Owner Talks About the Transformation of the Former Mansion Into a Quaint Bed & Breakfast
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell
Once upon a time, it was just a mansion built as a Christmas gift from Ralph Braun, the founder and CEO of the Braun Corporation, for his wife in the late 1990s. At 16,000 square feet, this artful piece of architecture was nestled in 40 acres of beautiful gardens, making it the perfect home for the Winamac couple.
After Braun’s death, it was purchased by Sue and Jim Kast. The idea of owning an event venue and B&B was the next adventure for them, especially for Sue, who has owned various small businesses throughout her adult life.
“At first it wasn’t so much the bed and breakfast,” she says. “It was the idea of having events. I just thought the property was so attractive.”
But when the Braun Corporation approached them about allowing corporate visitors to rent rooms in the mansion, the idea of opening a bed and breakfast was born. In June 2016, they welcomed their first overnight guests and have been doing it ever since.
After a few renovations, the house was ready for company with three suites, each of which can fit up to five people.
“We’re always looking for something that we can share with other people and it was the kind of property that you would want to share with someone else,” Kast says.
Improvements are ever in the wind for a homeowner, and the Kasts are no exception.
“We’re thinking a couple more rooms might work out well,” says Kast, who went on to describe a honeymoon suite with a jacuzzi. “We’re thinking about making it a special kind of room that people would really enjoy staying in and doing something unique that you wouldn’t normally do in other places.”
As a veteran small business owner, Kast understands the importance of individual care to customers.
“When people come for breakfast, we ask them when they check-in, ‘What time do you want breakfast? What are the kind of things you like?’ We’ll do a whole variety of things depending on them,” Kast says. “Sometimes people ask for things we haven’t done before, haven’t even thought about doing, so I’ll make the effort to go out and buy it that night and have it prepared the next day for them.”
Beyond food, Kast puts a lot of TLC into every aspect of the business, something that can be seen in every corner of her establishment.
Opening their home as an event venue for weddings, parties, conferences and an assortment of other activities is one of Kast’s favorite parts of the business. The other thing about Mill Creek that she loves is the gardens surrounding her home — and her passion for the outdoors shows.
Beginning in the fall, Kast spends hours pulling the dying annual flowers, planting some perennials and winterizing the ground.
“You think the fall before about what you want to look at in the spring,” she says.
Then she spends the winter obtaining seeds and seedlings, cultivating them inside until the danger of frost is over.
“We’ll plant some of those things we can’t get at the local nursery so that we have some of the unusual things we can plant in our landscape,” Kast adds. “It’s fun. You look through catalogs, you see what you might want to buy and then plant those.”
In the spring, though, the magic begins, as Kast and her master gardener, Ginger Reames, plant and maintain the garden through the warmer months.
Of course, for the holiday season, the Kasts transform the B&B into a magical winter wonderland.
“I like to do Christmas,” she says. “I like decorating and I’ve always done those kinds of things. I like the cold and the frostiness and I like the lights. It’s something I like to be involved in.”
Some traditions come back every year, like the special holiday china and the elf hat chair covers. Other parts of the décor changes.
“We try to make it special,” Kast says. “Every year, I think about things and how we might change it up in terms of lighting and colors and what goes together. There’s always something new you might want to try out.”
All in all, it’s the perfect fit for the Kasts.
“I enjoy doing it,” she says. “We’re accomplishing what we wanted to do in that we want to have a venue in the community that’s a nice place to bring someone. Someone can come in and enjoy themselves.”
Mill Creek Gardens is located at 1351 E. County Road 250 S. in Winamac. Give them a call at 574-216-9070 or visit them online at themillcreekgardens.com for more information.