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Craft retreat offers home away from home

In this Nov. 18, 2011 photo, Anne Schatz of Stewartville attends a scrapbook and1 / 2
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ADAMS, Minn. (AP) — Think of it as a bed and breakfast, except there's no owner gliding around in slippers — and you bake your own muffins.

Whispering Willows Cottage in Adams, which identifies itself as a craft retreat home, is like a lot of things, yet unlike anything else.

Owners and sisters-in-law Michele Merten and Christi Kiefer bought the 3,000-square-foot craftsman home about a year ago.

Crafters themselves, they'd gone on retreats for years, but had to travel to Wisconsin.

"We kept saying, we should start one close to us," Merten said, and their dream was born.

The women, both nurses in Rochester, researched the options, created a business plan and started looking for locations.

After nearly four years and several possible sites, they stumbled across a gem.

"We'd looked and looked, and came close (to buying others), and here this was — a mile away," said Merten, who lives in Taopi. "It was perfect."

"When we came in, we just knew," Kiefer agreed.

The 1919 four-bedroom, three-bathroom house, while available for just about any occasion, caters to the crafty. It can accommodate up to 12 people.

The main floor living room is devoid of much furniture — other than large work tables. An adjoining sunroom allows for lots of natural light, perfect for those tiny quilting stitches or intricate cross-stitch patterns.

Merten and Kiefer have stocked the home with everything a guest could need, other than food. The fully-furnished rooms include a dining room, kitchen, separate living room with flat-screen TV and DVD player, and a relaxation room complete with a massage chair. Guests bring their own food and drink.

"At the end of the stay, we just ask that they take the garbage out and strip the beds," Merten said. "Then we come in and clean."

It takes the whole family, they acknowledged. Children and husbands are "real assets" to the business.

Yet more than just watching their own business grow, the women are proud of what they have brought to this rural area.

"Our guests also visit the grocery store, the gas station, the cafe, the liquor store," Merten said. "You've got to have your wine."

Visitors also stop at the Adams American Legion, and often attend area churches on Sunday mornings.

"The community is watching us," Kiefer said, "and I think they're surprised."

Guests have come from South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, the Twin Cities — even as far away as Australia, she said. They've been there for anniversaries, weddings and mother-daughter weekends and relaxing get-aways.

Still, it's the quilting and scrapbooking that brings most of the business.

"You just have this energy when you're together, working," Merten said. "You have time to work on projects, and next thing you know, it's 3 a.m."

Because all three levels of the house are finished, "the night owls don't disturb the ones who want to go to bed, because of the way it's laid out," Merten said. "I think it's just a nice place to relax."

While she and Kiefer knew there was a market for their dream, the first year surprised even them.

Merten thought they'd fill 10 reservations; Kiefer guessed 14. They ended up with guests on more than 30 occasions.

"It far exceeded our expectations," Kiefer said.

They believe most visitors learn — then tell others — what they already know.

"Why would you come here, to this little town?" Merten asked. "Because it's not about the town or the place, it's about the home and the accommodations. The perks are all the additional offerings in this area."


Information from: Post-Bulletin,

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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