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  • Ann Duchene

Behind the Scenes

Are you one of those people who enjoys the insider's view? The person who goes to an Italian restaurant and stands at the little viewing window to watch that guy spinning pizza dough like a wheel over his head? Or who secretly enjoys going through the carwash because for one second you feel like you're inside the Magic School Bus, getting a secret tour of some internal system?

While I can't promise you anything as tantalizing as the transformation of a lump of dough into a tasty sphere, I thought some of you might enjoy seeing all the pieces we've been working on to make this hotel vision a reality. From an outside perspective, it could look like not much has happened since we took the plunge. But check out the timeline below and read on for a quick insider's tour. You'll get a better sense of the pieces that are already in place and the gears that are turning.


It took us about twelve months of sifting through property options to find the perfect spot. We wanted something that was easy walking distance from downtown Grand Ledge. We wanted something that was big enough to host a family reunion, but small enough to make each stay a customized experience. We wanted something that reflects Grand Ledge's unique story. And finally, we didn't want to take one of those huge, already-gorgeous houses and gut it to make space for each room to have its own private bathroom. It was a happy day when we realized that the old church on Scott Street met all our criteria.


Not much to say here. You know the routine - negotiations, paperwork, appraisals.


Can I just take a moment to say that Grand Ledge has the most helpful city government I've ever worked with? Seriously, they make you do things the right way; but we have found nothing but support in this part of our journey. When we first purchased the building, there was a city rule in place that barred overnight lodgings within the more historic sections of Grand Ledge, unless it was a traditional B&B. Totally understandable. Can you imagine a chain hotel trying to cram itself into our iconic downtown? But since we are doing something more along the lines of a small boutique inn, they changed the rules. Now a small hotel, suited to the environment of downtown Grand Ledge is allowed - without the owners living on site.


This was news to me. A church or school (which is was our building had been before we got there) is allowed to exist in a residential area without typical commercial zoning. Again, this makes sense. A church or school is there to serve the neighborhood - whereas a business may or may not contribute to its immediate surroundings. So... before we could think about using this place for what we envisioned, we had to get rezoned. Again - even though it was a process - this was a good experience. We got to talk to people in the neighborhood about what our plans were and get their opinions. We got a clear understanding of what people don't want to see go in, which was perfectly in line with what we already had on paper. But the new zoning protects everyone in case we ever sold to building to someone who has a different vision. Good news for the neighbors - this location is not allowed to become party central!


I wrote about this a few months ago; so if you want more info, you can find that by clicking here and linking to an older post. I should add that we've done more since that post was written, the biggest noticeable difference being new flooring instead of the rather unfortunate carpeting you can see in the pictures. We're currently working on basement office spaces, and well as a large group space.


There's an organization in our state named the Michigan Women's Foundation (MWF for short), and every year they host a competition that compares new entrepreneurial ideas from women around the state. (They call it the Dolphin Tank because it's supposed to be like Shark Tank, but everyone plays nice.) I wanted to see how this hotel idea stacked up. While it's kind of novel in our area, hotels like this have been in Europe forever and are starting to pop up all over the east and west coasts in our own country. So I entered the competition. Just that step was a great decision because once the basic application was accepted, I received a mentor and multiple business training sessions. This really helped to hone the business plan and for me to learn how to present the concept a new environment. And guess what?! Our little hotel idea was one of the top ten in Michigan! (To be honest, the final presentation was a bit nerve-wracking. I had three minutes to present to a judging panel of big wigs - even the governor's wife attended.) Aside from all the business insight that came through this experience, we now have people from all over the state who had never heard of Grand Ledge, but now are excited to visit and stay at the Rabbit & Mitten once it opens.


This is pretty much what it sounds like. We started cleaning out the church and getting rid of things we wouldn't be able to use in the hotel. A lot of it wasn't junk, though, and we thought that others might find useful - things like old shelving units, commercial dividing systems, et cetera. This might sounds like a weekend project, but it actually took about two months and many, many hours of work to coordinate!


We were part of the tour last Christmas, and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you're ever asked to feature your home or business, please say "yes"! You can read about what we experienced by clicking here to read a previous blog post.


Our project is a little unusual, and we needed to find an architect that would work carefully with the original structure. On top of that, designing the Rabbit and Mitten is significantly more complicated than designing a home - even a super large one. But it's kind of too small a project to get focused attention from a commercial architectural firm. So we took a while to make our selection; but we're very pleased with our final choice, which is Arens Architecture.


My last post is all about this, so rather than repeat all the details about this very exciting partnership, just click here if you're not up to speed.

And finally...


Yep, this is what we're doing now. The plan is to continue stripping everything down to bare bones while we're getting our architectural plan and permitting in place.

So there you have it!

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