sells Hillside Inn;
new owner to re-open restaurant
(February 2005) The Hillside Inn has entered
yet another phase of its long history with the December sale by previous
owner Jerry Fuhs to hotel entrepreneur Gary Zaveri of Knoxville, Tenn.
The terms were not disclosed.
by Don Ward
Inn was sold in December to
Gary Zaveri of Knoxville, Tenn.
Madison residents A.J. and Niki Mistry, who were previously
employed by Fuhs at the Hillside Inn, have been hired to manage the
hotel for Zaveri. The restaurant that Fuhs opened there last summer
has been temporarily closed. But Zaveri and the Mistrys have negotiated
a lease agreement with Earnest and Suzanne Mathis of Madison, who plan
to re-open the restaurant in February.
A.J. Mistry said the restaurant will offer affordable fine dining
and also be available for private parties, banquets and catering. The
Mathis plan to operate the restaurant with their daughters, Emily Barkemeyer
and Vicki Kimberlin, and Suzannes mother, Vicki Collins. All have
food service background.
Earnest Mathis, the chef, has had 20 years of experience, most recently
managing the Columbia, in Columbia City, Ind., where he met his wife
12 years ago. The Mathis family has lived in Madison for 11 years. Suzanne
is now employed at the Madison State Hospital, but 20 years ago she
was the chef manager of a 31/2-star restaurant named The Cellar in New
Collins is a graduate of Prosser Vocational School in New Albany. Kimberlin
will serve as the banquet manager and event planner for the Hillside
Inn Restaurant. Barkemeyer has worked for Mundts Candies and will
serve as a liaison between the Hillside Inn Restaurant and Mundts, bringing
their famous fish candy and hand-dipped chocolates into the restaurant
for purchase by patrons.
We are thrilled to be re-opening one of the most beautiful landmarks
in southern Indiana, said Suzanne Mathis. This is a family
owned and operated restaurant. We hope to gain the attention of locals
and tourists alike with a menu that offers something for everyone. Customers
will appreciate having more selections to choose from on and off the
Fuhs bought the 38-year-old Hillside Inn for $480,000
at a bankruptcy auction in November 1999. Over the next year, he supervised
an extensive renovation of the building, totally remodeling the 30 rooms.
The hotels boutique-style rooms include riverview rooms, deluxe
whirpool suites, and standard rooms.
The restaurant was the last piece of the project that he completed,
just last year. Fuhs had originally sought to lease the restaurant but
finally decided to operate it with his own staff. He had not finished
renovating the bar area, which is just off the main dining room, when
the property sold.
Former general manager Gina Porter decided the leave the Hillside Inn
just before the sale was announced. She now resides with her husband
in Florence, Ky.
Soon after buying the Hillside Inn, Fuhs in April 2001 bought the Old
Cotton Mill, also known as the Meese building, that sits along the riverfront
in downtown Madison. Many in the community had hoped he would develop
the property, but he now has that 80,000-square-foot property listed
for sale with an asking price of $650,000. The property sits on six
acres and, together with all out buildings, covers nearly 200,000 square
feet, said previous owner Buddy Waller.
Waller had used the former Meese site for storing equipment for his
business, Wallers Meter Inc. After selling the property to Fuhs,
Waller bought and moved his business into the former K-Mart building
on the Madison hilltop.
Contacted by telephone at his office in Jasper, Fuhs said he was pulling
his money out of Madison to focus his attention and investments on Dubois,
Davis, Orange and Spencer counties, all located closer to his home in
We love restoring old buildings and we saw the Hillside Inn as
a great project that we just loved, Fuhs said. I think the
Meese building will be a great project for the downtown. But we feel
it is better suited for an owner-operator who is not 150 miles away.
Fuhs said he had mixed feelings about pulling his investment
out of Madison, adding, Thats not to say we wouldnt
return there someday. But as a small company, weve just got to
prioritize our projects.
The future casino to be situated in French Lick perhaps also swayed
his decision to sell his Madison properties. Fuhs sits on the newly
formed Historic Hotels Preservation Commission that was created by the
Orange County casino legislation to help decide where future revenues
Fuhs owns Beechwood Inn and leases the restaurant and bed and breakfast
located inside. The building sits on a bluff overlooking French Lick.
He also owns several other tourism related properties, including Wilstem
Guest Ranch near French Lick, the Santa Claus Lodge in Santa Claus,
Ind., and the Gasthof Amish Restaurant in Montgomery, Ind. He said he
is currently involved in a project to expand the Santa Claus Lodge from
140 to 191 rooms this year, while adding an exterior swimming pool and
indoor water park, to be available to hotel guests only year-round.
He also is exploring a major investment opportunity in French
Lick, he said.
Fuhs also is a partner in a project to renovate the Old Jasper Cabinet
Co., located in downtown Jasper, into a hotel-convention center type
facility that stands to benefit from a larger redevelopment effort going
on in the area.
Madison Mayor Al Huntington said he was sorry to see Fuhs backing off
his plans for investing in Madison. But he added, I know Jerry
and Caroline Fuhs love Madison, and we have them to thank for renovating
Hillside Inn and making Madison a better place.
Huntington said he has entertained a variety of ideas from other investors
who have expressed interest in the Meese property. We are pushing
for someone to buy it who has an interest in building a hotel complex
or condominium or convention center-type project for what we consider
to be a choice property on the riverfront.
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