The storied Idyllwild Inn has changed ownership. Long-time residents and community pillars Josh and Emily White will be leaving town for Montana. New owners David and Lois Butterfield will be partnering with Shane Stewart, whose team will be managing the business. Stewart said guests at the inn will see “no change at all in the operation,” but rather, a smooth continuation of the “status quo” under new management.
The Whites were the last (for now) of four generations who kept the Inn in the family and among the Hill’s most popular lodging options. With their intense involvement in every aspect of local life, they have done more than their share to make the community what it is.
The original Idyllwild Inn name dates back to 1904, when the old Idyllwild Sanitorium was converted to a lodge. That lodge building burned down within a year, and was replaced with a structure called “the Bungalow,” which itself burned down in 1945. Its more modern replacement was removed by a bank-ordered demolition in 1976. The Inn, through its various incarnations, was for decades the center of recreational activity in the village, with such offerings as tennis, horseback riding, dancing and even bowling.
The Idyllwild Inn name was picked up by Glenn and Nina Mae Froelich, who owned adjacent land with 12 of the original Idyllwild Inn cabins. In 1980, this was sold to son and daughter-in-law, Keith and Bonnie Froehlich, who in turn sold it to their cousins, Don and Joanna White, who in turn were bought out by son Joel and daughter-in-law Chris in 1987. In 1990, eight motel rooms were added to the existing 20 cabins, three of which dated back to 1910. Josh and Emily took up the business themselves in May 2005.
Josh and Emily met during Emily’s Biola University freshman orientation where Josh was one of the orientation leaders. After college they married, and Emily worked as a nurse while Josh finished his MBA.
With their first child born and Josh less-than-enthused about a future in corporate management, his parents made them an offer and Josh brought his new family back to the place where he had grown up. Emily’s nursing experience came in handy when injured PCT hikers showed up at the inn, and she worked as an RN at Idyllwild Arts.
Josh was coach of Idyllwild school’s mountain biking team, and a regular participant in cross-country and time trial biking events like the Spring Challenge. He and Emily were reliable hitters in the adult softball league. They fielded and played on their own Adult Coed Volleyball team. The children, Joel, Seth and Abbey, also figured prominently in Idyllwild School sports.
The Whites served as volunteers with many local nonprofit groups. Emily was a member of the Idyllwild Community Center (ICC) Playground Committee, and served as an Idyllwild Community Recreation Committee (ICRC) director. Josh was among the brave souls who took a turn keeping the old Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce going. They were also among the regular donors to the Idyllwild Scholarship Fund and Idyllwild Arts Foundation.
The Crier caught up with Josh and Emily this week and asked them to share their reflections on the family’s time in Idyllwild.
TC: “You’re going to Montana with family?”
JW: “Not for a year.”
TC: “Anything you can tell us about the Montana move?”
EW: “We have already purchased a home and 5 acres with my parents Dennis and Carol Dunbar with a gorgeous view of the Bitterroot Mountains. We have loved getting to know our new neighbors and attending a church there when we are in town. It is a rural area with lots of farming and cattle ranching. My parents are moving with us. We are moving for a more rural environment. We love the mountains, and it is less expensive than California, and a more business-friendly environment. We will probably start a new business, but definitely not in hospitality.”
TC: “What are you doing until then?”
EW: “I will continue to work as a registered nurse at Idyllwild Arts and Josh will be working for the Holldber family at Idyllwild Heating and Cooling.”
TC: “What do you want to say to our readers about your time here?”
JW: “The biggest thing would just be that our family has always loved being a part of the Idyllwild community.”
EW: “We have loved raising our kids in a small town; we have deep relationships with people here and that will be very difficult to leave — many friends that are like family to us.”
TC: “You have been very involved in many aspects of life on the Hill.”
JW: “We’ve been very involved; on the business community side those relationships were very important. It was wonderful having Chris Singer-Perault; we called her our ‘inn keeper mom.’”
TC: “She showed you the ropes?”
JW: “Yes. When she and her husband started, my parents were running the inn, and they helped her. When we came up she ended up helping us.
“We had great relationships with a lot of the different restaurant owners. Roberto Garcia at La Casita; Hubert Halkin, (Cafe Aroma co-founder) he was a guest at the inn, that’s how he got to know Idyllwild. Don and Mimi Lamp — she owned several businesses over the years, and we always tried to work together with them.”
Josh reminded us of Emily’s service on ICC and ICRC, and referred to her as one of the key people who helped build the playground. The couple also was active on the Idyllwild School PTA, Idyllwild School Booster Club and in the Idyllwild smArts Program.
EW: “We loved being so involved at Idyllwild School and getting to spend so much time with our kids and their friends over the years; definitely one of the benefits of small-town life. We were able to attend many of the outdoor education field trips like Joshua Tree, Pathfinder Ranch, Catalina Island Marine Institute (which Josh attended in both seventh and eighth grade at Idyllwild School) and Astro Camp.
Emily added, “Our most dedicated and faithful service in town has certainly been at the Idyllwild Bible Church. Josh grew up in that church and is now an elder there.”
TC: “Josh, what about your time coaching youth sports?”
JW: “It’s always been a joy and a pleasure to see so many kids grow up here and coach them from very little. Arturo Rincan, he works at La Casita and will be attending UC Berkeley this fall … I don’t know how many of my teams he’s been on. It was super fun to get involved in the mountain-biking team. Mei Li Stroud, (her dad runs the cafeteria at Idyllwild Arts, and her uncle now owns the coffee shop in town) — she had never really mountain biked before, and she was super interested in the team; she really took off. It’s always super to see kids find something new that they love. I helped coach all my kids at some point; mountain-biking, volleyball, basketball, baseball, soccer. This last winter I got to play volleyball in the adult league with two of my boys.”
Asked for final thoughts, Emily added, “We spoke at length with Josh’s parents, grandparents and other family before deciding that selling the inn was a good choice for us and for the family at large. We certainly did not go rogue or against family wishes with the decision. We had the family’s blessing and spent over a year asking family if they were interested in taking it over. Once we felt that we had turned over as many of those rocks as we could, we decided it was time to go public with our plan to sell the inn.”