It didn't take Mike and Jen Quinlan long to see the potential benefits of Midwest living. The couple recently turned an 1881 farmhouse, along with four acres of land, into a bed-and-breakfast known as Moon Grove Farm in rural Mahomet on the Piatt County line.
"We enjoy our day jobs, but we've always been interested in trying to do a small business ourselves and something that really connects with us," Jen Quinlan said.
While she hails from Maryland, Quinlan's husband, Mike, was born and raised in Champaign. The couple met in Chicago and previously lived in Austin, Texas, where Jen described her 14 years of work in the tech, software and advertising industry's "southwest Silicon Valley."
"I had a blast living in that area, but we just kind of hit that point in our early 30s," Jen Quinlan said. "We really wanted to come back and be with family."
Establishing their roots at 2702 N. 1500 E. Road, the Quinlans got to work in creating not only a destination bed and breakfast, but also a must-go setting for locals with an acre for you-pick flowers.
"Through some of our travels, we stayed at an off-the-grid farm in Oregon and learned how to make cheese and had a wonderful experience," Jen Quinlan said. "That was an eye-opener to us."
During the trip, the pair lost cellphone connectivity and at first were frustrated with what they believed to be an inconvenience. Later, they utilized the experience as a way to relax and retreat.
"It became a really wonderful thing. We had the time to read books or go out hiking," she said. "Those things stuck with us for the past six years to try to find a property and a place that people can come out here and stay, and if they want to use their cellphones, then by all means they can, but at least we think there's something special about being in central Illinois."
Opening this weekend, the bed and breakfast houses three upstairs bedrooms, which are outfitted with queen-sized beds and a private bathroom. The home is equipped with a dining room, kitchen, living area and restroom, along with original structures to the property, including a preserved three-seater outhouse and two barns.
"We have all of the wonderful parts of an old house, but also with all of the perks of functioning air conditioning, new windows and good plumbing," Jen Quinlan joked.
Also unique to the property are several 200-year-old sugar maple trees that "bow down and touch the ground."
"They are perfect for family photos," Jen Quinlan added.
More than just a weekend getaway, the Quinlans hope to provide you-pick flowers beginning in June. Inspired by Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, Jen Quinlan volunteered with the Champaign business for the past year and half simply to learn the ins and outs of running a small agriculture business.
"It just felt like there might be a market need in Mahomet specifically for not only just commercial growers but also more small-scale growers that can be a tourist destination as well," Jen Quinlan said. "Our hope is that this whole front acre out here will be a variety of flowers."
You-pick flowers, along with the bed-and-breakfast, will continue through October when the Quinlans hope to implement even more activities for area residents.
"I can hope that by the time we hit fall, we'll have our second barn cleared out as well and maybe host a few fall events," Jen Quinlan said.
Events to look for include movies on the side of the barn or a mini art gallery. A painter herself, Jen Quinlan said the barn would be a perfect environment to host such an event.
"I'm hoping for the future of my work or friends' work as well, to do small creative experiences, like a gallery night, in our barn," she said. "Something fine art in a really, really, really rustic setting would be a unique mash up for people to engage with."
Beyond opening their home to the public, the Quinlans expressed their deep commitment to preserving the history of the home. Previously owned by the Dickson Family, the Quinlans have an aerial photograph of the farm from the 1960s hanging on their dining room wall.
"We have photo copies from local family members (Dwight Huffstutler) of horse and buggy families pulling up to the properties," Jen Quinlan said.
"I've seen older properties being mowed over to put up something brand new, and there's absolutely a market for that," she added. "But I think to us, we just really respected and appreciated that this is an older property that's been modernized, but it's nice and maintained."
The Quinlans have already received a great deal of interest in their bed-and-breakfast, especially from Chicago residents who previously attended the University of Illinois and want to visit their old stomping grounds.
"Everything is just so fast and busy these days," Jen Quinlan said. "I think that's something that we strive to provide is a calm, relaxing rural settings for couples, a group of girlfriends or small families just to unwind together."
The tech industry worker said she considers the first year as a learning experience and certainly welcomes community input to improve the small business.
"I think this is a two-way process for us," she said.
To learn more about Moon Grove Farm, visit moongrovefarm.com. Jen Quinlan advised locals to keep a close eye on the Moon Grove Farm's Facebook page to see when fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables will be available throughout the season.
"This will be very much so a community-focused farm," she said. "We can't wait to meet the community and to hear from everyone about what they like, what they would like us to do in the future and to evolve."