Resting in the foothills off the Mississippi River near Galena, this cozy bed-and-breakfast is gaining plenty of notice for its unique setting and high-class amenities. And those magnificent sunsets? They’re only the start of something wonderful.
The sunset. It’s something to truly marvel at Goldmoor Inn, 9001 W. Sand Hill Road, in Galena. Located atop a hill overlooking the Mississippi River, this bed-and-breakfast is perfectly positioned for dramatic shows every evening as the sun falls over the Iowa treetops. And this time of year yields some of the most impressive shows Mother Nature has to offer.
“We have great sunsets up here. My goodness, you get hypnotized,” says Slobo Radin, who owns the inn with his wife, Birgit. “When people see our sunsets, they cannot believe it is possible.”
Neither could the Radins, when they first discovered the inn nearly eight years ago. Born and raised in Germany, the pair found everything to be new and exciting in Galena. Now, they enjoy sharing that same enthusiasm with every visitor who arrives at Goldmoor Inn.
The elegant, castle-like inn is situated in the rolling Galena countryside, barely 7 miles out of town. Eighteen cozy suites feature plush amenities and private balconies that offer up sweeping views of the landscape. Log cabins and cottages near the woods provide a serene escape. A spa offers rejuvenation and relaxation, while the on-site restaurant serves up farm-to-table, made-from-scratch seasonal menus five days a week.
But the real secret to Goldmoor Inn lies in the details – and not just the little things, like the fresh cookies and flowers waiting for you inside each suite. The Radins have poured a lifetime of hospitality experience into the inn, as they seek to provide a five-star-level service to all who visit.
“We always treat our guests like we’ve known them all our lives, and whatever we can do for them, we will do,” Slobo says. “Maybe it’s a dietary request or another need. But there’s a sense of comfort. We say this is an extension of our family, and we have a tremendous amount of repeat business because of that.”
The Radins are closely involved with every aspect of the inn. Birgit most often manages rooms and customer service while Slobo handles food and beverage services. Together, the pair pitch in wherever they’re needed.
“We are really involved in every aspect of it,” says Slobo. “We try to greet and connect with each customer, to get to know them and share our story. It’s personal. I go to every table every night to find out where our business comes from, what people are doing for fun, how they found us, for example. It’s all a personal touch.”
Slobo says he looks forward to mingling with guests and helping them to feel welcomed.
“It turns into a beautiful conversation,” he adds. “In today’s world, where everything is so tense, to have a beautiful conversation creates comfort and people are happy to talk in a peaceful environment. You’d be amazed how many people are aching to have that conversation.”
There are always surprises, as people relate how they’ve come from Chicago, Indiana, even Minnesota.
“That’s a 13-hour ride to go to a place you love to go. Is that great or what?” says Slobo.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Radins have rethought every part of the business, as they seek to ensure every guest feels comfortable in their accommodations. Masks are required in common areas, and all staff are up-to-date on vaccinations, says Slobo.
At the same time, more people are taking time to truly get away from the hustle and bustle of life. The past two years have brought longer stays – often a week long – as people reconnect with themselves and the land.
“The winter up here is really pretty,” says Slobo. “There’s no pollution, so when it snows it’s really clean. I say it looks like Disneyland up here, that’s how untouched nature presents itself. It’s a dream come true.”
The Galena area is filled with opportunities for a relaxing couples getaway. Multiple wineries dot the countryside and historic Main Street, where most buildings have been well preserved since their construction in the early 1800s. History abounds in a town that was once home to nine Civil War generals, one of whom was a U.S. President – and his home is now a public museum. Culinary experiences, forest preserves and the arts come in abundance. And just uphill is Chestnut Mountain ski resort, a favorite hangout all winter.
“People look forward to recharging their batteries and coming home with a refreshed mindset,” says Slobo. “I always say, ‘Once you leave us your batteries are completely recharged and you can face anything that comes your way.’ That really is true. There’s no noise around us, except birds and wind, and there’s no big corporate commercialism.”
The relaxed and inviting atmosphere around Galena captivated the Radins on their first visit. They loved it so much they decided to stay.
The couple were born and raised in Germany and have spent three decades in the hospitality industry. Their early career work in Germany took them to South Africa and eventually to the United States.
“When we first left Germany, we left because we wanted to see the world and experience other cultures, music and food,” Slobo says. “We joined Westin Hotels in Johannesburg and transferred with them throughout the United States until it was time to retire.”
