This time last year, you could probably find Rita DeVore behind the
counter of downtown Battle Creek's Shrank's Cafeteria & Catering
Co., whipping up one of her comfort food specialties, like mac 'n'
This year, Rita's still cooking, but if you want to taste her
latest creation, you'll have to hop on a plane and travel a few
thousand miles to the lush land of Costa Rica.
July, Rita and her husband, Steve DeVore, moved to Costa Rica, where
they bought The Canyon House, which they re-named Casa Bella Rita, a
bed and breakfast in Santa Ana, a suburb of San José.
Making the move from Battle Creek to South America was something she and Steve, 56, had wanted to do for a long time, Rita said.
"There were many reasons why we chose Costa Rica," said Rita,
who bought Shrank's from her father in 1982. "Warmer climate, Costa
Rica is a peaceful nation, cost of living is lower, great food, the
cost of insurance is lower and the people are very nice."
Travel had long been a passion for Rita and Steve, who took
yearly trips to Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.
Self-confessed "warm weather addicts," Rita and Steve knew when they
were done with Shrank's, which they sold last year, that they wanted to
move somewhere south of the equator.
Costa Rica, with its high mountain peaks, low cost of living
and easy, breezy lifestyle seemed a perfect choice for the DeVores,
said Steve, who found the bed and breakfast while scouting possible
property locations late last spring.
"I knew as soon as I saw it, that this was the place we were
meant to be," Steve said of Casa Bella Rita, which overlooks a large,
"When we wake up in the morning we get to look at a huge canyon
that our house sits literally on the edge of," Rita said. "I still get
a little scared when we drive up in the mountains, but I'm adapting and
learning to love it."
They closed on the property, which features six bedrooms, in
mid-July and moved there shortly after. And though few changes were
made to the hotel, the DeVores did tweak how the destination was
The hotel, about seven years old, was built by a gay couple who
turned it into a clothing-optional bed-and-breakfast. It stayed like
that for two years, Rita said.
In fact, Rita was the first woman to spend the night at the bed and breakfast.
"It's no longer clothing optional, and now is open to straight and gay couples," Rita said.
Most of the bed-and-breakfast's customers remain gay men, Rita
said, but the house is open to everyone. She said she hopes Casa Bella
Rita can attract small weddings and create honeymoon packages.
Rita and Steve said their days at Casa Bella Rita are in stark contrast to their time heading Shrank's.
This time last year, Rita and Steve might have spent 12 hours a
day in the cafeteria life, taking care of everything from early morning
preparations, three meal services, catering preparation and delivery,
ordering, cleaning — a cycle they repeated daily.
Now Rita and Steve wake up to the sun rising over the high,
vine-covered walls of Casa Bella Rita. Some days they have guests in
the house, which has bedrooms named after animals and plants of Costa
"We still get to cook and meet new people. We have a very nice
staff, although a small staff," Rita said. "A busy day is twelve
people, not 1,200."
On slow days, Rita and Steve shop for food at the local markets
or pick fruit from the orange, limon dulce and banana trees right
outside their doorstep. Across the canyon, Rita said, lies a sugar
field and a butterfly farm.
Rita and Steve also make time to help others, including doing volunteer work with a local woman that takes in street dogs.
"We ended up adopting two ourselves, named Topo and Ratatouille," Rita said.
The DeVores said while they miss their family and friends in
Michigan, they still get to see them; they plan to return several times
"Plus, we've had people wanting to visit us, check out this place," Rita said.
Rita's 26-year-old daughter, Meredith, plans to join her mother
and move to Costa Rica with her boyfriend in a few months. "I can't
wait to show this place off."
Though Rita and Steve acknowledge their move might seem bold to many, they wouldn't have chosen any differently.
"I love Battle Creek and all my time I spent there," Rita said.
"But you only live once and there is a big world out there to discover.
I didn't want to wake up one day and regret that I didn't take a
chance. This is our paradise."
Stephanie Antonian Rutherford can be reached at 966-0665 or firstname.lastname@example.org.