MORRIS - The Prairie Inn of Morris has a new name and new owners with a vision for how to bring the hotel back to the property long-time members of the community remember.
The new owners, B&H Hospitality, said their vision for the newly-named Hotel 200 is for a mid-range, modern-but-comfortable space that can provide the benefits of a full-service hotel to the area.
Co-owner Maggie Buss said she and her family have been trying to purchase the hotel for about four years, but finally came to an agreement with former owners Bhupen and Amy Ray to take possession of the property last Thursday, July 30.
Then the hotel was booked for three straight days thanks to the Division II American Legion state baseball tournament last weekend. It's only been since Monday that the new owners have had a chance to start making changes, co-owner Beth Buss said.
"We want (the hotel) to be what people remember it being when it was good," said Beth. "A lot of people tell us all the time, 'I have such great memories of parties out there.'"
"The owners before Amy and Bhupen were from here, so we were able to be very involved in the community and do things and be a part of the town, as opposed to the last several years," added Maggie.
Maggie has worked in the hotel industry for more than 20 years, starting at the Prairie Inn when she was 15 years old. During her time in the industry, Maggie said she's worked in nearly every job at the hotel, from housekeeping to general manager.
Her brother Michael, another co-owner of the hotel, also worked at the Prairie Inn for a time, and has kitchen experience from the family's other business, Don's Cafe. Don's owners Greg and Marsha Buss are also partners in B&H Hospitality, along with Maggie, Beth, and Michael.
"As long as I've worked here, and everybody's worked here, the hotel's kind of been a part of the family - this is ours and we're going to take care of it," said Maggie.
"People have seen us all here, quite a bit, and they'll be seeing a lot more of us now," Beth laughed.
One of the benefits of the property is that it's a full-service hotel with banquet facilities, a bar and restaurant, and guest rooms, providing another option for weddings, reunions, meetings or other large events, said Beth.
The co-owners said they don't have a set timeline for when various improvements will begin, but Beth noted it will be an ongoing process.
"We're always going to be putting into it because we feel like that's what it's been lacking - anything being put back into it," she said.
In the short term, guests can expect a bigger staff, friendlier service, and cleaner facilities. They've also started working on improvements outside the building like mowing the lawn and dealing with weeds. Bigger renovation projects are being planned in phases.
"People do understand that it's a big project and are overall mostly appreciative that we're taking it on," said Beth.
In the near future, they plan to reopen the restaurant, formerly the Ranch House, as the Brickhouse Restaurant and Lounge. The restaurant has had limited hours or been fully closed since June.
Since the restaurant was closed, reopening will take longer than initially expected because they'll need to hire staff and purchase new inventory. Although the restaurant will have a different name, Beth said patrons can expect a similar menu and style to the former restaurant.