Knowing when not to delegate is one of the secrets of having a successful business. “Being a mom and pop,” Bobby Martin joked.
But he and his wife Teresa belie the “mom and pop” image of bib overalls and granny aprons, even though both are actively involved with every aspect of managing the Cedar Court Inn that is located in downtown Fish Creek. And the amenities offered in the historic complex of motel rooms, cottages, and inn are gracious and sophisticated.
In 1974 the Martins bought the property that is now listed in the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places. The motel and cottages were part of what was once the historic Welcker’s Resort, and at one point in the more recent past were called the Maple Crest Motel and Cottages. In 1994 the Martins renovated a house on the compound to create the inn.
The couple brought no experience in hotel management to the enterprise. Bobby was not long out of military service when he visited Door County and met Teresa who was a waitress at the Sister Bay Bowl. Bobby had decided that if he and his new wife were to make a living in Northern Door, they needed to find a niche in the tourist industry. After months of negotiation, Cedar Court was theirs.
But what they brought to the business was resourcefulness and industry.
“I do housekeeping six days a week,” Teresa said, working with her crew cleaning rooms. “And Bobby does the office, the advertising, and the maintenance.”
She laughed and noted that he has a how-to Readers Digest book that has gotten him through the last 36 years as he deals with plumbing, electrical and other maintenance concerns in running the business. “We’ve replaced everything here!” she joked, but added that the “faces” of the buildings have to remain unchanged to comply with the Historic Places registry regulations.
They have succeeded in being true to the resort’s past. An 88-year-old man on vacation in Fish Creek told Teresa that he remembered meeting steamers at the dock when he was a boy to carry bags up to the Welcker’s Cottages. “The neighborhood hasn’t changed,” he said. “There’s still the white picket fences!” And, of course, the vintage white frame buildings that are evocative of another era.
One other thing that hasn’t changed over the years, Teresa noted, is the prime location. “People can walk to everything,” she said. “We’re a block from restaurants, shopping, and the dock.” Foot traffic makes Fish Creek unique among Northern Door villages.
The interiors of the rooms have been renovated over the years, however, to keep up with the changing expectations of tourist. The cottages and rooms in the inn have fireplaces and whirlpools, and the complex has cable and Wifi.
Despite the changing trends is tourism in Door County over the years, the Cedar Court Inn remains competitive in the hospitality industry. Condominium rentals have not affected Cedar Court as the inn deals primarily with daily rather than weekly customers. And the inn remains family friendly.
“I love Fish Creek,” Teresa said. “It’s a good place for a business, a quaint, walking town.” And it was a good place to raise kids, she added. The Martins have adult children, a son Slade and daughter Natalie.
The couple also enjoys the seasonal aspect of the business, as they are free to winter in Florida. Communication technology allows them to handle reservations and other aspects of the business during the off-season from their winter home.
Even though the Martins have an established operation, they have no intention of hiring a manager. “When you own a business,” Teresa said, “you see what needs to be done and you do it.
“You care about the business,” she continued. “It’s a reflection of you.
“And when you are your own boss,” she added, “you do it your own way.”
Although the Martins have been in business for 36 years, they have no plans to retire. “We’ll be here until Caspersons (the funeral home in Sister Bay) rolls by!” Teresa laughed.