On the Market
Owner Petkovic puts Madison’s Riverboat Inn up for sale
She has built a thriving business since buying it in 2007
(October 2020) – Kathie Petkovic found Madison, Ind., during a riverboat tour. “I just fell in love with Madison,” she said. Soon she found that she could make the 11-hour drive from her home in Destin Fla., to Madison in just one day. It became her regular stop on the way to visit her daughter and family in Columbus, Ohio.
Next she bought a 21-foot motorhome to park at the City of Madison Camp-ground. Finally, she decided to buy a house. After the deal on the house fell through, she knocked on the door at the President Madison Motel and asked if it was for sale.
In 2007, Petrovic bought the motel. At the time, there was not one reservation on the books for the 26-room property. Her son, Nick, and his friends helped renovate the first 10 rooms. When they returned to Florida, she continued the renovations with private contractors. She changed the name to the Riverboat Inn and Suites, a tribute to those boats that brought her to Madison.
“It has been tons of fun, with super-awesome guests year after year,” she said.
Photo by Sharyn Whitman
Riverboat Inn owner Kathie Petkovic moved to Madison, Ind., from Florida and eventually bought the former President Madison Motel in 2007. She then renovated it into a quaint boutique hotel overlooking the Ohio River.
Now, 13 years later, with a completely renovated property, including additional buildings, Petkovic is ready to retire. She has listed the iconic Riverboat Inn and Suites for sale. Her longtime repeat guests are still telling her, “You can’t leave,” but she is ready to spend time with her 92-year-old mother, her daughter’s family, including two teenaged grandchildren and her son. Running a hotel business is a 24-7, fast-paced life, and Petkovic is now ready to return to the peace she first found on the riverboats.
“The Riverboat Inn & Suites has been a tremendous tourism partner over the years. From Kathie Petkovic’s time on the Tourism Board, to their willingness to host international guests, give great rates for travel writers, or simply supporting a plethora of events, activities and live music – it ALL shows the dedication to this community,” said Sarah Prasil, Marketing & Advertising Director at VisitMadison Inc.
“I truly do hope whoever the buyer is that they will portray the same passion as Kathie and her staff, whether they carry-on with the Riverboat name, or make it into another great establishment to stay on our beautiful riverfront. Visitors always rave about Riverboat’s hospitality as one of their best experiences.”
Lynne and Jim Lanham are two of those repeat guests at the Riverboat Inn who rave about the hospitality. About 12 years ago, they started coming to the RiverRoots Music & Folk Art Festival. They fell in love with Madison. Then Jim started bringing his two grandsons with him to celebrate his birthday. Those trips made such a big impression on one of those grandsons that he returned to Madison recently with the whole family for his riverfront wedding on the lower lawn of the Riverboat Inn.
“The weather was gorgeous! The catering was great. We all brought food. We had time to just visit and munch with a beautiful view of the river,” Lynne said. “It’s just the charm of the Riverboat Inn. It has its own personality, with a feel of family and community.”
Riverboat Inn sits on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River in Madison, Ind.
Those sentiments are echoed by Bob and Jan Pecar. “My Dad grew up in Milton, Ky., so we have always gone to Madison,” said Bob. The couple stayed occasionally at the original President Madison Motel.
“Since Kathie bought it and did the remodeling, we now stay at the Riverboat Inn. It is not like a hotel. It’s more like visiting your aunt. It has a homey feel. I like to walk out of the room in the middle of the night to read and watch barges at night. It’s all part of the magic,” he said.
They enjoy meeting new people. Sometimes that new friendship led to having a beer, ordering pizza and playing cards. “It’s one of the things we like about the place.”
The Pecars have also played host to several family reunions at the Riverboat Inn. Everyone enjoyed the live music on the weekend. Both Bob and his wife have had some health issues. To their surprise, Terry Remol, front desk manager, called to check on how they were doing. “You don’t get that anywhere else,” Bob said.
“Our repeat business is unbelievable,” Petkovic said. “We have 15 guests who have continued to come since 2008. Many others have come six or seven times per year for five, six, eight and even 10 years. It’s a fun, satisfying business. It would be a great opportunity for a husband and wife team. There is so much potential in the future with social media.”
Another future opportunity that Petkovic can see is an expansion of weddings and events. Petkovic can also envision a parking garage that could be built on the flood plain east of the Riverboat Inn to provide much-needed riverfront parking. It could even include a rooftop restaurant. The lower lawn is the perfect location for an onsite food truck.
In addition to the main hotel building, the property includes the Pilot House with rooms by the pool, the Paddlewheel, an historic building from the 1800s that was originally a button factory, and the Captain’s Quarters, a brick building which includes suites with a full kitchen and living room.
After experiencing more than 50 riverboat tours, Petkovic explained that Madison is different than all other riverboat cities. When tourists leave the boat in Madison, there is greenery, architecture, small quaint shops and restaurants within an easy walk.
“Madison is really special and anything you want is nearby,” she said. “I just love the river. You have to experience the river. Madison is the most special riverfront town. There is no town as cute as Madison.”
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