March 20, 2008

Winds of Change Transform Scenic Home Into The Willows

Being just a little too far away from work and school forced the owners of The Willows to seek housing closer to Memphis. However it is those same attributes that are making the retreat located north of Downing into an attractive gathering spot for a multitude of events and getaways.

Owners Dr. Randy and Heliene Tobler purchased the property when they relocated to northeast Missouri from the St. Louis area.

It started as we were searching for a place to live after making the decision to move, said Randy. It was a fast track as Dwight and Joanne DeRosear had unofficially adopted us during our visits. He facilitated a visit with Bob Rockhold at his refurbished old Downing City Lake property.

The couple quickly decided this was the property where they wished to build their new home.

We bought it, thinking it would be our ultimate home, he said. We had plans to live in the cabin or rent here in Memphis while building, but a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

Randy said his two daughters, Shannon and Samantha quickly became glued to their newfound friends at Scotland County R-I High School. The entire family rapidly became involved in, or wanting to attend, so many Memphis-centered events that they eventually purchased their current home south of town.

Memphiss magnetic people and coziness had a firm grip on us, said Heliene. I also wanted to be closer to the hospital as the Womens Program expands and improves existing services, said the chief of OB/GYN at the facility.

But the property held too much promise for the family simply to turn around and put it back on the market for sale.

We use it for getting away, recharging, walking, and fishing, said Heliene. And it is beautiful, all four seasons.

Ultimately the lake house became a weekend place for the couple and their two daughters Shannon and Samantha.

Dr. Tobler also found additional uses for the home through his medical practice.

Ive used it for patients from my old practice who continue their care here, he said. They like not having to drive up here for three plus hours, see me, then drive right back home again. Its just a thank you for their loyalty. They had become good friends as well as patients in the 17 years I practiced there.

The rest of the Toblers extended family utilizes the retreat as well, and the Toblers also host get-togethers for their church and the hospital.

Yet, with such an attractive property only being used on weekends and other family getaways, the couple started considering opening their home to the public, and thus, The Willows, was born.

Alisa Kigar and I were talking about it and she wondered if we could offer it to Truman parents visiting their student children. Apparently they have a housing shortage in Kirksville during such events and end up sending folks as far as Columbia, Randy said. We love to share the place with others, so I asked Alisa about other groups that might use it, one thing led to another, and we decided to open it to the public for events.

With help from the Kirksville Chamber of Commerce Director and fellow Bible Grove resident, the Toblers began developing a business plan for The Willows. The cabin could be offered for a couple for a romantic hideaway weekend, or could host much larger events such as weddings, receptions, reunions or political rallies.

Youll find that Im determined to do what I can to promote and incubate as much small business here as Im able to, said Randy. Im a dreamer. And were committed to the area.

The Willows is an 1800 sq. foot retreat cabin on a private 28-acre stocked lake. The retreat lies nestled in the middle of 160 acres of rolling grassland.

The sprawling park-like landscape is ideal for outdoor events such as weddings, church picnics or family reunions, said Heliene. And with the cabin, it makes for a great setting for a day-long corporate or board-planning retreat.

The cabin features an open floor plan with plenty of windows that offer stunning views of the property. The spacious deck extends the entertainment opportunities for both indoor and outdoor events.

The site features a boat slip as well as an outdoor pit for bonfires, and a gas fired charcoal barbecue to compliment the full kitchen inside complete with an entertainment bar. The bedroom houses the large screen television and foosball table. The main room boasts the kitchen and dining area, large professional billiards table and a large native stone fireplace. The billiards table converts to a conference table with an oak topper.

The Willows also will be used as part of Helienes business as a nutritional consultant. The health and wellness guru, formally a PhD candidate in Holistic Nutrition, has been busy developing plans for weekend Healthy Living retreats where a limited number of guests could get together and learn, listen and live healthfully in a non-classroom and encouraging setting.

I recommend her lifestyle and nutritional approach whenever patients or friends ask, said Randy. Its fun to add my medical training to the lifestyle thing for those who like holistic health. She is a real motivater, and we believe that not only for local folks, but maybe even for Kansas City or St. Louis, a passionate health coach in a beautiful retreat setting is a great way to launch a life transformation.

The entrepreneurs have done their best to incorporate other local businesses as The Willows continues to evolve.

Local designer Britta Burrus produced the retreats website www.thewillowslake house.com. and also was integral in other marketing and design work.

Donna Brown, owner of Tailor Made Events, is offering exclusive discounts for event planning services, as are an increasing number of area businesses, as a value added for our guests.

We also hope to organize some wine dinners, partnering with a chef and Steve and Becky Tucker of Whispering Pines Winery in Keosauqua, IA, said Randy. Theyll match wine with 4 or 5 courses for a rustic chic evening for 5-6 couples from time to time.

Eventually the hosts plan to offer larger events with bluegrass or other forms of popular entertainment.

The skys the limit, said Randy. In short its a work in progress, and were just thrilled to share it with our friends in northeast Missouri and across the region.

For more information on the Willows or to view specials and other promotions visit the website where viewers can make reservations, view availability, and find additional contact information. Check it out today for a chance to win a weekend getaway to be given away on March 31st.

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