The Radins’ deep experience and passion for their industry are apparent in many aspects of the Goldmoor, where Birgit and Slobo take painstaking care to ensure every detail is just so. When things get tight, the couple may even be spotted washing dishes, making up rooms or handling other tasks behind the scenes.
Slobo laughs when he hears someone say it’d be terrible to be a dishwasher. “No, it’s the best job,” he says. “You get to know everything about the inside operation in food and beverage. You know how the chef does things, and you know where everything is located.”
After decades in the corporate environment, the Radins longed to settle down with an inn of their own, someplace where they could follow their own philosophy. For two-and-a-half years, they scoured the United States, looking for the right balance of size, charm and good upkeep.
“We went all the way up the Northeast and around the country, including in Colorado, trying to find a business,” Slobo says.
Then, one day he and Birgit got a call from their agent.
“They said, ‘Look, we got a castle for you in Galena, Illinois,” Slobo recalls. “I said, ‘What? A castle?’ Yes, a castle.”
The pair had worked in Chicago three times and had never heard of Goldmoor, let alone Galena. They were amazed at what they found: beautiful terrain in the only mountainous area of Illinois. A deep historical footprint. Views of the Mississippi River and a beautiful landscape.
“It was basically love at first sight,” says Slobo. “When we came out here, climbing up the mounds to Galena we saw all of these beautiful corn fields on the left and right. It looked almost like a green ocean of waves, as far as the eye carries you on the right and the left. Endless corn farms. That was a really breathtaking experience.”
And then there was the inn. Its castle-like structure had been a work of love created by Patricia Smith and her late first husband. The inn and its restaurant had earned many accolades, but that prominence had waned.
“She lost two husbands in five years, and that really took everything out of her,” says Slobo. “She completely lost interest in the business.”
Since taking over eight years ago, the Radins have refreshed the Goldmoor while remaining true to its founders’ vision.
“It completely went through a facelift. It has been completely painted inside, and tremendous improvements have been made outside,” says Slobo. “It was built as a labor of love, and it’s being improved as a labor of love, too.”
The couple are putting the finishing touches on a wholesale refresh of every suite, every cabin and every cottage. The two cabins and three cottages, set against the woods, have been upgraded with new flooring, bed covers, draperies and decor. Inside the inn, all 18 suites have been improved to fit more with the original European-style castle setting. A cheerful color palette keeps things light and airy. Authentically reproduced oak furniture adds to the charm inside. New mattresses are made custom in nearby Dubuque, Iowa.
“They are the best mattresses you have ever slept on,” Slobo says. “People say, ‘I can’t believe this is the first time I ever slept through the night.’ That speaks for itself. These are all very important comments to us, because that means we are doing what we hope our guests are looking forward to and enjoying.”
And then there’s the restaurant, where new head chef Brandon Veitch is wowing diners five nights a week. The Goldmoor’s dining room is open to the public – not just overnight guests – Thursday through Monday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The restaurant menu changes seasonally, with an emphasis on locally raised, seasonal cuisine. Summertime dishes feature vegetables raised in the Goldmoor’s own gardens. On the winter menu, expect to see many root vegetables and other delights, including one constant: Beef Wellington.
“Our chef has a different take on the way food is presented on the plate,” says Slobo. “He creates these highways of flavors and all of the stop signs, as I call them. He puts new flavors together that complement the dish, so you are tasting flavors that work together very well. It’s really genius. I’ve been around food and beverage my entire adult life, and I’ve never seen so much creativity in one individual.”
Most dinners can last 1.5 to 2 hours, as people soak up the atmosphere and enjoy sweeping vistas of the Mississippi – and those lingering sunsets – just outside.
“We want to attain five-star quality, and at that rating you have to be absolutely certain your standards are exactly how you developed them,” says Slobo. “We position ourselves for consistency, variety and seasonality. We always change our menus with the season, and we buy the best money can buy. There is no second rate.”
Spend a night in the Chef’s Quarter suite and you’ll find that signature combination of luxury and natural beauty. The sun greets you through the eastern windows each morning, then puts on a stunning show out the western windows in the evening. The jacuzzi relaxes. An entrance off the kitchen provides seclusion.
“You shut the door behind you and you’re in your own little world,” Slobo says. “And then you have the moon starting on the eastern side and going up and all the way around. You have so much nature and relaxation. Is that not something? That’s exciting. You don’t want to go anywhere else. It’s really a dream.”