The Creekstone has dominated the four-way stop called Fern Valley Corners since 1947 but this is its second incarnation as a hotel. Until about 20 years ago, Hill dwellers associated the building with food.
In 1946, as the country recovered from World War II, Michael and Dorothy Michelsen discovered the magic of Idyllwild. They were searching for a climate drier than the coast to assuage their daughter’s asthma. Their original idea of running a motel evaporated once they saw the lot available at Pine Crest and Circle Drive, which seemed ideally located for a grocery store.
Fern Valley was blossoming with new homes and cabins, and the area’s developers, Strong and Dickinson, hoped to see a commercial center there rivaling Jerry Johnson’s enterprises in downtown Idyllwild.
The Michelsens planned their building with upstairs living quarters and meeting facilities, but the required lumber would have blown their budget. In those days river rock was free for the taking, so twice a day for three months they gathered and hauled truckloads up the Hill, resulting in the timber and stone building we see today.
Their Fern Valley Market opened to great fanfare and the huge fireplace anchored a space to hang out, play pinochle or catch up on village happenings.
Mike was an innovator. He offered regular customers what amounted to prepaid debit cards for discounted grocery purchases. He created a persona, Jose Gottgrub, for Town Crier ads; “Your Day with J.G.” episodes combined weekly specials with humorous advice, all embedded in Ernie Maxwell cartoons.
In 1951 the Michelsens leased the market to Leigh and Margaret Dutton. Dutton’s Corner Store operated for five years until the Duttons elected to concentrate on their downtown enterprises, which included Village Market. Bill and Emma Fletcher took over, restoring the Fern Valley Market name.
In 1958 the Fletchers departed, and for a time the market was operated by the Braughton brothers, owners of the neighboring Fern Valley Bakery. The space was shared at some point by a restaurant, Margaret Voie’s Nottoosure Café.
After the building got its 15 minutes of fame in November 1961 as a filming location for Elvis Presley’s “Kid Galahad,” the Michelsen family sold it to Robert and Janice Oates.
That winter, Oates’ construction and real estate businesses moved in; a memorable alpine-style remodel paved the way for Scotty and Elena Ellison’s Alpine Market. And Kitty Thomas and Mary Blackburn relaunched the restaurant as the Alpine Pantry.
In 1972 the Alpine Pantry moved to the former Pinecraft furniture showroom next to the Idyllwild School (now Mile High Cafe). It was replaced in 1976 by a popular Italian restaurant, Michelli’s, which enjoyed a 10-year run before relocating to Highway 243 in 1986.
In 1981, the Alpine Market closed its doors and the grocery business centered in downtown Idyllwild.
Creekstone Inn was purchased in 2020, renovated during the great COVID 19 pandemic. Reimagined as the younger hipper version, The Creekstone began welcoming guests in July 2021.