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The Stella Hotel hosts opening day for guests
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The Stella Hotel hosts opening day for guests

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Everyone loves the thrill of an opening day.

There’s a special excitement of enjoying something that’s new and an anticipation of pleasant surprises to come.

Monday was the long-awaited opening day for the Stella Hotel & Ballroom, the reincarnation and the expansion of the Heritage House, a historic Kenosha fixture that has risen from its former empty shell to become a new, grand creation in downtown Kenosha at 5708 Eighth Ave.

For some of the opening day guests, their stay would be a fun-filled, one-night affair, with the thrill of being the first people to stay in the 80-bed boutique hotel that was developed by Gorman & Company, a contractor noted for resurrecting historic buildings.

They were greeted and welcomed with flutes of champagne by Martin van Iersel, the hotel’s director of food and beverage.

Stella General Manager Tim Sokley said he expected 25 to 30 people to check in Monday.

The official first guest to check in at the boutique hotel was Joy Sundstrom, an optician and lifelong Kenosha resident who dreamed of doing something she would remember for the rest of her life. Being the first to check into the Stella, she said, would be something she will never forget because, as she says, it represents “a change in my life, a bolder more adventuresome me.”

Sundstrom placed her reservation in early January not only hoping to become the first to stay in the hotel, but also to honor a dear deceased friend, Chris Roemer, who she said was actively involved in a citizen’s initiative to save the Heritage House from being torn down.

Though she is only staying for one night, she plans to have a small party of friends visit and to possibly enjoy some ice cream across the street at Scoops.

The first couple to check in was Karen and Todd Johnson, who also were staying for a night. Though they will celebrate Karen’s birthday today, they wanted to be one of the first to stay at the hotel on its opening day. The Johnsons made their reservation on Jan. 7.

Todd Johnson, a real estate agent, said he not only was impressed with the decor, but thought the Stella was a much-needed addition to downtown.

“Kenosha needs a high-end place like this downtown,” he said.

Another couple that checked in during the 4 o’clock hour, Edward and Janet Hibsch, wanted to be a part of the first-day excitement and, as new owners of EWH Transportation, hoped to give free limousine rides to all the other guests who wanted to tour around the downtown restaurants and night spots during their brief stay.

A portion of the Stella is still being completed. It will have a banquet hall and ballroom on the second floor, and there will be an open rooftop terrace on the fourth floor of the building.

“Guests on the fourth floor of the original building will have an excellent view of downtown and the lake,” Iersel said.

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