Sally Schmidt dreamed of opening a beautiful bed and breakfast.
Her husband, Tom, longed for the peaceful Wisconsin countryside.
In the end, they got the best of both worlds and couldn’t be happier.
Tom and Sally Schmidt own Sabamba Alpaca Ranch and Bed & Breakfast in rural Brown County, a few miles south of the Green Bay area.
“Marriage works best if you compromise, so that is what we did and it has been a great decision for both of us,” Sally said.
The unique operation features three complementary components: a ranch with 55 Huacaya alpacas; a bed and breakfast with two quaint guest rooms in their remodeled 1890s farmhouse; and a store that sells a variety of alpaca-related clothing and accessories.
“This business is one that we can enjoy and work together,” Sally said. “We don’t usually call it work because we like our lifestyle so very much. It keeps us young, and our bed and breakfast allows us to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world. And it makes me especially happy when I can sell our clothing to people who work in the cold or have special health needs that make them struggle with our cold temperatures.”
The Schmidts had been living in California for a decade when they decided to return to their home state of Wisconsin and start Sabamba (the name was created from the first letter of the names of their seven children). The couple got to work remodeling an 1890 farmhouse and boarded their initial herd of alpacas for the first year. In the fall of 2007, the couple moved in and began developing their Huacayas alpacas into an award-winning herd.
Sally said they chose to raise alpacas on the former dairy farm property because they are “easy to care for and a unique end product to sell.” The land made Tom feel right at home since he grew up on a 100-cow dairy farm.
“(Alpacas) are intelligent and gentle, healthy animals,” Sally added. “Being around them daily has a way of creating a wonderful lifestyle for Tom and me. I believe that is because of their gentle nature. I love selling the end products that we produce to consumers because of its superior properties — soft as cashmere and warmer than wool.”
The bed and breakfast was added in 2009 and Sabamba steadily developed a strong following, with last year bringing in its best numbers to date. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected business this year, but the couple remains confident that when travel picks up again so will their business.
The lodging operation features a pair of quaint, nicely decorated rooms. Rosie’s Room offers an old-fashioned, queen-size sleigh bed and whirlpool tub. Lori’s Room provides an elegant queen-size bed and cherry furnishings with a cozy fireplace and Victorian-style vanity. Breakfast includes coffee, juice, a fruit course and a main dish course, of which the two favorites are Blue Berry Pecan French Toast and Our Famous Frittata.
Sally said guests are “very excited” when they discover the business incorporates both an alpaca ranch and a bed and breakfast.
“The ranch is quite popular,” she said. “After 13 years of being in the business we have developed a very nice business. Both our retail customers and our B&B customers return to the farm often for their fill of products and fun moments with the animals.
“We give our guests the option of being interactive with the herd or not. If they choose ‘yes,’ we teach them how to do the daily feeding and care of the alpacas. If they choose to just sit on our lovely porch with a good book and enjoy watching them, that’s great too. All guests can take (the alpacas) for a walk and have their photos taken with them.”
Sally noted that the key to balancing the three components of their business is, “We manage them as a team, and we also have a few employees to assist us.
“It surely keeps us on our toes, but the three pieces work together well to create a successful business model that works for us,” she added. “Tom and I work very well together as he handles the fencing, hay making, equipment care and maintenance, and I focus on the breeding, training, fiber production, retail store and bed and breakfast. We both work together when it comes to caring for the animals.”
And what does Sally think about her career in agriculture?
“This is my first farming experience, and I love it!” she said. “I would not go back to city life.”
Sabamba, located at 2338 Hickory Road, southwest of De Pere, offers free, self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; the store is open during those same times. To schedule a private one-hour tour or to learn more about the all-day “Alpaca Experience,” call 920-371-0003, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Sabamba’s website at www.sabambaalpaca.com.