Although they had never stepped foot in the lodge or run a restaurant, much less a hotel before, two Valley business partners recently purchased the Strawberry Lodge.
Frank Kelley and Kevin Groelly say they couldn’t pass up the chance to own a piece of history when the lodge went up for auction at a trustee sale in Globe June 18.
Groelly spotted the listing online and he and Kelley decided within an hour to bid — although neither had ever gone inside.
Real estate investors from the Valley with experience buying and flipping homes, the men knew they could tackle the project.
Just days after purchasing the lodge, which sits on the corner of Highway 87 and Fossil Creek Road in Strawberry, crews began clearing out old mattresses, broken furniture and dishes.
The handover happened so quickly many residents didn’t know the space was ever for sale. One couple drove 30 miles for a piece of pie only for the family to have to turn them away.
Once word spread, locals came by in droves to learn what would become of the lodge known for its homemade pies and all-you-can-eat fish fry on Fridays.
Kim Kelley-Devaney, Frank’s aunt, said all recounted fond memories at the lodge.
“I have heard story after story,” she said. “From I rode my horses up and listened to country music to I proposed to my wife here.”
Keeping that rustic tradition alive is crucial, she said.
The previous owners left the lodge as if they had just closed up for the night — the fridges stocked, dishes cleaned and the beds all made. Wendie Groelly, Kevin’s wife, said the space was full of random stuff. In one crammed closet behind the bar, she pulled out a bottle of old Kentucky whiskey.
When finished, the lodge will have a new kitchen, larger bar, handicap accessible bathrooms and remodeled guest rooms with electric fireplaces.
Out back, the men plan to add a large deck, grass and plenty of seating for chili cookouts and live music.
While many things will change, the men don’t want to strip away all of the building’s unique charm.
Kelley-Devaney learned from locals that the lodge opened originally as a single-level hunting lodge in 1956. In 1967, new owners added a second story and 12 guest rooms, maxing out the space at 9,000 square feet.
Once finished, Kelley and Groelly, each with three children, plan to keep the business in the family for a long time.
They hope to open by the end of summer or early fall.
The community’s outpouring of support has been great and much appreciated, Kelley-Devaney added.