By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Simply Sisters Retreat Center in Richmond was originally built in 1907 as a residence for the Benedictine Sisters who came to Richmond to teach the lower grades at Saints Peter and Paul School.
Despite being staffed and managed by the parish, the residence and the school belonged to School District #20 until 1951, when they were purchased by the parish.
The sisters fully staffed the school for many years, but gradually other teachers were added until the remaining sisters left in the early 1980s.
The residence was sold in 1986 to Kathy Schultz of Paynesville, who opened Mother Lucille’s Leisure Living Home, an assisted living facility. After 25 years of service, Schultz tried to retire in early 2011, offering the building for sale. It was empty for six months with no buyers.
In December 2011, while sitting in a bakery in Paynesville, Schultz and Farming resident Holly Roush were conversing about how to use the building. Ideas were tossed about, one of which was renting out individual rooms to vendors. Another idea was the possibility of offering it for occasional use to groups.
“We were once again at the bakery in January and Kathy suggested that the center would make a good quilting/scrapbooking retreat center,” said Roush. “It could be made available to groups of all kinds, such as families for reunions or other special events. Then Kathy asked me to be the manager.”
The name “Simply Sisters” was chosen to honor the origins of the residence as well as groups of sisters who may gather at the new center, said Roush.
A carpenter was hired to do some restoration and repair of the interior with woodwork and cabinets. A doorway was reopened from the kitchen to back parts of the residence.
Then ladies from Spring Hill were hired to paint the entire interior.
The retreat center has six private bedrooms and three double rooms. There are three full bathrooms and one half bathroom. The main floor is handicapped accessible, which includes the two bedrooms on that floor, and one of the bathrooms.
Most bedrooms on the second floor have their own sink and mirror. The eclectic decor varies from room to room.
The kitchen is large and fully-equipped with a full work counter and long stainless steel sink. A pretty set of china sits invitingly on an open shelf.
The original stained glass windows and frosted front door glass are intact.
The facility is air-conditioned and has the original radiators for heat. There is a tornado safety room (with no windows) in the basement. Smoke alarms are located throughout the residence, with a fire alarm control panel.
The third floor is a fully-outfitted two-bedroom apartment, which may be available in the future for smaller groups.
“As manager, I arrange for the cleaning and setup of all the rooms, marketing, advertising and reservations,” said Roush.
“It’s always been my dream to do something like this,” she said. “I tried unsuccessfully to purchase the empty parish house in Farming in 1998.”
The first group registered will be using the center May 18-20. They are eight quilters from Paynesville ready to inaugurate the new facility.
“Here is a 74-year-old lady [Schultz] starting a new venture and it’s nice we’re able to help each other fulfill our dreams,” said Roush.
Simply Sisters will host a grand opening Saturday, May 26 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone attending the open house and making a reservation will receive a 10 percent discount good for their entire stay.
The owners invite guests to tour the historic and spacious Simply Sisters Retreat Center, strolling through the rooms, picturing a relaxing weekend getaway. Refreshments will be served.
Simply Sisters is giving away a two-night stay for eight as a prize for the Minnesota Quilt Shop Hop. Visit quiltminnesota.com for details.
For more information, contact Roush at (320) 309-8006 or (320) 548-3409, or visit her blog at [email protected]