About Us

A relaxing escape in the heart of Harbor Country

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Meet Your Host

Hillary Stifler

I have thought about running my own Bed & Breakfast since I first stayed at a family friends’ inn in Sedona, Arizona as a kid. I went to school for business and my curious nature led me to a career in market research. Even after 17 years in Chicago, exploring all the city has to offer, I never lost my dream of becoming an innkeeper.

After traveling the world over, staying in the loveliest of places, ever the researcher – taking notes and storing ideas – I was finally ready to take the leap of faith. And the universe caught me. In just a few months looking for a place in my home state of Michigan, I stumbled upon a beautifully wooded property close to the beach and central to so many local wonders in the heart of Harbor Country. Jerry & Paula, the previous owners of 20+ years, have taken such great care of this old Farmhouse. It exuded so much love and hospitality, I knew “this must be the place”. 

About, Garden Grove Inn Bed & Breakfast

So, I turned in my title of Vice President for a new title, Innkeeper. I’ve traded Zoom calls for loads of laundry, client dinners for cooking homemade breakfasts, and overnight work trips for welcoming guests from all over. I have always been great at planning an epic trip, whether it’s to Austin, Rome, Tokyo or Springfield, IL, and I am beyond excited to be your local expert, sharing with you all the best things to do in this beautiful corner of the world. I cannot wait to welcome you to Harbor Country, and The Garden Grove Inn.

-Hillary

About, Garden Grove Inn Bed & Breakfast
About, Garden Grove Inn Bed & Breakfast
About, Garden Grove Inn Bed & Breakfast
About, Garden Grove Inn Bed & Breakfast

History of the Garden Grove Inn

The land where Garden Grove Inn sits was once inhabited by the Three Fires Confederacy – the Ojibwe, the Odawa and the Potawatomi. While many of these original inhabitants were forced to relocate, a small group of Neshnabek, the original or true people, were allowed to remain. Today, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi still reside in southwest Michigan and play a vital role in the communities here.

Fast forward to mid-late 1850s – railroads to/from Chicago were being built in this area, and naturally, industry followed. Union Pier was founded in 1861, and a pier was built to ship timber across the lake, and eventually bricks after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Industry soon turned to fruit farming and tourism. Resorts began to appear in the early 1890’s to serve tourists headed to and from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Vavra family moved from Chicago to Union Pier. They built a 2-bedroom farmhouse, now the Garden Grove Inn, and began farming fruit. In the 1920s they turned to tourism and created the Vavra Resort on the site of the farm. It became a part of the well-established resort community with a rich history of ethnic diversity, strong ties to Chicago, and amazing land where the forest meets the Great Lake, now known as Harbor Country.

The family sold their property in the early 1990s, and the Garden Grove Inn was established in the Farmhouse, alongside the Sweethaven Resort next door. A couple from Chicago looking to make a change, much like the current owner, purchased the Farmhouse, expanded it, and opened the Garden Grove Bed & Breakfast. In 2000, Jerry & Paula Welsh took over and made Garden Grove the inviting and lush place it is today.

About, Garden Grove Inn Bed & Breakfast

The Beginning

The land originally inhabited by the Three Fires Confederacy – the Ojibwe, the Odawa and the Potawatomi.

1861

Union Pier was founded

1900s

Vavra family built what is now the Garden Grove Inn to farm fruit.

1920s

Vavra Resort was founded on the site of the farm

1990s

Varva family sold the property

2000s

Jerry & Paula Welsh took over and made Garden Grove the inviting and lush place it is today.