Where Luxury is Standard- The Lodge at Mauston
Mauston, Wisconsin, considered by many to be one of the gateways to the Driftless area, has a new addition it can be proud of. The city’s newest hotel, eating, and events venue The Lodge, conveniently located just East of Inter-state 90-94, will leave its guests speechless.
Opening its hotel on August 7th, and the Broken Spur Restaurant on August 14th, word about The Lodge has been traveling fast. It can be described as an incredible asset to the city and a source of pride to community members.
Hailing from Elroy, Wisconsin, The Lodge’s owners Ron and Barb Brunner, have brought a venue that gives guests a western feel to their experience.
I would be remiss if not to include a story of how The Lodge came to be. So, let’s skip back a few years.
New to the hotel, restaurant, and event venue industry, Ron Brunner is from Chicago, but moved up to Elroy when he was a teenager, and has been in the area since. Brunner has owned his fastener business since he was 18 years old. Starting with a business he and his father owned in Elroy, they have enjoyed steady growth through the years.
Brunner, traveling extensively with his work, always stayed grounded and always kept his commitment to Juneau County and its communities.
Eventually, the day came when Brunner and his wife would be looking for a venue at which to hold his daughter’s wedding. With a lack of venues to their liking in Juneau county, and wanting to keep the wedding close to home, the Brunners decided on a place in Wisconsin Dells.
“He always thought that Mauston should have something very nice, something that you could have a nice meal at, somewhere you can stay at night. Not that Mauston doesn’t have those things, but he wanted to do something very, very unique and very, very nice,” said The Lodge’s General Manager, Lance Massey.
“He had been kicking around this idea. He owns a large ranch out in Northeast Wyoming, and travels out there a lot, back and forth, and really likes that area, that motif,” Massey said.
Throughout Brunner’s travels and the countless nice places he has stayed, the idea of building such a place close to home grew on his mind. Eventually, Brunner uttered the words, ‘You know, I’m going to build something unique. I want to build a nice restaurant and a nice hotel with a nice events center tied into one property.’ “What you see here, is the finished product,” Massey said looking around the spacious lobby.
“About the name-I don’t know if there is a great story to it, other than that it seems like a lodge,” Massey said. As for the restaurant’s name, he said that a discussion was held about western ideas for the name. “We kicked around the Rusty Spur, and this and that. Him and his wife Barb were talking and she said, ‘what do you think of the Broken Spur?’ We all kicked that name around and liked the name. After kicking around other names, we always came back to the Broken Spur”, he said.
Giving credence to Brunner’s wife, Massey stated that most of the things you see in the Broken Spur, the booths in the restaurant, the furniture, were chosen by Barb.
Keeping it Local
Thinking about the big picture and his loyalty to the area, Brunner sees The Lodge as a legacy project for Juneau County. Owning several businesses, he employs over 300 people in an area that include Elroy, Wonewoc, Union Center, Mauston, and New Lisbon. He always felt that he wanted to do something nice for the area, providing a great place to have events, a place to have your wedding where you don’t have to go to the Dells to enjoy a nice venue.
The Lodge sits on 22 acres, that will allow for expansion of the hotel, and a few parcels if someone ever had a great idea for business(es) that would complement The Lodge.
As for expanding the lodge, Massey stated that they have blueprints if they wanted to expand beyond 61 rooms. In addition, Massey stated they are kicking around possible expansion to the event center as well.
To come up with the concept for The Lodge, Brunner worked with Architectural Design Consultants, Inc. out of Wisconsin Dells, a world-renowned architectural company, who also designed the Kalahari Resort.
“Construction started about a year and a half ago, and in a little over a year, you are seeing the finished product. We tried to locally source in Wisconsin as much as we could, the furniture and a lot of the labor. JKC Builds’ John Regnerus was the general contractor on the property, and did a beautiful job,” Massey said.
Most of the woodwork on the property was done by the Amish, Massey stated, and at one point, they had over a dozen Amish working on most of the casework. Local electricians and carpenters were used and Massey stressed that any job that could be sourced locally, was.
Massey said, “ADCI did a fantastic job designing it. Barb and Ron, the Brunner’s, did a great job with picking the furniture, the look. I just get to be the guy, the steward, to run it. I get to drive this ship now. It’s meant to be a harken to the old western lodges. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Yellowstone at the Old Faithful Inn, right by Old Faithful. Look up a picture of that. It’s different, but it’s incredible.”
As for the Broken Spur’s beef, “We’re not there yet, but for the restaurant, we’d like to locally source our beef. You’ve got to maintain that quality though. Mr. Brunner owns a rather large cow herd out in Wyoming. It’s going to take us about a year to put this in place, but we’d love to do a farm-to-table beef idea where Mr. Brunner’s private stock is born in Wyoming, and raised in Wisconsin, and have a local butcher get us our cuts of meat for the restaurant,” Massey said. He admitted though, that just can’t be done overnight, acknowledging that to make it sustainable, they would need so many cows brought to market every week. It is important to the restaurant to know where their beef is coming from and the quality.
With keeping true to The Lodge’s motto of “where luxury is standard”, the Lodge’s 42 standard rooms boast King size and Queen size beds, a walk-in slate shower, mini-fridge, coffee maker, mini-microwave, flat screen tv, cable television, and high-speed internet. Each room keeps with a western style theme accented with rustic Amish furniture. While some rooms also feature patios, others have fireplaces.
For those travelers in the area for business, The Lodge has 16 extended stay suites. Luxury continues as well with each suite having a king bed in the sleeping quarters, living room with a sleeper couch, and a larger bathroom featuring a slated walk-in shower. The living room includes a kitchenette with a three-quarter fridge/freezer, coffee maker, and full-size micro-convection oven.
