Dying for a good night? Wishmaker House owners planning special Halloween event

BELLVILLE — The stately house on Bellville’s Main Street, previously home to two local doctors, is going to take on a new kind of life the week of Halloween.

The Wishmaker House, now a bed and breakfast and restaurant/winery, invites anyone with a sense of adventure to participate in a “murder mystery” evening Oct. 29.

That date is a Monday night.It butts up again Halloween, or “All Hallow’s Eve,” on Oct. 31.

Jennifer Van-Meter, who owns The Wishmaker House with husband, Don, said she thinks the event fits the date and day.

This will be the first event that will be open to the public.

The “Crime and Pun-ishment” event will encourage participants to solve a murder mystery set in the 1920s. A group of actors will mingle with those attending. The event also will include a four-course seated dinner. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m.

Van-Meter said some guests will be picked out as participants to help solve this horrendous crime.

The privilege of contending to be a winning detective will be $75. People who wish to stay at The Wishmaker House will get a 20 percent discounted rate on rooms at the inn.

The event is going to have beverages “indigenous” to the time, Jennifer Van-Meter said. Drinks with gin were popular then, she said, but the drink selection hasn’t been finalized. Information about the event has been posted on Facebook, and the response so far has been good, said Van-Meter.

The event can accommodate 46 people, she said.

Don Van-Meter said he and his wife came up with the idea to get into the bed and breakfast business a long time ago, and that idea was reinforced by travel to several locations, trips suggested by Jennifer.

The two, of Marysville, visited the Maker’s Mark brewery in Kentucky, and stayed at a bed and breakfast they initially wanted to buy. That idea didn’t work.

For Don Van-Meter to be in the bed and breakfast business, and making wine, might seem unrealistic. He said he doesn’t like alcohol. But he also decided when he turned 50 to explore possibilities.

He said his business acumen comes from owning 74 rental units. But, he said he learned he had handled that all wrong.

He decided he loves history, and “historical architecture.” With Jennifer’s help, he said getting to run The Wishmaker House “clicked.”

Jennifer’s business background was as mentor and counter manager selling Clinique products. This was in Columbus.

Don Van-Meter said he “loves the story of this place,” referring to The Wishmaker House. He recounts the stories of Dr. Eli Stofer and Dr. Wallace Buker, the two doctors who lived in the house.

The building, purchased from Brad and Karen Smith, had been redone, with precision, by Smith. Van-Meter said Smith had taken down all the partition walls and revealed load bearing walls. Then the house was refurbished, and decorated by Karen Smith.

Involved in the emergence of The Wishmaker House, was Vic Swisher. He is married to Cassie, the Smith’s daughter. Swisher, a village council member, learned how to make wine and brought that expertise to Bellville.

Don Van-Meter said Swisher once made a batch of Malbec, which took him 1½ years. He didn’t consider it good enough, and dumped it. Swisher has been helping Van-Meter in learning wine making techniques.

Now, Van-Meter is planning on introducing a new wine, a pomegranate elixir.

He said the idea came from Jennifer.

The basement of The Wishmaker House is set up with 11 vats. Juice gets delivered to the house, and through a complicated process is converted into wine. This involves adding nutrients. The winemakers add their own variety of yeast, which was selected by Swisher. The wine sits in the vats, and gets bubbly. It takes four to five days to ferment, said Van-Meter.

The wine is then capped, which kills off yeast. Sediment in the wine filters to the bottoms of the vats, then gets get drained. It takes three months for the wine to process. This involves “racking” three times. Wine that has set for a time gets transferred to a clean tank. Then the process of sedimentation occurs again.

There is $62,000 worth of wine sitting in the basement. When it is ready, it sells for $87,000. But bottles, ingredients and labels have already taken $15,000 off any profit figure, said Don Van-Meter.

It is possible to taste what would be a rough wine right out of one of the vats, Don Van-Meter said. The vat containing Isabella grapes and blackberries, the makings of “Midnight Rendezvous” wine, has an edge when tasted at this state.

When wines are ready for bottling, the process moves to a stainless steel bottler. This, like all equipment in the winery, is constantly sterilized, Don Van-Meter said.

Then, when it is time to bottle, the event becomes festive, and downtown neighbors come to participate, he said



By Louise Swartzwalder

Bellville Star