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A Real Estate Mogul Found Opportunity in a Midlife Crisis and Turned Hotelier; Here's His Journey

Matt Rogatz, a former industrial real estate mogul, made an unconventional choice during a midlife crisis. He purchased the Green Lake Inn in Wisconsin and, through savvy investments and renovations, turned it into a thriving tourism venture.

In the heart of Wisconsin, a tale of an extraordinary midlife shift is unfolding. Matt Rogatz, a seasoned property developer hailing from the bustling city of Chicago, chose a path less traveled during a midlife crisis. Instead of buying an extravagant sports car or embarking on an exotic adventure, he set his sights on a small-town hotel in Green Lake, Wisconsin, which he turned into a remarkable tourism venture.

A general view of properties at North Lakes | Getty Images | Photo by Glenn Hunt
A general view of properties at North Lakes | Getty Images | Photo by Glenn Hunt

With over 30 years of experience in industrial real estate, Rogatz's career was nothing short of illustrious with more than 400 transactions totaling an impressive $750 million under his belt. But Rogatz found himself at a crossroads, since his career had brought him great professional success but had left him yearning for something more.

Rogatz first discovered Green Lake during a five-hour weekly round trip from his home in northern Chicago to this picturesque small town in Wisconsin, where his high school friend's family resides. The charm of Green Lake, with its serene environment, beckoned him, but Rogatz still had reservations about entering the hospitality industry, since he believed that he lacked the knowledge and experience to run a hotel. Stories of difficult hotel guests and the restaurant business's reputation for theft only deepened his skepticism.

However, an internet search in early 2021 changed his perspective entirely. A small-town hotel, known as the Green Lake Inn, was up for sale, and this 17-room property nestled on 1.5 acres of land was situated a stone's throw away from the "downtown" area. It was also close to the impressive 7.3-mile-long Green Lake, rumored to be the deepest in Wisconsin, and Rogatz decided to take the plunge, with a vision that he could at least utilize the inn for private getaways and family vacations.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach
An exterior view of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach | Getty Images | Photo by Archive Photo
Fontainebleau Miami Beach An exterior view of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach | Getty Images | Photo by Archive Photo

In the following months, Rogatz embarked on an ambitious renovation project to breathe new life into the Green Lake Inn. Fortune favored the bold, and time proved to be in his favor, since people were eager to resume activities and travel in the aftermath of the pandemic. Rogatz's gamble paid off, and the Green Lake Inn began generating substantial returns.

With newfound confidence and ambition, Rogatz expanded his vision. He went on to acquire The Manor, a grand waterside villa and guest house with its boat dock, previously known as The Angel Inn. This seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom property underwent a significant transformation, shedding its dated look and adopting modern finishing. Rogatz's ingenuity came to the fore as he envisioned the potential of creating wedding packages that encompassed both the Green Lake Inn and The Manor, and even bought a minibus to increase convenience for tourists.

Rogatz's journey was reminiscent of a Monopoly player on a winning streak, and his entrepreneurial spirit remained unquenchable. When the opportunity presented itself, he acquired the local spa, √Član Brio, adding hair and beauty treatments to the portfolio for weddings, along with saltwater pools.

Rogatz kept adding to his portfolio by incorporating the Goose Blind bar and restaurant into the mix, and partnering with local golf courses to create vacation packages tailored for fishermen and golf enthusiasts. The acquisition of Green Lake's three-story former jail opened up the potential for hosting indoor activities during the winter, such as boutiques, flea markets, and cooking and mixology classes.

Beyond his career, Rogatz's venture has also transformed Green Lake, turning it into a thriving year-round destination. His vision includes attracting adventure seekers and building relationships with cities to promote Green Lake as an attractive alternative to more crowded destinations like Lake Geneva. He sees potential in winter months, offering activities such as ice sailing, ice fishing, curling, and dog sledding.

For Rogatz, Green Lake's vacant properties aren't seen as a red flag but as an opportunity to ignite a "renaissance" in the town. His approach resonates with other investors who have also recognized the potential of Green Lake, including the purchase of local golf courses, cafes, hotels, and bowling alleys.

While some locals may express concerns about increased activity and tourism potentially changing the town's character, the Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce welcomes the opportunity to put Green Lake on the map, particularly during the winter season.

Rogatz's journey exemplifies the power of embracing unexpected opportunities, even in the midst of a midlife crisis.