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Dells Family Introduces River Boutique Hotel

What’s old is new again for a long-time Wisconsin Dells hotel property and its owners, and all indications are the hotel’s new concept at a historic location is tailor-made for the city and its downtown, river-themed revitalization effort.

The newly renovated, rebranded and renamed River Inn on the Wisconsin River — a 73-room property at 1015 River Road that for the past seven years served as part of the multi-unit Mt. Olympus Village — could open as early for guests as next weekend, with a “boutique” hotel concept that could fit right in with the city’s hopes for a revitalized downtown area.

Adam, David and Rich Makowski — whose family has owned and operated hotels, restaurants and a gas station in the Dells since 1973 — have been working since early January to remodel the property’s interior, and they will soon unveil plans for an exterior renovation that will tie into the nearby river, the Riverwalk and the historical significance of the area.

The Makowskis also plan this year to renovate and re-open the American Resort and Camp Resort — also a Mt. Olympus-themed property under a lease agreement for the past seven years — at the intersection of Wisconsin Dells Parkway and Highway A.

A second hotel building and an outdoor pool, both just across River Road, will be part of the River Inn property at the riverside location.

The River Inn’s main hotel building occupies the site of Drinker’s Landing, where the first boat tours of the Upper Dells began — by steamboat — in 1873, and where a hotel has occupied the site since 1924, according to a historical marker that is sure to have a prominent place once the new hotel is up and running.

That storied history plus the riverside area’s scenic beauty and the newly expanded Riverwalk will be incorporated into the hotel’s intimate setting, according to River Inn Co-owner and General Manager Adam Makowski.

The hotel will feature on its interior walls the work of Dells-area nature photographer Joseph Leute, Makowski said, and its intimate size and an on-site ownership committed to service also fit into the “boutique” hotel concept.

“Usually, boutique hotels focus on their unique location, the culture or theme of their location,” Makowski said Thursday.

The Makowskis’ plans for the hotel — the exterior portions of which will soon be unveiled and presented to the appropriate city committees for approvals — fit right in to the city’s efforts to transform the downtown area into a River Arts District.

“Without knowing the details of their plans, it is exciting to learn that a boutique hotel is underway at a spectacular location on the Upper Dells and in the heart of the expanded Downtown Dells Riverwalk,” said Kelli Trumble, chairwoman of the Business Improvement District, via email Thursday.

Trumble noted that, with the recently expanded Riverwalk just footsteps away, the River Inn “will have an amenity that no other hotel in the Dells area can claim.”

The hotel also will feature a host of other amenities, the Makowski brothers said, among them a riverside deck and boat dock not far from an indoor, full-service restaurant and bar as well as an indoor pool and hot tub overlooking the river.

The hotel also will feature an outdoor pool at the hotel building across the street.

The Makowski brothers’ hospitality management pedigree runs deep in Wisconsin Dells. Their parents, Grace and Richard Makowski, began managing their first hotel here in 1971 and from there expanded their holdings to include both of the aforementioned hotels, a restaurant and a gas station, all in the Dells.

All three of the brothers have worked in the family’s business — which today also include Crabby’s restaurant and the BP gas station across the street from the American Resort — since they were 10 years old, and they bring a combined 80 years of experience to their new ventures. 

“The Makowski family has always been fully committed to the vitality of Wisconsin Dells both in tourism development and the quality of life for families who live here,” Trumble said.