For years, every Prairie town had hubs for its business and social life: a grain elevator, a general store, a garage, a café, the post office, churches and the hotel. With the passage of time, most of these landmarks have gone the way of the dinosaur, but many towns still have a hotel. Inglis, Manitoba is no exception.
Jenny and Ryan Kuemper took over possession of the Inglis Hotel, a.k.a. “The Rooster” in October 2008. Jenny’s roots are in the Virden area, Ryan’s in the West Coast. They met in B.C. where Jennifer trained under a Red Seal chef, so she is accredited as a grounds manager and in the art of wines and fine dining while Ryan, a welder by trade, worked on the rigs in Alberta with one stint in Africa. When they decided to start a family, they knew they wanted to live in a more affordable, small community, so they began to look for a “business opportunity.” Manitoba, and Inglis in particular, drew them because Jenny’s dad had farmed in the area for some time and she wanted to be close to family. “We considered three options: Grandview, Ninette and Inglis,” she said. Because Inglis offered a lake, ski hill and National Historic Site (the last standing row of five wooden elevators restored over a 10-year period) in its backyard, the decision was made.
The hotel was affordable but needed work to improve and maintain it. Ryan is the hands-on work contractor, and with professional help they have remodelled the restrooms, redone the interior paint, replaced tables and chairs, updated the kitchen equipment, redone the floors, and are in the process of remodelling the upstairs into an apartment, with plans for future improvements.
Perhaps the greatest improvement for patrons is what goes on inside the hotel, with meal offerings and staff. Jenny credits much of their success to their “phenomenal” staff that she and Ryan have trained. Wanda Jordon cooks part time Monday to Friday, and is especially known for her soups and pies. Sara Marzoff, a local wife and mother, and Jessica from Scotland, are the welcoming waitresses. Jennifer and Ryan have recently hired another chef, Harald Richter, so the hotel can offer Sunday brunches, beginning this month. Wednesday Wings Night has become a crowd favourite, and they offer ladies’ nights, Valentine’s suppers, steak nights, and Friday noon smorgs for the working folk. They sponsor an annual road hockey tournament in front of the hotel, and proceeds support the local rink and teams. In terms of running a successful food and beverage place, “It’s what goes on inside that counts,” Jenny says. “You have to keep your menu fresh and new.”
There are many benefits to owning and running a small-town business. Jenny said that their job allows them flexibility so that their young son, Hayden, has Mom or Dad at home pretty much 24/7. There is also the tremendous community support, and whenever staff or new ideas are needed, people step up to help.
Jenny has recently been elected as the vice-chairperson of the local business group. Part of her vision is to work to “put Inglis on the map” as an attractive business and family community. They are living proof that making such a life is possible.