A new contactless, boutique motel – the first of its kind in Door County – will open for the 2024 season in the heart of downtown Fish Creek.
Katie Wanzer and Mitch Ehly partnered in September with their West Bend, Wisconsin neighbors, Luke and Katie Nelsen, to purchase the By-the-Bay Motel from John and Mary Koehler.
Located across from Fish Creek Public Beach and two doors down from the Blue Horse Cafe, the motel will be called Fresh Coast Motel.
“We had been looking for places in Door County,” Katie Wanzer said. “We love it and grew up going there. When By-the-Bay came up, it was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The Koehlers lived in a house on the property that the new owners have stripped to the studs and will rebuild into a five-bedroom, four-bath luxury vacation rental called “The Deck House” after the property’s two decks. Adjacent to the house, the two motel properties house 15 rooms total – the back building has eight double-queen rooms, the front building seven king rooms. Eleven of the rooms have water views.
All of the motel rooms have been gutted down to the 1970s wallpaper. Outside, a front patio will feature a fire pit, lights and outdoor furniture.
The new, contactless business model means keypads and codes delivered via email and text messages will replace the need for a front-desk to check guests in or out, giving guests the freedom of arriving whenever it works for their schedule.
“It’s really just going to be a seamless, contact-less experience,” Katie Wanzer said. “It’s moving with the modern experience, especially after COVID when everything went digital. We’re really excited to bring that to Door County.”
Cleaning staff will be locally employed, as are all the contractors doing the renovations, and the banker financing their venture.
“We pride ourselves on being local,” Katie Wanzer said.
A motel differs from a hotel in that it has rooms that are entered from the outside, and a “boutique” motel means, generally, a more intimate and fashionable space.
“They [boutique motel rooms] feature a strong artistic sense and focus on design – not every room is the same,” Katie Wanzer said.
The Nelsens have ties to Door County. Luke Nelsen worked for Going Garbage for a number of years and the Wanzers own a rental property in Sister Bay, in addition to their company Wisco Hosts – a short-term-rental (STR) company that works with three other rental properties in Door County (and one in Eagle River). The Nelsens, too, are in the hospitality business and own STRs in the Smoky Mountains.
Fresh Coast Motel will have a soft opening in April, and open fully the first week in May. Reservations are being accepted now at freshcoastmotel.com.