New owners plan to maintain unique style at Baraboo’s Willowood Inn

May 1, 2019

A wrong turn marked a turning point in the lives of Angie Lowe and her family.

Her husband, Aaron, was taking her out to eat at the Barn Restaurant for Mother’s Day, but made a wrong turn on the way back home to Reedsburg. His wife spotted a “For Sale” sign at the Willowood Inn on Sauk County Highway DL.

“‘I have to have this place’ — I told my husband that,” she said.

By February, the Lowes owned the 16-room motel near the entrance to Devil’s Lake State Park. They retained the quaint-themed guest rooms decorated by previous owner Linda Johnson, who moved to Florida.

“That’s what we appreciated about it, the work she put into it to make it how it is,” Angie Lowe said. “She put a lot of heart and soul into it.”

The original portion of the inn, known then as the Dream Lodge Motel, was built in 1955. It expanded with the addition of several cabins in 1972, and a new office was built in 2012.

Johnson renamed and transformed the inn, decorating each room according to a theme — lighthouse, western, winter wonderland — in retro style. Lowe said she was drawn to it because, as a traveler, she books rooms at family-owned hotels over chains.

Regular customers return annually to enjoy the inn’s unique charms, its views of the Baraboo Bluffs and its peaceful solitude a mile from the bustling park. Lowe estimated 90 percent of her customers are repeat guests. “I think it’s a lot more personal,” Lowe said. “No room is the same, and it feels like home.”

The bookkeeper-turned-innkeeper gets support from sons Austin Azevedo, who helps maintain the grounds; and Joshua Brown and girlfriend Erin Boland, who lives at the motel. Her mother and aunt help with laundry. “We all had something to contribute,” Lowe said.

Willowood, named for the property’s towering willow trees, has reservations on the books through October. Lowe said most guests — families, hipsters, Devil’s Lake visitors — are drawn by pictures on the motel’s website.

“It attracts a certain type of people,” Lowe said. “You can’t appreciate it until you actually get here.”

Her goal is to better promote the inn by linking it to nearby antiques shops, restaurants and natural areas. “Next year we’ve really got to work on that,” Lowe said. “It’s a matter of capitalizing on everything else Baraboo has to offer, and there’s a lot.”

Lowe wanted to work for herself, and doesn’t regret becoming an innkeeper and housekeeper. “What brought me here was a passion for helping people create memories,” she said. “When I saw this place, I said, ‘This is the perfect opportunity.’

“We’re looking forward to being here a long time.”