Growing up in Indiana, Jonathan Gordon treasured his family’s frequent escapes to the nearby southwest Michigan playground of New Buffalo and surrounding small towns.
As he built a real estate leasing, sales, and development career in the Chicago area, those priceless memories from the lower Lake Michigan area known as Harbor Country were always on his mind.
In 2018, he became founder and CEO of Experiential Capital Group. His company soon opened its first The Neighborhood Hotel in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park, transforming a 129-year-old building into a residential-style lodging establishment with 14 suites of various sizes.
When Gordon decided to open a second location, Harbor Country immediately came to mind.
“I spent so many weekends with my family in the New Buffalo area when I was younger, and it became a place that’s very special to me,” he says. “I know there are many other people in the Michiana area and beyond who feel the same way. I began looking for the right property to bring high-quality lodging, in apartment-style formats to New Buffalo.”
Earlier this year, Gordon’s vision became reality when guests began checking into The Neighborhood Hotel Grand Beach, just south of New Buffalo and less than a quarter mile from Lake Michigan, after the completion of a year-long renovation.
The 4-acre property has been hosting travelers since the historic Pinewood Lodge opened there in 1914. Decades later, it became the Grand Beach Inn.
“We started hearing from guests right away about how they feel we maintained the integrity of the original building, which opened nearly 110 years ago, while modernizing it in really thoughtful, detailed ways,” Gordon says. “They said it was awesome to have a place that’s perfect for a family getaway, a guys or girls trip, or a relaxing solo stay. We believe The Neighborhood can be a place for people to continue going back to and forming great memories.”
Among the things Gordon and his team left intact were the white arches that have been greeting visitors since 1912. The Neighborhood Grand Beach, surrounded by a canopy of trees, comes into view soon after guests drive under them.
The Neighborhood offers 14 sizable, stylish suites, including two cottage homes. A keyless entry code emailed prior to arrival makes checking in easy. Suites feature hardwood floors with large throw rugs, and one to three large bedrooms with comfortable Casper mattresses topped with Sferra linens.
Kitchens have dishwashers, microwaves, Moccamaster coffee machines, refrigerators, and some even have ovens. They also come with extra touches such as a s’mores kit, coffee from local spots, mugs from area restaurants, and a field guide to the area.
All suites offer plenty of sleeping space, large bathrooms stocked with C.O. Bigelow bath products, and dining tables. Some have private balconies and others have a fireplace.
One of the two-bedroom suites, for example, has a king bed, a set of bunk beds, and a sleeper sofa, in addition to a living room and fireplace.
The three-bedroom suite features a bunk bed in one room, a king bed and a queen bed in the other two, and a queen-sized sleeper sofa, along with two bathrooms.
Cottages are bi-level, with a bedroom and bathroom on each floor and a washer and dryer. The upstairs bedroom has twin beds and the downstairs bedroom has a queen. There’s also a queen sleeper sofa in the downstairs lounge area.
The décor throughout the building mixes bursts of color with natural earth tones, giving off a blend of backwoods cabin and beach house vibes. Outside, the sounds of nature and the aroma of pine trees and smoky embers from four fire pits with cooking grates provide a rustic feel to complement the luxury accommodations.
“Our style of suites combine the best of traditional hotel rooms and vacation rentals into one,” Gordon says. “People have been appreciating the mix of rustic and modern features. They also appreciate how any time they request something, they turn around and it’s there.”
The Neighborhood’s indoor and outdoor common areas offer plenty. There’s a large communal serving area and a living room area stocked with games, books, and even an old-fashioned popcorn machine next to the vending machine guests can use. There’s plenty of indoor seating, including hanging egg chairs, and on-site laundry.
An outdoor heated pool comes with beach balls and water guns. Swimming at a rocky, fairly secluded Lake Michigan beach is nearby. There’s also an outdoor ping-pong table and axe-throwing by appointment. Comfortable outdoor seating abounds.
“The Neighborhood performed a remarkable feat in its reinvention of a classic but aging summer beach lodge,” says Collette Kemper, who produces newbuffaloexplored.com, a travel site covering New Buffalo and the surrounding Lake Michigan shore communities. “Their fresh, modern, clever remodel acknowledges and celebrates the warmth and character of the original Grand Beach retreat, for a successful blend of old and new. I don’t think there’s another lodging product like it on the west Michigan lakeshore.”
Also outside, a Grillworks Asador is used by a rotation of professional chefs as part of the hotel’s pop-up food series.
Guests can also pre-order everything from breakfast staples to full dinners from local favorite Froelich’s, in nearby Three Oaks, to be in their suite upon arrival. Fresh-baked pies, wine, beer, and bloody Mary and mimosa kits can also be ordered. Froelich’s famous bagels are available on weekends.
The Grand Beach Golf Course, tennis and basketball courts, and a playground are either in walking distance or a short drive from the hotel. Indiana Dunes National Park, to the south, and Warren Dunes State Park, Galien River County Park, and Warren Woods State Park to the north provide numerous hiking and fall color possibilities.
“What’s really nice is that our 4 acres has a remote feel, but it’s actually in the heart of Harbor Country and provides a great base for visiting the area,” Gordon says. “We’re only about seven minutes from downtown New Buffalo.”
Katie Sumner of Mickey’s Dream Vacations, a Chicago travel agency, and her family stayed for a few nights in June.
“We’re currently staying at The Neighborhood Hotel and love it!,” she wrote on Facebook. “It’s in a very quiet, wooded area that gives it an Up North feel. There are so many extra special touches that you really do feel at home. If you’re looking for something other than a chain hotel, you need to check out this place!”
The Neighborhood Hotel Grand Beach