April 1, 2022 |
April Fools’ Day is a special day for Doug and Kathleen Campbell, especially this year. They’re celebrating 45 years as owners of the tallest building in Saratoga—and perhaps the most famous—the Historic Wolf Hotel and Restaurant.
April 1, 1977—the day they signed on the dotted line. The Campbell’s were living in California at the time. They wanted to move back to Wyoming to raise their family. Doug, a native of Kemmerer, remembers how the deal for the Wolf came together in that “Wyoming is just one big small town” kind of way.
As gamblers at the poker table say, the Campbell’s went “all in.” So committed was Doug a new life in Wyoming that he even sold his 1974 Corvette Stingray.
Almost like a scene out of the TV sitcom of the time, “Green Acres,” the Campbell’s packed their kids and whatever else they could into a Ford van and moved from sunny southern California to Saratoga.
When they arrived in 1977, the Wolf Hotel wasn’t what it is today. It was just a bar and a hotel. The restaurant would be added within a year. At first, a smallish, old-time bar stood in the front half of the ground floor where the dining room is located now. A barbershop was located on the west side of the building where the current bar is located.
Doug and Kathy went to work right away transforming and updating the Wolf for a new era.
The business was a family affair. Doug and Kathleen put the kids to work. Doug remembers Meghan plucking cherry tomatoes. Everybody had a job, but they also enjoyed a rich childhood at the historic hotel that had played host to the Old West. Young son Judd remembers Campbell kids having great fun with the traditional laundry chute, dropping toys and other items down the chute on the top floor and racing to the bottom to retrieve them. Judd also remembers playing in a stagecoach that was part of the Wolf charm in the early years. Doug remembers it, too.
Stagecoach drivers, and perhaps, mechanics, were hard to find. Along with the fun of growing up in an historic old hotel, came the hard work of running a restaurant. The restaurant business is a hard taskmaster. Only a few are successful. Not many last as long at as the Campbell’s.
Kirsten’s passing in 2014 at the all-too young age of 46 is one of the heartbreaking memories of the Campbell’s storied history with the Wolf. As her obituary reads, Kirsten, the ever-hopeful Cubs fan, was “the backbone of the kitchen in the Wolf Hotel for over 20 years, respected, loved and admired by a legion of friends and a tightly knit family.”
As the 45th anniversary approached this week, Doug thought back on the four plus decades of being located in the very heart of town. Even after all this time, he never forgets that it all began on April Fool’s Day.
The Campbell’s bought more than a business that April 1st. They bought a life, and a lifetime as the anchor of Downtown Saratoga.
The Historic Wolf Hotel and Restaurant
101 E. Bridge Avenue
Saratoga, Wyoming 82331