindemulder recalled. But a month ago, their luck changed with renegotiation of the purchase agreement.
“It was amazing we got the second chance,” Lindemulder said. “We’re so extremely grateful of achieving this goal.”
The Last Resort was built in 1883 by the late Barney Dyckman, who served as a military captain during the Civil War. Dyckman called the inn Park Grove Place, but in 1900 the inn sported a new name – St. Cloud Resort. Twenty-three years later when Louis and Nettie Schrayer bought it, they re-named it The Plaza.
“There was a restaurant inside of the Plaza and on Friday and Saturday nights there were fish and spaghetti dinners that not only tourists enjoyed, but also the public. After dinner, table cloths were rolled up and out came the poker chips,” said previous Last Resort owner Mary Hammer, in an interview in 2018.
Schrayer owned and operated the inn for 30 years, until selling to an unknown buyer, who then tried to keep the inn running for a few years before finally closing in 1959.
Sitting virtually abandoned for 20 years, the inn appeared ready for the wrecking ball.
But in 1979, Hammer purchased the building, while looking for a duplex.
With water running down the inside walls, Hammer said she couldn’t decide whether to call the building, “The Incredible Hulk” or “The Last Resort.”
Three-and-a-half years and 10,000 man-hours of labor later, during the building’s 100th birthday, “Last Resort Inn” opened Memorial Day weekend 1983. Hammer continued to operate the inn through 2020 before deciding to sell it and retire.
Over the years, the inn has undergone many changes, however the guest rooms still contain their original corner sinks and cupboards and many have their original wood floors.
The inn also still has the original house croupier used to rake in the chips, as well as the original tables and dishes from the 1920s.
In the early years of the building’s history, the staff lived on the top floor, where friends and lovers signed their names on the chimney. The names can still be seen inside the Penthouse Harbor Suite on the third floor.
It’s just one of many historic features that Lindemulder and Peterson continue to discover as they get the resort ready for its open house, April 24.
From 1-6 p.m., the general public will be able to tour the inn, which features a variety of room settings – from one-bedroom units to suites, a cottage and a full-size apartment. Lake Michigan can be seen from 14 of the inn’s 16 rooms.
“We’ll have drawings and gift certificates. We are hoping to have a lot of local people come see it,” Peterson said. “A lot of people have never been inside this resort. The history of South Haven is just breathing in this building.”
Although most bed and breakfast inns cater to their guests, Lindemulder and Peterson envision something a little bit different for The Last Resort.
“A lot of bed and breakfasts are just for adults. We want to make it family-friendly, but maintain a safe haven for couples,” Peterson said.
She and Lindemulder also want to operate the inn year-round and invite South Haven area residents in for different activities during times when tourism slows down.
“In the future we want to do events that are open to the public. We want to create an atmosphere that is fun and inviting,” Peterson said.