Candlewood Cabins

Candlewood Cabins: A Destination for Recreation or Solitude

Cover Story by Marilu Miller

The story of Candlewood Cabins, actually begins just after World War II, when Richard Calnin met Mechtild. They fell in love and he married her. They came to the United States and started teaching at St. Norbert’s college in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin. In the early 1980’s, the Calnin’s purchased some acreage in Richland County. Richard became a professor at the then UW-Richland Campus in Richland Center and Mechtild continued to pursue her love are the arts and painting. In 1981, Norbert and Susan Calnin, who had met at St. Norbert’s College in the music and theater departments, moved to Wisconsin from Florida and joined Norbert’s parents in Richland County. Norbert’s brother Roland also joined the family here, along with his family. The business didn’t start for many years, but it’s seeds were planted with the move to Richland County and the Driftless Area. The actual birth of Candlewood Cabins happened when Roland and his family moved from the area and put their property up for sale. Norbert and Susan purchased it to keep it in the family, as part of Roland’s property came thru property that was already in the families ownership.

The Calnin’s original intention was to either rent out the cabin or have it available for family and friends when they came to visit. For this reason, they approached many Bed & Breakfast Associations in order to get their information out and circulating and to learn the ins and outs of the business. During all of this, Susan was staying very busy as a stay at home mom, who also helped her parents and Norbert’s parents as needed. Norbert was busy also, first with a construction company that he owned and operated, and then for the last twenty years he had the position as the Foundation Director at the Richland Hospital. But, these jobs were not all that kept this couple busy. Their three children kept them busy with many activities, also, Norbert and Susan are very talented on the stage, both in front of and behind the curtain. They have had many wonderful roles in many of the plays and musicals produced here in Richland Center over the many years that they have lived here.

Their first cabin, which became known as The Hillside Cabin, was initially intended just for weekend rentals. But, as business improved, they began discussing constructing a second cabin. In 2000, they built The Log Cabin to expand their guest housing. They had begun to build their web site during this time and were experiencing an increase in business and a greater delight in meeting their guests, telling them about the things to do in the area, and in telling them the story of Candlewood Cabins.

The third cabin, The Glass House, came about because Norbert had thirty-two glass panels left over from a construction job. What do you do with leftover glass panels? Build a glass cabin that provides it’s visitors with a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding woods. This is the only cabin that is not open all year. It is only available from April to November, and is one of the most popular cabins. Shortly after pictures of this cabin were put on their web site, the Calnins received LOTS of phone calls. Yes, phone calls, as at this time, they were still doing all of the booking themselves and guests paid with cash or a check. It wasn’t until about about five or six years ago that they switched to on-line bookings and pre-payment by credit cards. As a result of the pictures of The Glass House, they began booking three to four months out. This started them thinking about and discussing another cabin. They decided to build another cabin, a more upscale cabin. The fourth cabin, The Meadow House (Pictureed Above),  was the result of this discussion. This cabin’s upper level is all glass and offers a beautiful panoramic view of the hills, the meadow, and part of the valley that makes up the property.

The next cabin, The Woodland House, came to be in a slightly different way. It’s most unique feature, a silo that actually contains a beautiful spiral staircase, came about when after discussing what the next cabin should be and should have during a meal, Norbert sat down and placed a saucer over a glass. He began drawing and The Woodland House was born. In addition to the silo, this cabin has many windows that let in a great amount of natural light, balconies, and a fire pit. The picture that was placed on their web site that showed off the silo feature of this cabin garnered great excitement. When bookings were opened on-line for it, it was booked out for almost one year, just based on the picture.

Their next cabin, The Little House Next Door, is small, cozy, and located right next door to the Calnin’s home. This became one of the rental cabins after Susan’s parents were no longer using it as their home. It just kind of made sense to turn it into a rental.

The newest cabin to open is The Barn. This was originally Richard and Mechtild’s home and studio, they were both artists- Mechtild painted, and Richard created many different things from metal. This cabin is the largest of the seven cabins that make up Candlewood Cabins. Where most of the others can accommodate two to four guests, The Barn will be able to accommodate twelve. It has a second floor salon area with south facing windows that provide a wonderful view of the surrounding woods and a soothing atmosphere for relaxation. The Barn also has an elevator for easier access.

Candlewood Cabins and the Calnin’s have more to offer than just the cabins to their guests. There are walking/hiking trails throughout the property that allow the guests to get a bit of exercise and enjoy the great multitudes of wildlife found in their valley. They have also created a bit of a picnic area in one meadow that is a wonderful place to view a sunset if one should so choose. The Calnin’s are also very up to date on businesses in the Driftless Area that might be of interest to their guests and enjoy recommending them. They are very willing to give directions to local trails for biking or hiking, or even to local rivers for fishing, paddling, or tubing. They do their very best to help their guests unplug (literally, as only two of the cabins have TV’s available for DVD viewing only, the cabins do have wifi, but, due to the location, cell phone reception can be a bit on the sketchy side) and find solitude. They are booking up to two years out for all of their cabins- The Barn included which has just opened. Yes, these cabins and the Driftless Area are this popular.

As you may guess, inn keeping is a job that some days requires great energy and a great deal of thought and planning. I asked Norbert and Susan what they liked to do to recharge their batteries. Susan told me that they actually, “do the opposite of our guests”. She said that most of their guests come from the cities out here to unplug and recharge their batteries. She said that she and Norbert enjoy going to big cities to see the sites, explore, and sometimes get new ideas of something to offer in the next cabin. They like to go to San Francisco and Atlanta especially as they have children there. But, they are always ready to return home to the valley after a few days.

So, with the renting of The Hillside Cabin, Candlewood Cabins was born and the Calnin’s became innkeepers. They make a point of stating, that they are not a Bed & Breakfast, even though they did go to those associations to initially get the word out about their guest facilities. They have become innkeepers. The Calnin’s told me that inn keeping just “fell into our laps”, and we discovered that we enjoy it greatly. They enjoy meeting and greeting their guests, new and old- some have become regular visitors. They also are proud of the fact that they are a “Mom and Pop run business”. “We still answer the phone when you call, or the door when you come to the house.” They told me that they feel that there is an importance to being innkeepers. That it is more than just giving guests the key and directions to the cabin. “We tell our guests the story of how we started, where the idea for the cabins came from and we see real interest in our guests for the story that we tell. We are a destination.”

Author’s note: I highly recommend checking out the website for Candlewood Cabins and looking into making a reservation for a brief getaway to unplug and recharge your batteries.