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Sisterly love rejuvenates old hotel

Every day is a family event at the Mohren swissinfo.ch

It is unusual enough to come across large Swiss families nowadays, and extremely rare to meet eight sisters running a hotel and restaurant.

This content was published on May 21, 2008 - 10:00

Eight is definitely the lucky number at the Mohren in the central Swiss town of Willisau: eight peas in a pod decorate the menu cover; a mixed salad starter costs SFr8.80 and if you want to stay the night there are, of course, eight rooms to choose from.

Doris, Berti, and Agnes manage the place; Conny's in the kitchen; Claudia and Madeleine are in the back office and Helen and Pia help out wherever they can. Any one of them may take your order.

The Wyss sisters grew up in the picturesque countryside not far from Willisau. They remained best of friends into adulthood, even after starting their own families, often meeting up or taking holidays together.

Then one day over drinks at the Mohren, they learnt that the 16th-century establishment was going to be leased.

The sisters jumped at the opportunity to do the one thing together they had never done before: run a business. The only woman wary of the idea was their mother.

"She was afraid at first because operating a restaurant would put us in the public eye and she was worried what people would say about us," Pia remembers. "But she is still very proud."

The sisters have done a gentle makeover of the Mohren, careful to maintain the rustic and convivial atmosphere of the wood-panelled dining rooms.

Ingredients

Its charm is one reason to eat or sleep here, but it is the sisters who set the Mohren apart since there are plenty of cosy inns and eateries in this area of Switzerland.

Yet Pia admits this is only one ingredient for success.

"The eight sisters attracts people to the place and the cook makes them come again. We have a very good chef," she tells swissinfo.

The very good chef is George Bocxe. Heating a frying pan to prepare a dish of char with fresh lemon and parsley, he is nonchalant when asked what it is like to answer to eight sisters. "It doesn't matter whether I work for men or women," he says.

Man of the house

"I think it's good that we have one man," adds Claudia, referring to the fact that besides George, the Mohren employs four other people – all women.

The bookkeeper, and youngest sister, says she soon expects the Mohren to be in the black, quite an achievement in the one-and-a-half years the octet has been running the place.

The success has silenced their mother and all of their doubting husbands and children. But Claudia and Pia smile when asked if being business partners had strained their relationship.

"We see another side of each other," Pia says diplomatically. "It's quite different from spending holidays or weekends together."

An added bonus of spreading the responsibility means none of the sisters has to work full-time, with most maintaining the jobs they had before.

They have even found a solution to keeping the Mohren open when they go on holiday – together of course: their four brothers have promised to take over in their absence.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in Willisau

Key facts

The Mohren dates back to 1574.
It is located in Willisau, near Lucerne. The town with a population of just over 7,000 residents has an impressive 16th-century gate and decorative fountains.
The Willisau jazz festival at the end of August is one of the most popular events of its kind in Switzerland.

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