Couple discovers Guttenberg by boat, buys motel

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Dave and Patty Schwarz are the new owners of the Guttenberg Motel. They happily greet guests from their freshly remodeled lobby, and are enjoying their new business. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

The past six months have been a whirlwind for Patty and Dave Schwarz. On Oct. 26, they sold their Clinton moving company after 25 years in business. Two days later, they purchased the Guttenberg Motel. Both Patty and Dave were raised in Clinton and while it had always been their home, they were ready to make a change.

“This all started back in early August. Dave just came out of the blue and said, ‘You know what Patty, I want to move.’ After Clinton always being our home and relying on the surrounding area to give us our bread and butter, he totally surprised me,” said Patty. She asked where, he said Guttenberg, and her immediate reaction was, “Ohhh, I love Guttenberg.”

The couple had visited Guttenberg many times over the past decade. “About 10 years ago, 15 of us in the family took a big boat ride up and down the Mississippi. We stopped here on our way upriver and liked it so much, we changed our itinerary to stay here coming downriver, too,” said Patty. The family visited nearby beaches, and Guttenberg shops on Highway 52 and restaurants, picked up supplies at Dollar General, and used the laundromat. They enjoyed the walkability of the city and the friendliness of the people they met. “Since that big family boat ride, Dave and I and our family have been coming back a few times a year every year; even a weekend in January to get away from it all.” 

Patty admits that at first, she and her family didn’t even know the Guttenberg Motel existed. They entered the city from the east rather than the west, like the majority of visitors. “We normally came in by pontoon boat and stayed at The Landing, or stopped in Prairie du Chien and would come to Guttenberg from the north, driving along the river.”

At first, Patty and Dave simply planned to purchase a second home in Guttenberg. A few days later, they were thinking about buying a business – maybe a motel. They also planned to keep their moving company in Clinton, but had so many interested buyers they couldn’t pass up the sale. “The new owners are our very good friends,” said Patty. “I see them buying a house up here on the island in a couple of years. Many of our friends are really liking Guttenberg a lot.” For now, the pair travel back and forth to Clinton often as the youngest of their four children still attends high school there. 

Patty and Dave are keeping busy in Guttenberg, making some big changes at their motel. “We have 12 rooms and have remodeled five,” Patty told The Press. Each of the 12 rooms has a new mattress and comforter, a new flat screen TV, and air conditioning, as well as the usual amenities like WIFI, a hair dryer, mini fridge, coffee pot and microwave. The five newly remodeled rooms feature a log cabin siding accent wall and matching headboard. “Our rooms are geared toward hunters, fishermen, and outdoorsmen, but are also family friendly,” Patty explained. 

Before remodeling the next seven rooms, the Schwarzes will replace the green carpeted walkway that wraps around the hotel with treated wood. The building will be refinished with the same log cabin siding as inside the rooms, and the 15 posts that support the building will also be wrapped in the log cabin style. “We’re frequent customers at Meuser Lumber,” Patty laughed. “At least four or five times a day!” New windows are on the horizon, and a new ice maker and pop machine have already been put to use. The pair also plans to install a fish cleaning station, a gas firepit with seating and a gas grill in the back yard. 

Business is good. A new lobby area is already complete, and Room 1, which was used by the previous owners as a private bedroom, has been remodeled and opened for use. “We were turning people away in the fall, so we wanted to open it up,” said Patty. 

During the city wide garage sales, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 6, Scratch Cupcakery of Cedar Falls will bring their curbside truck to the Guttenberg Motel and community members are welcome to stop for a cupcake, visit Patty’s garage sale, and say hello to the new owners. “We are so excited to be here in Guttenberg,” Patty told The Press. “We feel privileged to be here.”

Look for an open house at the newly remodeled hotel in the coming weeks.

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