After farming a piece of Iowa land for over forty years, what makes someone decide to break ground and start erecting a bed and breakfast upon it?
Big bold dreams and Midwestern motivation, that's what.
Serenity Valley B & B opened in 2015. Deb and Dan Hageman had been working gradually over the years on their property. In 2005, development of a large 3.5-acre pond had begun, and thousands of trees were planted. Later would come three more ponds, a shelter, dock, bridge, arbor, and woodworking shop, not to mention more trees and vibrant flowerbeds.
Actual construction of the couple's log home and Serenity Valley began in 2013. It was all-hands-on-deck for the Hageman family now. Dan and Deb's sons-- Matt, Mitch, and Adam all contributed to the design and/or development of their home and property.
Deb says-- "We always knew we wanted to build a log home, and we wanted it large enough to accommodate our three grown sons and their growing families when they visited. Friends and family often encouraged us to build a campground or cabins on the property because of the beautiful and serene location. To satisfy both ideas, and since lodging was always in demand in Northeast Iowa, we decided to make a few modifications to our home plans and use the downstairs as a bed & breakfast whenever it was not needed by family. We are still considering adding cabins and/or a campground."
As the reality of Serenity Valley took shape, so did plenty of joys and challenges. Deb says-- "Everything was challenging! Although I have a business degree and had some prior work experience at hotels, we had no prior B & B experience. We did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions. One of our biggest challenges was pricing and marketing. Since we only have three rooms, we can't afford a lot of advertising. I created a website and Facebook Business page, and our B & B is listed on AirBNB.com. I have looked into other internet hosting sites, but each one has it's own rules, calendars, and takes not only a share of our profits, but collects a fee from the customer as well."
In response to Deb's first-time jitters at serving up her first official B & B breakfast, she spent a great deal of time researching award-winning recipes and menus and testing them out on family and friends-- until they begged her to let up. The end lesson? Try new recipes occasionally, but stick to the tried-and-true family favorites that have been handed down over the years within the family. That kind of homecooked happiness seems to shine through to Serenity's guests.
The Hageman's B & B motto is: "Relax-Renew-Reconnect," and they say that's exactly what they hope will happen when guests stay with them. While they do provide free wi-fi, they hope that folks will leave work and technology behind and enjoy the outdoors. Deb and Dan nudge folks to fish, kayak, or simply relax by the pond and watch the ducks and geese. Deb says-- "Many guests have commented how nice it is to sit by the fire and listen to the frogs or see the stars. We all need an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and we hope Serenity Valley will provide that downtime to renew the spirit."
When asked why they chose Northeast Iowa as home and the place to launch their dreams, Deb tells us "Northeast Iowa and the Decorah area is the most beautiful region in Iowa! The limestone bluffs, rivers and woods offer scenery that often takes your breath away! Winneshiek county has several activities for visitors and community members. Biking, hiking, canoeing, fishing, museums, shopping - Winneshiek county provides entertainment for people with a wide variety of interests."
While most of Serenity's guests are comprised of friends or families who want to be together and re-connect over a long weekend, they also host folks just traveling through for a night, and maintain popularity among wedding groups and family members of Ossian locals.
The Hagemen's credit other Northeast Iowa B & B owners for their support and expertise. Isn't that just like the Midwest? Specifically, Deb cites Stacy from Knotty Pines Guest House and Amanda from Bear Creek Cabins as very helpful, answering her questions over the course of the last two years. She says-- "It's great to have someone in the area to visit with about business, give suggestions, and share stories."
Serenity Valley stands out because they offer their guests peace and tranquility with the comforts of home. Visitors have their own entrance and parking. The Hagemans offer delicious breakfasts with home-made breads, egg bakes, sausage/bacon, and fruit. Your stay comes complete with possibilities for catch-and-release fishing, a small sand beach by the large pond, walking trails, and a patio with a community fire pit. Kayaks and inflatables are also available for guests who want to paddle or relax on the three-acre pond. A variety of wildlife are commonly seen on the property, including geese, turkey, pheasant, deer, fox and a variety of ducks. Ready?