New short-term rental property group to offer guests ‘curated’ Dowagiac experience

Published 9:52 am Thursday, September 16, 2021

DOWAGIAC — Desmond Lathan was the man of the hour Tuesday evening.

The Chicago real estate associate and Dowagiac entrepreneur hosted several guests from the Dowagiac business community and beyond for the ribbon-tying ceremony for his new venture — Hatch Street Manor — and the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours event.

Described as a “southwest Michigan boutique guesthouse,” Hatch Street Manor is a new short-term rental property located just outside of the Dowagiac city limits that first opened its doors Aug. 1.

Guests were able to tour the property, a 2,000 square-foot space featuring four bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms that sits on three acres of land. The property features a home theater, an expansive deck with dining for more than 16 people, a fire pit, and a “tiny house” on the property.

A reception area was hosted in the property’s back yard and featured a Taqueria Del Rey food truck, mobile bar The Wildflower Well providing refreshments and live music by pianist Dennis Glander.

“It’s exciting to be open,” Lathan said. “We’ve had a really good response so far. It’s good to know that the need is there for housing, which I feel like we knew going into this. We’ve been trying to think of new and creative ways to bring people to the area as well as showcase the businesses that people can come here and visit.

“We’re trying to hopefully not just create a weekend stay but actually curate an experience for people, which I think is exciting.”

Lathan’s new venture is just the latest from the Stay Dowagiac Collective — a group of properties developed to offer guests clean, comfortable and sophisticated places to stay for people looking to experience the community.

“Our collective hopes to bring a quality experience and hopefully a curated experience,” he said. “We want this to be more than just ‘here are your keys, welcome to Dowagiac.’ We can recommend dinner, brunch, shopping, beaches, all of those things. I think that is what our collective will do that most Airbnb’s don’t.”

The SDC currently consists of three properties: The 1870 House — owned and operated by Dowagiac residents Zena Burns and Richard Jackson, The Altus Apartment — owned and operated by Shannon Lyons and Cathy McBride and Lathan’s Hatch Street Manor. Joining the properties next year will be Wonder Woods, a new “boutique lakeside campground” business from Sister Lakes resident Stephen Westman.

“We all bring different experiences to this collective,” Lyons said. “Desmond is in real estate, so he knows how to do photos and Zena is in marketing, Stephen has years of hotel experience, Cathy is tech-savvy, and I know people. To have all of us contribute to making this the best experience. I think it sets us apart from other Airbnb’s.”

Chamber President Kris Soenen, owner of Who Knew? Consignment, believes that the SDC will be a major asset to the community.

“It’s great that these businesses are working together to develop and raise awareness of what the community offers coupled with places to stay, which we’ve had a lack of in recent years,” she said. “The fact that they’re so willing to come together and market in that way is such a great example for the rest of us because it’s about community and when one boat rises, we all rise. We’re excited to have that energy.”

For the members of the SDC, collaborating with local businesses to curate a “Dowagiac experience” is important.

“My wife and I along with a friend did the [Underground Railroad Society of Cass County Site Driving Tour] the other day,” Lyons said. “More people should know that’s a thing, and that’s the sort of thing that we can direct people to. There are all these hidden gems in this area and between all of us, we know a lot of them.”

“Sometimes, people are like ‘I just want to stay, lay on the couch and watch Netflix,” Lathan said. “But a lot of times, people are like ‘we’re here for three days, what should we do?’ And as a collective, we can tell them.”

According to Lathan, the opening of new wedding venues in the Michiana area will be a potential boon for business.

“With the new wedding venues and people coming to town, we’ve noticed that parties are looking at all of our properties together, which is huge,” he said. “You’re having a wedding? Great, 10 are staying here, five are staying at Shannon’s and five at Zena’s. You can’t get that anywhere else where each place has the same level of care and detailing.”

The SDC’s relatively close proximity to major metropolitan areas including Chicago, South Bend and Detroit has brought guests from all over the country to Dowagiac. Lyons believes the SDC offers guests the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy what Dowagiac has to offer.

“I think people are looking for a getaway,” she said. “People want to get out of the city, they want to relax and they don’t want to be in a crowd. They just want to kick back and enjoy their friends and family and we offer that. There’s tons of things to do around here, and you don’t have to be on the lake and deal with all those crowds. You can just come and enjoy the people that you’re with and visit with people in town.”

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