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When Richard and Kim Quiblier typed in “small resorts for sale” back in 2015, they did not know what they would find.
The couple, who had spent much of their career traveling the country while working the professional golf circuit, had finally decided to hang up their life on the road and find a place to put down roots.
Their Google search brought them to The Grill at Whispering Woods Cabins, an older resort featuring a restaurant that overlooked Norfork Lake. The cabins had been built by Cecil and Irene Jennings in 1944 to house workers as they constructed the Norfork Dam.
Intrigued by what they saw online, the couple traveled to the resort after working a golf event in Lexington, Kentucky.
It was love at first sight.
The couple bought the property, sold their Minnesota home, and moved to Arkansas just in time for the summer season in 2015.
Seven years later, the couple continues to oversee one of the best fine dining restaurants and resorts that Baxter County and North Central Arkansas has to offer.
“I literally Google’d small resorts for sale, and this is the first one that came up,” said Kim Quiblier, co-owner of The Grill at Whispering Woods Cabins. “We came to view it with no intentions of buying it. Just to come to see it. We actually saw the potential here. The view and we liked the area. It was quite surprising and not what we expected.”
The Quiblier’s journey to the Whispering Woods starts in Europe.
Born to Swiss parents in Washington D.C., Richard would find himself leaving the United States for Switzerland at the age of 16.
After arriving in Switzerland, he would apprentice as a chef in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he would work for 20 years. While in Switzerland, Richard worked at fine dining restaurants like Le Débarcadère and Lausanne Palace.
“They were all high-end hotels,” said Richard Quiblier. “That’s kind of where the famous people, or, at the time, a lot of oil princes would come in to visit Europe because Geneva is the center of commerce.”
Following his 20 year career in Europe, Richard would move back to the United States and begin working as the executive chef for Prom Management Group, a catering company that focuses on providing fine dining for major golf events such as The U.S. Open, PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, and Champions Tour.
There, he would meet Kim, who was working as a hospitality service manager for the same company.
Kim, a native of Devon, England, spent much of her life on the road, traveling across Europe and spending time in the Bahamas before finally moving to the United States to work.
The couple married in 2009.
“We were based out of Minnesota before we moved down here,” Kim said. “We were on the road a lot. About 250 days a year. So, we decided we kind of wanted to sleep in our own bed and get a dog.”
After taking over the Whispering Woods in 2015, the Quibliers began expanding and remodeling their new restaurant and resort.
The 11 cabins on the property were fully remodeled and redecorated to provide overnight guests with a better experience. The restaurant, built as a country store in the 1940s, was given a remodeled kitchen and an outdoor patio section overlooking the lake, expanded restrooms, and a new indoor seating section.
The Quibliers also moved to operate the resort and restaurant year-round instead of shutting down for the winter. The restaurant also began opening Tuesday through Sunday over the Wednesday through Saturday schedule it used to follow.
“We did two additions at the same time and a complete kitchen gut and remodel, and Lyle Crownover did that for us in a very short space of time,” Kim said. “And then, during that time, we were working on the cabins to the resort. We’ve done full remodels on virtually all the cabins, bar one. A complete gut down to the studs because, well, they’re old and needed a lot of work.”
The Grill at Whispering Woods Cabins features a lunch and dinner menu, with cooking overseen by Richard and his professionally trained crew.
While moving to Arkansas, Richard brought several of his fellow chefs with him to the resort, elevating the quality of the food at the restaurant to new heights. And while many of his Minnesota crew have gone on to lead their own kitchens in Mountain Home and the surrounding area, Richard has still maintained his kitchen through good local hiring practices and training.
Richard said he based his menu, which features gourmet dishes like pan-roasted chicken, French onion smothered pork chops, salmon meuniere, Yaki Soba noodles, burgers, and prime cuts of steak, on the local population instead of tourists.
He said he estimates that 90% of the restaurant’s guests are from Mountain Home and the surrounding areas and also said many of the resort’s guests travel to the resort just for the food and stay overnight.
“I think being given a quality product at a good price, a little bit different than what everybody else was doing around here,” Kim said. “That solidified right from the beginning, and then we just expanded from there. We’ve never really done any promotion of the resort. It’s just natural progress. As people see the restaurant, they have certain expectations for the cabins too. But, I think the biggest thing is consistency. Rich is a really good chef, and he has a good team back there.”
Whispering Woods has both two-bedroom and one-bedroom cabins on the resort’s property. Each cabin includes a flat-screen TV, a DVD player, WiFi, a full-sized stove, refrigerator, microwave, and more. Cabins are pet-friendly and are non-smoking.
The resort also includes outdoor picnic areas, grills, swings overlooking the view of the lake, a children’s play area, horseshoes, and a large fire pit for roasting marshmallows at night.
Whispering Woods is five minutes away from two marinas on Norfork Lake and 10 minutes away from prime fishing spots on the White River.
“We have a lot of great customers,” said Kim. “A lot of great support from the community. We have a great staff. We’re just very fortunate because it’s a good place to be.”
For more information on The Grill at Whisper Woods Cabins click here, or call (870) 499-5531.