Door County ‘Lives Up to Its Nickname as the Midwest’s Cape Cod’ – Wall Street Journal



Just when you thought the housing market was heating up, the Wall Street Journal threw gas on the fire after publishing an article titled, “Door County Lives Up to Its Nickname as the Midwest’s Cape Cod”. The article is on the wave of second-home buyers from as far away as Texas and California that are transforming the Door peninsula into a high-end, year-round destination. Beneath the article headline it states, “The most expensive home currently for sale in Wisconsin’s Door County is this 6,800-square-foot, 8-bedroom, located on an acre lot facing the Lake Michigan inlet of Green Bay. The asking price is $8.3 million.”

Interestingly enough, I’ve been asked if I’m in Cape Cod a half dozen times when taking video calls with clients while sitting outside on my deck. My answer is always the same, “Yes, of the Midwest”, and then I go on to inform them that this is the new Bay Area where the real innovation is happening.

A look at Google Trends shows that the majority of Google Searches for Door County come from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri. It will be interesting to see search traffic patterns as this article is consumed around the country, as it was first posted on August 12th.

The article is centered around a new wave of buyers swarming to Door County to purchase second homes on the waterfront with galleries of several beautiful homes, including the property owned by the Mellos shown below:

The rear of the Mello house faces a calm stretch of Lake Michigan… SARA STATHAS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The article talks about several buyers who are reshaping the landscape and driving up home prices in the county and bringing buyers from around the country who intend to live here year-round.

“Luxury sales in Door County have increased dramatically, says Diane Taillon, owner of Arbor Crowne Properties, located in Ephraim, just south of Sister Bay. In 2015, there were six Door County home sales above $1 million; in 2019, that number rose to 10, which then doubled to 21 in 2020.”

Here’s an excerpt from the full article:

"Dallas venture capitalist Ed Mello has fond memories of idyllic summers spent on Cape Cod in his native Massachusetts and more recent memories of oppressive summers at home in North Texas. In the midst of last summer’s lockdowns, Mr. Mello, 63, and his wife, Nancy Mello, a 61-year-old financial adviser, began longing for a northern getaway.

They found what they were looking for on a bluff above the Lake Michigan inlet of Green Bay, on Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. Known as Door County, the narrow peninsula, dotted with forests and farmland, has sandy beaches, hilly terrain and four distinct seasons. Locals looking for a shorthand explanation to explain its appeal to outsiders call it the Cape Cod of the Midwest.

“That moniker fits,” says Mr. Mello. In June 2020, the Mellos made a $1.5 million offer on a fully furnished, 4,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home built in 2005. They closed in July and went on to enjoy the rest of their Wisconsin summer, viewing Green Bay sunsets from nearly every room while listening to wind blow through the birch trees on their 1.1-acre lot.

Mr. Mello says the new vacation home is used year round, especially as an escape from sizzling summers. The Mellos are part of a new wave of buyers who are helping to transform Door County from a rustic outpost catering to primary homeowners from Wisconsin and Illinois into an upmarket, second-home destination with a national profile."

Photographed is The White House, owned by John White and his wife, Antoinette Chouteau White. It’s a front-line Door County home with a private pier and a bay-facing porch. The owners divide their time between Lake Forest, Ill., Sanibel Island, Fla., and Door County, Wis.


As a 32-year-old first time home owner with a house on Sturgeon Bay, I welcome the new residents and buyers and have enjoyed talking with people from all over the country. It’s refreshing to hear the different accents, unique perspectives, and learn what brought new buyers here from across the country.

While there is a major housing shortage and record-high demand, especially for homes on the water, the trend of buyers who intend to live here year-round is exactly what is needed to shift our economy from being so dependent on the summer vacationers. There is only so much waterfront property and the pandemic has served as a reminder for how important the environment you live in is to your mental and physical health.


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