The Lodge also has 3 King bed suites with a similar layout as an extended stay suite.
Keeping in mind some guests may have additional needs, The Lodge has 4 ADA rooms, with all others keeping those with disabilities in mind.
For business travelers, the Lodge has a spacious business center complete with a board room size meeting table. The Lodge has an expansive fitness center with elliptical and treadmill machines, dumbbells, yoga balls, resistance cords, and more. Relax and enjoy the pool equipped with a chair lift and a basketball net for sport enthusiasts, or relax your muscles and melt the stress away in their large whirlpool.
There is no shortage of places to relax outside your room with several comfortable sitting areas throughout the hotel.
The Lodge’s Broken Spur is an upscale Steak and Seafood restaurant complimented with a lounge around the corner. “The lounge is very nice. Come have an old fashioned, come have a beer. We are working on some local IPA’s. We’ve got Hillsboro Brewing Company on tap. It’s a place where Mr. Brunner says you are going to take your best gal once a month out for a nice steak meal,” Massey said with a smile.
As for the upscale cuisine, Massey said, “Chef Jeremy has that kind of concept and that thought. We have those traditional items, your Saturday night prime rib that’s slow roasted for 7 to 8 hours. We’ve got your traditional fish fry on Friday night, fried chicken on Sunday’s. We’ve got some of your staples. We have a 26 oz bone-in ribeye on the menu that is just fantastic-people rave about it. We have a black and tan tenderloin that you can cut with a fork. We have a bison hanging tender wrapped in boar bacon. Chef Jeremy Thoren is a unique talent who has created some wonderful meals. If you want to go and try our seafood puff pastry, we have that. We have all of our bases covered. At the end of the day, Chef Jeremy and his team are preparing just an exquisite meal. It’s a great experience.”
The Lodge also offers a continental breakfast for that quick bite to eat before heading out.
Brunner is also kicking around the idea of adding simple RV slips for those that want to just pull in off the inter-state and overnight. “If you want to stay in your RV, you can do that too. Come in, have some drinks, use the fitness center. It’s something where if someone is on the road and just doesn’t want to pull into the Wal-Mart parking lot, they can have that upgraded experience. That’s born out of Mr. Brunner’s RV and his travels. Sometimes he has a hell of a time trying to find somewhere to pull over when you don’t want to go to a campground and pull in. You can just come here, have breakfast, and get back on the road at 7am. We are working on that. Mr. Brunner is a very deliberate planner. He’s a for-site kind of guy. It’s already plumbed and ready to go out there. We’ve got everything out there, we just have to connect it. It makes sense for someone who is traveling from Chicago to Yellowstone, or wherever they are going anywhere across this country,” Massey said.
The 8,000 square feet Two Elks Event Center holds up to 500 guests, has a Pre-function/Registration space, event center bars, and a separate kitchen dedicated to catering. Two Elks is the perfect venue for weddings, conventions, and large meetings. The possibilities are endless. The event center has dividing doors to accommodate smaller events as well. In addition, a large outside patio and lawn can accommodate weddings or private gatherings.
Brunner believes that service is number one in having a successful business. He believes you can ask a lot from your employees, but it’s a two-way street, and has said, ‘If you are going to demand more, you need to give more.”
Massey said, “I have a heavy team-sports background and that same mentality of team comes first, you sacrifice yourself for the team, everyone works together. It’s about the property and the brand. Mr. Brunner described it in his western colloquialism as riding for the brand. It’s an old cowboy term that you ride for the brand, the triple bar, the RBJ Ranch, and that’s who your loyalty is to. Mr. Brunner takes care of all of his employees.”
Massey continued, “Mr. Brunner understands he didn’t get to where he is today by himself. His mechanical mind is a treasure, but someone still has to make the parts, package them and sell them. Those people who have worked hard for him and got everyone to where they are, he understands that and rewards that. If you are willing to put some loyalty into Mr. Brunner, he’s willing to invest back into you. It all comes to that team trying to make your experience here a pleasant one, a nice one, an upgraded one. Everyone here, Nikki Nava and the housekeeping team making sure that your room is perfect. If something is wrong, let’s make it right. We all make mistakes. Mistakes are made, but how do you rectify those mistakes when they happen and what do you learn from it and how do you go forward from it. What do we do to make it right so that you come back and stay here again?”
This concept flows in all of Brunner’s employees, that in turn, ensures a high level of service that Massey acknowledges guests will expect.
“Mr. Brunner pays more than everyone else in the industry around here because of what we talked about. If I’m going to pay you more, I’m going to expect more. He believes that everyone ought to have a career that if you lose it, it hurts. It’s not just something that you walk away from and just don’t care. It’s something where if you don’t have that job anymore, and you are sitting there trying to figure out what went wrong because it was a great opportunity. We’ve kept that same principle that the Brunners have put together at Brunner Manufacturing,” Massey said.
Massey said that he has worked for two people in his life. One person he worked for, for almost 19 years, and just recently took this position. Massey didn’t ever think he’d leave his previous employer, stating he loved the job and loved the owner. This looked like an opportunity that was too good for him to turn away from. “I interviewed with Mr. Brunner and his family and was just blown away by his vision for this. His belief, his commitment, his passion, for an industry he’s never been in. He wanted to do something great. You can build a hotel for a lot cheaper than this, but the level of detail, the level of vision he had for this property is incredible. I was won-over with a passion. It was an easy decision. I’ve worked in the guest services industry my whole life. The nuances of it didn’t scare me away. I’ve worked nights and weekends my whole life. My family is very adjusted to that,” he said
“This has been a wonderful addition to Juneau County, to Mauston. I’m not a salesman, but selling something like this is so easy. I’m excited about the property, so exquisite and so affordable,” Massey said with a chuckle.