Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

June 23, 2012

Oakwood Inn in Syracuse has a new owner

Dr. J. Rex Parent has plans to reopen the facility.

SYRACUSE — The Oakwood Inn along Lake Wawasee has a new owner. Details are still being worked out, but Dr. J. Rex Parent, a Fort Wayne-based ophthalmologist and longtime lake resident, submitted the winning bid on the site.

After months of uncertainty, Parent said, the community can look forward to some real changes. Significant clean up in the landscaping as well as refurbishing the hotel will begin within the next few months.

Parent reported the building is “pristine” on the inside — structurally sound and very well built. Immediate projects will include cleaning up the outside, removing scrub growth that obstructs the view of Conklin Bay and refurbishing the heating and cooling systems. He intends to have the hotel and the restaurant operational by spring 2013.

Parent submitted his bid just before the deadline, after careful consideration by his entire family.

“We are all really excited about it,” he said. “My sons and their families, as well as other family members all own property on the lake. We hope to make it into a happy place — the best it can be.”

According to Parent, Ian Rolland’s involvement was an influencing factor. Rolland, who served as the receiver since accounting anomalies were discovered more than three years ago, aimed to find a way to preserve the operation in a way at least similar to what it had been.

“I bought it because it makes me crazy to see it sit,” Parent said. “But if Ian hadn’t been involved, I’d have just let it go by.”

Hoping that lake residents will accept what is done there, Parent also candidly stated his intention to make money.

“I will need to get a return on my investment,” he said. “I know a lot of people feel like they own it, and I know there will be some people who won’t like what we do, but I’ve purchased it, and now it will be a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ — not a committee.”

Parent’s sons were involved in the decision to take on the project. One is a builder/contractor who has developed properties in several states. The other also has a multi-state enterprise, dealing with people who live in upscale retirement communities. With that kind of experience, the family has agreed they will be the “liaisons” between management and the owner, who is a physician with an intense schedule.

“I don’t even know how many piers are approved to be put in,” Parent said. “That is something Ian worked out with the Conservancy. I’m hoping it will again be a place for weddings and church groups.”

On the evening before the bidding closed, Parent was with his wife, sons and their wives in Florida, all discussing the pros and cons of taking this step. On a trip to a convenience store, Parent was drawn into a conversation with the former dean of hotel and restaurant management from the University of South Florida.

It seemed a remarkable coincidence, Parent said. While flying back to Indiana early the next morning, he was again drawn into a conversation, this time with a military chaplain. Still marveling about meeting the dean, Parent explained to the chaplain that he was still undecided.

“What more do you need?” was the Chaplain’s response.

“So I put in the bid and I won,” Parent said. “Now what I want is to look across from where our place is and see something that is good for the lake. My heart is really in this. My job is to take people who can’t see, and make them see, and to do it right and make it a good experience.”

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