Door County News: The Software of Hospitality

When I was a teenager, I heard about Greg Swain often, mostly from my grandmother Bernice, who had known Greg’s parents for a long time, and had also worked with him at Ephraim Foods, formerly known as Sohns’ Grocery Store. Gamma would always tell the story about how Greg would take apart the cash register when there was no one in the store – something that would freak my poor grandmother out to no end. The moment a potential customer entered the door, she would always break out in a cold sweat, thinking there was no way that this kid was going to be able to put together that cash register in time for checkout. But he always did put it back together, with more than enough time to spare.

So, it comes as no surprise that Swain would go on to become a software developer and computer programmer, creating two key computer programs that would not only benefit people and businesses in Door County, but also the United States and beyond. The first, Lodgical Solution, is a hotel management software product while the second, InnLine, provides descriptions, maps, and up-to-date occupancy information for motels, hotels, cottages, resorts, and businesses in tourist communities.

Greg Swain revolutionized lodging software in Door County.

Although not raised in Door County, Swain became immersed in the peninsula’s hospitality industry when his parents purchased the Bluffside Motel in Sister Bay when he was 11. He graduated from Gibraltar High School and earned a double degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. After graduation, he came back to Door County and worked a couple of part-time jobs and at his parents’ hotel to supplement his income.

While pursuing career options out-of-state, he decided to see if he might be able to write a program for his parents’ motel.

“At the time, I was practically managing the day-to-day operations, so the program began as a way to make my life easier,” he says. Swain created the first incarnation of the program in 1985. Shortly after, he got a call from Helm’s Four Season’s in Sister Bay, who asked them if he might be able to adapt the program for their resort. The sale of the program to Helm’s in 1987 was the first of many.

Lodgical earned points with lodging front desk employees and managers for its ease of use. As Lodgical gained momentum within the Door County resort community, Swain looked to other ways that lodging establishments could exchange information and streamline their business.

“In the late 1980’s, Door County was underdeveloped in terms of lodging,” Swain says. “There weren’t as many rooms as there are now, so virtually every summer and fall weekend would be booked solid. But if you did have any opening, there was no real easy or quick way of letting the Chamber of Commerce know that you had a room available.”

At the time, the Door County Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center had a Trip Board, a place you could look and see the vacancies for that night, but nothing to tell you if that vacancy had been filled, or if there were vacancies for other nights.

That gave Swain an idea. He took the reservation information of the 20 hotels that were currently using Lodgical Solution and put it into a computer. What resulted was a database of all the vacancy information, information that the county had never had access to all at one time. Swain then paired up with Bob Hastings (then director of the Chamber) to create an InnLine kiosk, which would soon replace the Trip Board. Hotels and cottages would call into a special number at the Chamber to report their vacancies, which would be transmitted to InnLine. InnLine’s offerings later expanded to include information on restaurants, recreation, and Door County events.

With Lodgical growing in users and the creation of the InnLine program, Swain began Bay Lake Information Systems in 1994. The business office moved around a bit before settling into its current location on Oak Street in Sturgeon Bay in 2004. Swain estimates that over 200 large hotel properties use Lodgical Solution, not including the numerous small hotel, cottage, and timeshare units that currently use the system to organize their reservation systems. Eighty of the properties reside in Door County, while the majority of the others are in the Eagle River and Wisconsin Dells areas. The InnLine software has grown tremendously as well, with Swain citing installations in the Niagara Falls State Park as well as all of the Welcome Centers in New York State.

Swain says the ease in use and integration of the two programs is a large reason for the success, citing Mt. Olympus in Wisconsin Dells as an example of how all of Bay Lakes’ software can work together. Mt. Olympus is a water/theme park with lodging establishments in the park itself. Bay Lakes programmed the reservation software for Mt. Olympus’ lodging as well as their point-of-sale operations for ticket sales to the theme park, making it easy to have all the reservations for the business in one place. In addition, Bay Lakes is responsible for the lodging and events information software for the entire Wisconsin Dells area, making it possible to book a hotel reservation right on the Chamber of Commerce Web site. Passes for 11 of the Dells’ biggest attractions are on the site, one pass for one price.

Bay Lakes does this with a remarkably small staff of six programmers. Swain still does much of the programming, along with full-time programmers Justin Borkovetz and Jesse Rankin. Borkovetz recently became a partner in Bay Lakes. There is also one full-time programmer and two part-time programmers that Swain works with out of Milwaukee.

“It’s a small staff, but it’s amazing the kind of work you can get done with the right people,” Swain says.

Besides the creation of programs that make it easier for businesses to operate, Swain and Bay Lakes also try to make it easier for businesses to own their programs. Every year, Swain donates a software package to a business that looks to be in need – or in some cases, that he’s had direct contact with. One of these businesses is Hospitality House, a housing development of Northern Michigan Regional Hospital. Hospitality House provides housing to families of patients while their loved ones are receiving care in the hospital’s medical facilities. Greg’s father had been in a serious snowmobile accident, and the family stayed at the House while his father was recuperating. As a way to thank the House for its kindness and generosity, Swain donated roughly $7,500 of software and annual program updates to the House and has done so for three other nearby hospitality facilities as well.

The reason for Swain’s philanthropy is simple.

“It’s important to me that we’re able to give back in this way,” he says. “We work with some of the nicest people out there – being hospitable is their job. I want to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible for these people to keep being hospitable. That’s why I created the software in the first place.”

Bay Lakes Information Systems is located at 34 W. Oak Street, Sturgeon Bay. For more information call 920.746.0606. For detailed information on InnLine or Logical Solution, visit or