Meet Obertal Inn Owner ~ Hans Mulders

obertal inn owner hans muldersI was born in the Netherlands and raised in Ethiopia, where my family and I lived from when I was 6 months old until I turned 12. Actually, on my 12th birthday, my sister, who was 13 at the time, and I flew without adult supervision from Addis Ababa (Capital of Ethiopia) to Amsterdam. This must be where my permanent sense of adventure comes from.

I finished high school and decided I wanted to do the same things as my dad – become an engineer and travel the world to underdeveloped countries and create jobs and development for them. While going to the Technical School, I found a job as a server in a restaurant in the Netherlands. Boy, did I ever hate Technical School. After two years I had seen enough and decided to leave school and work full-time as a restaurant server. While working as a server, I realized that I loved that job and the type of work, so I decided to continue working as a server. Education is extremely important to my family, and my parents were not too happy about it, but went along reluctantly.

After about six months my father asked me if I was happy and if I wanted to do this for the rest of my life, or if I wanted to go back to college to get a degree in Hotel Management. I knew that I wanted to be involved in the hospitality industry for the rest of my life, so I decided to go back to college. I went from being a C/D student to an A/B student at the hotel school. I absolutely loved it!

While going to college, I went to France during the summer vacation and managed a campground with two bars and a restaurant. I had the time of my life! The owner let me do whatever I wanted, so we bought hundreds of pounds of meat and ground our own burgers and I asked my little brother, Richard, to buy kilos of Indonesian spices so I could make my mom’s Sateh Ajam (chicken sateh,) which we sold to the campers. The owner ended up doing so much more revenue than expected that he actually paid me twice as much as he had agreed to when the job started. This gave me a good taste as to what our industry was like, but it also solidified a hankering for having my own business. I liked being able to do what I wanted, while providing financial results for the owner.

After college, I interned in Germany, near Frankfurt and worked at a Holiday Inn for two years and worked in every department to learn about how they operate. My last boss suggested I go to the US for a semester to study at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and then work in the US for a period of time. My J1 visa came with a 1 ½ year work permit and I thought that might be a lot of fun!

In 1984, on my birthday, I arrived in Manhattan. After the seven-week summer courses, I had a job offer in Santa Rosa, CA, opening what would become the Sheraton Round Barn Inn. I climbed up the ranks quickly and the company liked what I did so they sponsored me to get an H1 visa for an additional 1 ½ years.

In the meantime, I met my wife, Andrea, who was my administrative assistant. Looking back at it, I am happy the consequences of inter-office relationships weren’t fraught with peril in those days. We married in 1987 and celebrated our 36st anniversary in 2023. We have one beautiful daughter, Anneke, who was born in 1998. In September 2018, I finally got my act together and applied for citizenship, which I received on March 13, 2019, so now I am a proud citizen of the United States of America and maintain dual citizenship in the Netherlands.

My wife and I, and later on our daughter, have lived in Santa Rosa, CA; Foster City, CA; Dallas, TX; Miami, FL; West Long Branch, NJ, Chelan, WA and currently reside in Leavenworth, WA.

Andrea and I purchased the Obertal Inn in Leavenworth in November of 2010. Leavenworth is an amazing little Bavarian Village in Central Washington and attracts tourists from all over the world. It is situated in a gorgeous valley in the Cascade Mountain Range, about 2 hours east of Seattle. To learn more about how Leavenworth became this Bavarian Jewel, click here

At that time, I was 52 years old and risked our entire life savings on making my dream a reality. Needless to say, I am eternally grateful for my wife allowing me that indulgence. We put everything on the line and if this had not worked out, we would have been in pretty terrifying financial conditions. So, here we are, more than 13 years later, we have built a thriving small business in the heart of downtown Leavenworth. We have worked tirelessly to improve our hotel and have invested well over $6.4 million in capital upgrades and the acquisition of other properties since purchasing the hotel. We own the lovely Garden Haus, a small one-bedroom cottage in the heart of downtown Leavenworth, with a lovely yard and its own private hot tub.  We also own the Wunderbar Building, which has 8 beautifully appointed 2BR, 2BA condos, with the best views of the surrounding mountains.  We have added 24 vacation rental properties as well, all, except one, in the downtown core.

For most of my career, I managed large departments in large luxury hotels and ended up in 2004 as the General Manager of Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch, NJ, a multifaceted 250 room hotel on the beach in NJ with revenues of over $27 million. In 2008 I moved to manage the Seaview Resort & Spa near Atlantic City in NJ. When the economic downturn in 2008 hit the hospitality industry particularly hard and I was tasked with the unenviable job of laying off more than 150 people.  This shook me to my core as I do not believe in this type of corporate behavior.  After I had completed the horrible task of letting so many people go, the company I worked for and I did not see eye to eye as to how to move forward and the company even went so far as to hold me responsible for the downturn, so I decided that after 30 years of working in corporate America it was time to make my lifelong dream a reality and strike out on my own.

When we decided to strike out on our own, we made one pledge and that was that if business ever got really bad, we would ALL tighten our belt, including Andrea and I and we would not engage in the destruction of tens of jobs, like typical in the corporate world. Our goal was to build a thriving business, where ALL participants in the business are beneficiaries of the actual value they created.

  • We immediately created a strategy to add benefits and pay increases over time.
  • After 13 years of extending pay increases EVERY year, without fail, I am happy to say that our current starting wage is a minimum of $20 per hour, with most of my employees making well over that.
  • These pay increases average more than 6% every year since we started.
  • Our goal now is to increase the starting wage to $25 per hour by the end of 2028.
  • We also added three weeks of PTO for every employee, based on the hours worked in an average week.
  • We match up to 6% for our employees’ 401(k) plan and hand out bonuses every year as profit sharing.
  • In addition to that we do some fun things, like a gift card to Safeway every Christmas, several dinners every year with all our employees, and many other items.

A long time ago, one of my early mentors asked me “Hans, why are you in the hotel business?” He told me to think about it and tell him when I figured it out. It took me a couple of days, but it hit me when I realized that, in effect, we are doctors. Now before you start laughing, think about what we do. When you make plans to stay with us, you likely must drive here. You are also likely to just wanting to get away from the daily grind for a bit. After your drive and under the stresses of daily life, I am pretty sure your blood pressure has risen a bit and you are somewhat tense once you arrive at our Inn. We are equally certain that, once you have stayed with us, slept in our comfortable bed and enjoyed all we have to offer, while we have done all the “working” for, your drive home will be less stressful than when you arrived here. I guarantee it! (I hope it’s not a copyrighted phrase from the Men’s Wearhouse.) That is why I see us as Doctors.

So, let me invite you to come to Leavenworth and stay with us. I am very confident you will like it as much as the 100’s and 100’s of guests we have taken care of in the past! If you want to read about our previous guests’ experiences, please visit our Tripadvisor reviews, click here, or Google reviews, click here

Penned by Hans Mulders

“This trip was to give my wife a Christmas surprise. Room was clean, quiet and the view was amazing. We didn’t want to leave. It turned out to be a memory we will always cherish.”
~ Tony,