The Oscars were on television last night. As I watched, I sat and wondered, “If an Oscar Award were granted to ‘Best Hotel in Shipshewana,’ that coveted award would be given to Van Buren Hotel.”
Unfortunately, an Oscar is not awarded in this category, but TripAdvisor.com, the most viewed online resource for accommodations, bestows this locally-owned hotel the Number One spot in its Shipshewana Hotel ratings.
I spent two hours last week at the hotel, and now I understand why.
Nothing says “welcome” better than a smiling face and gracious front desk worker, which is exactly what I received when I walked in.
Gazing to my right, I immediately saw a lively fire burning in the fireplace, a three-story mantel, and two overstuffed couches beckoning me to warm myself. I did.
To my left and directly behind the reservation desk was a just-painted mural of the Amish countryside, rendered by a local painter.
The Van Buren Hotel, needless to say, had me at its first impression. Had it not, then the manager would have.
Loretta Otto, far right, manages the Van Buren Hotel. She takes a moment to share a laugh with “my girls,” she calls her staff.
Meet Loretta Otto
Seven years ago, local gal Loretta Otto started working at the Van Buren Hotel at the front desk. Within the year, she was promoted to manager, and has been in charge of the everyday workings of the hotel ever since.
Many in our local culture share a huge work ethic, and Loretta is part of that equation. At one point during our tour, she mentioned to me, “We just completed our deep-down cleaning of the entire hotel. We clean everything. We tear the beds a part, we scrub the walls, all of it.
(This is where she had me smiling) “I just love the smell of Murphy’s Soap. It makes me happy knowing everything is clean and fresh.”
Loretta is a natural at making people feel welcome, and she doesn’t even realize it because her hospitality isn’t her job—it’s her heart.
The Van Buren Hotel also has two meeting rooms to host groups. The day I visited, a group of church ladies were making care packages for a local charity.
They welcomed me with a handshake and smile, as if I could just sit down with them and join in on the activities. The group also had their lunch catered in by a local restaurant, Garden Gate Café, Shipshewana.
Near the meeting rooms are sitting areas; actually, several quiet areas are located throughout the facility. I found one with the afternoon sun’s rays splashing the chairs and magazines. I was tempted just to inhale the serenity it evoked, which Loretta said was fine.
She said she’d even bring me a cookie (The cookies are also made locally at the Bread Box Bakery).
The Van Buren Hotel also has a lovely breakfast area, complete with generous counter space, another fireplace, and large windows that overlook the Shipshewana countryside.
The indoor pool at the Van Buren Hotel has a lift.
Finally, the hotel has an indoor pool with a handicap lift.
“We’re the only hotel with a lift,” Loretta shared. “We’ve had people come here for that amenity alone.”
I already have my room picked out for when I return. It’s not even the largest room. Nor is it the Jacuzzi room. Nor is it the suite with two rooms, a refrigerator, and a microwave.
This room has a small alcove with a window facing the countryside, and a large chair to sit and read quietly. The room can be closed off from the bedroom area.
I envision myself drinking tea, reading a book, sneaking a peak at the Amish buggies going by, and feeling very blessed.
If, for some reason, that room is unavailable, then any room would do, honestly. They all have a splash of yellow bedding, reminding me of warm sunshine. The rooms are generous in size, decorated tastefully, and a local Amish business has crafted all the furniture.
Deserving of its Reward
I live twenty minutes from Shipshewana, and I plan on taking girlfriends with me back to the Van Buren Hotel. Comfort, beauty, and hospitality know no distance.
I also plan on inviting Loretta to join us once she is finished with her work.
The Van Buren Hotel is a very, very special place.
Visit the hotel at 117 Van Buren, Shipshewana.
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