For the past few months, a small hotel on an otherwise sleepy corner of State Route 87 in Strawberry has hummed with activity. Tradesmen and contractors have come and gone, leaving behind a masterpiece of red, white and gray. Today community residents and passersby can finally inspect the bold design and workmanship as the newly branded Strawberry Inn hosts an open house for the public.
The two-story, eight-room boutique hotel, formerly known as the Windmill Corner Inn, has occupied a spot alongside the highway for decades. Framed by a clock tower and guarded by a windmill, the property has radiated charm.
In the last few years, though, various investors bought and sold the property and the inn fell into disrepair.
Carson and Amber Eilers, a young couple from the Phoenix area with longstanding ties to the Rim Country, stumbled across an online listing for the inn and immediately fell in love.
“We have been in real estate development and hospitality in the Valley for several years, but we have always been interested in creating our own boutique hotel,” Amber said. “When we found the opportunity through a private sale, it felt like it was meant to be!”
While buying the inn, the Eilers met Cheryl Holland, a longtime former owner of the Windmill Corner Inn. “When we were in escrow, we reached out to her to meet for coffee,” Amber said.
The meeting ended with the Eilers asking Holland to manage the renovated property, an idea that Holland loved.
“We adore Cheryl and we are very blessed to have her on our side,” Eilers said. “She embodies a spirit of hospitality and she loves the community of Strawberry.”
Having flipped hundreds of houses in the Phoenix metro area, the Eilers know real estate and remodeling. But they both agreed this project felt different.
Pine has seen a surge of new and revamped businesses in the past few years. Breweries, restaurants, and lodging have blossomed, but Strawberry has seen little of this growth. The Eilers hope to bring a bit of this energy to the community. “We would love to bring back the windmill as a coffee spot,” Eilers said. “It used to sell cappuccinos and baked goods many years ago. But that’s a ways off.”
Amber takes pride in her family’s ties to Pine and Strawberry. Her aunt ran an antique store in Pine called Moose Mountain Antiques and Collectibles. And her late grandmother, Pat Lawson, made a name around town with her famous pickles.
“I actually carry on that family tradition with our secret family recipe and still make and sell the small batch sweet dills in shops around town,” Amber said.
The small-town feel has always drawn the Eilers to the Rim Country. The couple, who participated in nearly every aspect of the remodel work with their two small girls in tow, recalled that curious people stopped by several times a day just to peek at the progress or offer their help. “Almost every day that we are there we have people ask if they can rent a room, too,” Amber said.
Though the inn remained fully furnished after the Eilers took over, they wanted to start their renewal from scratch. But instead of selling or scrapping the furnishings, the Eilers hosted a “free” garage sale for the community.
“In one, crazy weekend,” Amber said, they gave away everything they could.
Inspired by the popular television remodel show “Fixer Upper,” the Eilers started the remodel by lining each room with shiplap. After contractors installed new floors, fixtures, and paint, the couple filled each room with a carefully selected collection of farmhouse furniture and rustic décor
A couple weeks ago, the Strawberry Inn began taking reservations for stays beginning Nov. 11. Guests can book rooms through the inn’s website at www.thestrawberryinn.com.
The Eilers documented every step of their whirlwind summer journey at www.facebook.com/thestrawberryinn. They plan on using social media to not only chronicle the inn’s past, but its future as well.
The inn’s first open house will take place today, Friday, Nov. 4, starting at 4 p.m. and lasting until around 6 p.m. Amber hopes this event will finally give her and her husband a good chance to “connect with other business owners and members of the community.”
“We hope to continue my family’s tradition of community involvement and service,” she said.