Discover small-town charm, premier golfing, and plenty of fun on Wisconsin’s deepest lake
Green Lake Inn has mid-century vibes but very modern amenities — Photo courtesy of Jack Harp Art
A guy walks into town and buys an old motel, a lakeside manor, a spa, a restaurant, and a former county jail. It could be the start of a joke or a spin-off of “Schitt’s Creek,” but it’s actually a true tale about a Chicago businessman whose self-proclaimed midlife crisis turned into a mission to resuscitate a small Wisconsin resort town.
Meet the man behind the revitalization of Green Lake, home to the deepest lake in Wisconsin, and discover why this bucolic resort town is worth a visit.
The beginning of Green Lake’s revitalization
Matt Rogatz has the enthusiasm of a Taylor Swift fan and the hutzpa of an entrepreneur. He has worked in commercial/industrial real estate since the mid-80s and has closed over $325 million in transactions during his career. He was once named among the Top 40 Under 40 by Real Estate Chicago magazine, and he currently serves as a Chicago city commissioner.
When a friend told Rogatz about Green Lake, he did a little research and saw that a 17-room “Schitt’s Creek” type of motel was for sale. Recognizing a promising opportunity and itching to explore a new challenge, Rogatz purchased the motel and updated everything, from floors and fixtures to the art on the walls. Outside, he installed pickleball courts, a pavilion, and campfire sites.
“When I purchased the motel, I didn’t know anything about running them,” he admits. “My thought process was, what could be the worst-case scenario: I run the hotel for a year, and, if it doesn’t work out or make money, I would just have it available for my family and friends.”
Rogatz didn’t have to wait long for paying customers to share his enthusiasm. Green Lake Inn now attracts a steady stream of golfers with its great golf packages to nearby Lawsonia and Tuscumbia (more on those courses later), as well as avid anglers who appreciate that they can plug in their boat motors and park their boats overnight.
The Manor on Green Lake
Matt Rogatz on the steps of The Manor on Green Lake — Photo courtesy of Harold Rail
With the motel’s success, next Rogatz set his sights on The Manor on Green Lake, a regal edifice that offered serene lake views but was in need of serious updating. The manor received new windows to maximize those views; new furniture, flooring, and light fixtures; updated kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms; and a new lake pier with solar-powered Jet Ski lifts.
With only five bedrooms and as many bathrooms, the main house at The Manor on Green Lake is an idyllic setting for a romantic lakeside weekend, family reunions, and small weddings. Adjacent to the main house is a cozy and well-appointed two-bedroom, two-bath guesthouse with a kitchen and living room.
A spa day at Élan Brio
Elan Brio Spa is a must-visit spot in Green Lake, Wisconsin — Photo courtesy of Harold Rail
Moving beyond the lodging business in Green Lake, Rogatz purchased a local spa formerly operated by Heidel House. The exterior of Élan Brio: A Life Spa might be rather nondescript, but stroll through the doors and you’ll encounter an elegant haven that offers an impressive menu of massage therapy, body treatments, and facials. There’s also a café that serves lovely salads, hearty sandwiches, and beverages, including mimosas, beer, and wine. Rogatz even bought a shuttle bus to tote his Green Lake guests to and from the spa.
The food scene in Green Lake
Goose Blind has been a go-to restaurant in Green Lake since 1977 — Photo courtesy of Harold Rail
Goose Blind has been a mainstay among restaurants in Green Lake for many decades, but when Rogatz arrived on the scene, the owner was looking to retire. Ever the entrepreneur, Rogatz folded the restaurant into his revitalization plan and added a new party room and a patio. Hungry visitors can enjoy brick-oven pizza, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and plenty of cold beer.
Green Lake’s Walk the Dog is a great place to eat — Photo courtesy of Jacky Runice
Yet, Goose Blind isn’t the only game in this storybook resort town. Other dining options include Sassafras Coffee and Treats for sturdy coffee and scratch-made baked goods; Adam’s Rib for barbecue, comfort food, and unusual soups like Chop Suey and Cheesy Chicken; and Walk the Dog for gourmet hot dogs and fancy french fries.
Also, don’t miss an authentic Wisconsin fish fry on Fridays or prime rib dinner on Saturdays at Langford’s Pub.
Planning the perfect Green Lake getaway
Take a ride on the deepest lake in Wisconsin. — Photo courtesy of Harold Rail
Rogatz isn’t finished revitalizing Green Lake. He has plans to transform an old building once used as a county jail into a mixed-use space for education, retail, and residential housing. Yet, this small Wisconsin resort town is already enjoying a renaissance, thanks to Rogatz’ revitalization efforts and the area’s natural beauty.
Green Lake is nirvana for lake lovers, who can enjoy the deepest waters in the state and 27 miles of gorgeous shoreline. You can fill your days with camping, biking, fishing, hiking, golfing, boating, and swimming. Be sure to stop at Lake Street Marina to rent ebikes, wave runners, kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes. And pay a visit to North Bay Sport & Liquor Inc., which can outfit you with most anything you need, from fishing licenses and live bait to fine wines, ice cream, swimsuits, and boating snacks!
Founded in 1896, Green Lake’s Tuscumbia Golf Course claims to be the oldest in Wisconsin — Photo courtesy of Harold Rail
More of a land lover? Green Lake has you covered. Here, you’ll find two outstanding golf courses. Lawsonia, a 36-hole golf destination, has been one of Wisconsin’s most popular golf spots for generations. Also, there’s Tuscumbia Golf Course, which bills itself as Wisconsin’s oldest golf course, founded in 1896. Dotted with towering evergreens, maples, and oaks, Tuscumbia offers 18 regulation holes and a Family Links nine-hole, par 3 executive course.
Green Lake weather and when to visit
The weather in Green Lake County hovers in the temperate 80s during the summer and in the 60s and 70s in the fall. Moreover, old-man winter typically doesn’t show his face until well into November. This makes Green Lake a welcoming getaway most any time of year.
Autumn attracts hikers and bikers for the vibrant Midwestern color show. The town’s largest event, Golden Days Harvest Fest, is celebrated in late September with an old-fashioned craft fair, farmers market, live entertainment, and hearty food and drink.
Throughout fall and winter, you can take a Sunday Morning Mimosa and Bloody Mary Cruise on Green Lake, thanks to Green Lake Tours. The narrated cruise will take you by the storied homes along the lake, including The Manor on Green Lake for a boater’s eye view of the stunning property.