Windward Country Inn's owner says age is catching up
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 27, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 12:40 a.m. HST, Jun 29, 2010
The owner of a kitschy but quaint country inn tucked away in a secluded residential neighborhood on Kaneohe Bay is seeking a buyer after nearly 50 years in business.
Schrader's Windward Country Inn, hidden between Kaneohe Bay and Kahaluu Fish Pond with the Koolau Mountains as a backdrop, is on the market for $4.4 million. The property includes 11 cottages.
Its owner, Ralph Schrader, 84, a former real estate developer who opened the inn in 1962 originally as apartments for U.S. Marines, is relinquishing the property halfheartedly since the family has no succession plan to continue to operate "the only hotel on Kaneohe Bay."
"I get my greatest satisfaction in putting things together," he said. "I used to be able to handle two or three things at the same time, but old age is catching up with me. I don't know whether we're going to get any money out of it. The hardest part is I won't have anything to do."
Schrader's face lights up as he vividly describes the 1978 start of the hotel.
"We spent quite a bit of money fixing the place up to appeal to the general tourist, so we knew it would appeal to people who didn't like Waikiki," said Schrader, who lives about two miles away with his 92-year-old wife, Jean. "It's concrete and cement - we're wood-framed, low-rise and low-density."
While Waikiki is the epitome of commercialization, in typical backyard Hawaii style, Schrader's gives people free boat rides to the Kaneohe sandbar on Saturdays, daily complimentary breakfasts, free dinners with Hawaiian entertainment on Wednesday nights and free drinks on Friday nights.
"We don't have a liquor license, so we just give them out," he said. "Like the old Hawaii."
The family is seeking a buyer to continue operations at the rural "Waikiki alternative" with 38 cottage units, some of which are in disrepair after years on the bay at 47-039 Lihikai Drive. The inn has 10 independent contractors, down from about a dozen in recent years, who take care of the property.
Daily rates for a couple range from $98 to $125, comparable to Waikiki's budget properties.
The greatest asset for this "hidden gem in the rough" as you look down from plantation-style balconies is an idyllic old Hawaii scene full of palm trees, a narrow canal and a pier where guests can kayak, fish and even go water-biking.
"It's a piece of Hawaii that is fast going away," said Stephany Sofos, the property's broker. "This is not for your typical investor who's just looking for pure cash flow. It takes someone who really wants a piece of paradise."
If a suitable buyer isn't found, the hotel may be forced to shut down and be sold piecemeal, according to Sofos.
Schrader came to Hawaii from San Francisco in 1948 on a three-masted sailboat, after serving in the Army in World War II. He ended up staying in the islands after being advised not to make the trip back to the mainland in the rough winter seas. Soon after, he met the woman who would become his wife of 59 years.
As a prominent local developer, Schrader built the Napali Gardens at the junction of Likelike and Kamehameha highways, as well as 2033 Nuuanu Ave. and the Nuuanu Terrace.
Over the years, he sold the properties and put the money into his country inn, which will be his legacy, said Claire, 52, the youngest of Schrader's three daughters.
"It was Dad's dream - it was his way of kind of quieting down his life as a developer and just kind of taking it easy and building something he could be proud of," she said. "He had this vision of a family-oriented, low-key place away from the hustle and bustle."
Schrader is most proud of the fact that his inn has evolved into "quite the ohana," keeping many working in the Windward Oahu neighborhood.
"It has a lot of sentimental value," he said. "People tell me that they're really going to miss it because they don't go to the other side, they don't go to Waikiki. They say, 'If we wanted Waikiki, we could've stayed in Chicago.'"