Outdoor Enthusiasts Welcomed!

16 July 2011

We very much enjoy the opportunity to help our guests plan either a full day of outdoor activities or help them find the right place for dinner. Ultimately, we then get to live vicariously through our guests. Especially during this busy time of the year, we tend to be so involved with our guest relations and keeping the Inn in top shape inside and out that we have to make sure we schedule our own personal time to enjoy this great area. I mean, we moved here as we wanted to experience this area… right?

As with any business, profession or vocation that you love, you should find it easy to literally pour yourself into the day to day operations and to a great extent, blissfully lose track of time. It is very easy to do, I know from personal experience now as an Innkeeper!

So, here is how we insert some Vermont time into our day with some of our/my favorite Outdoor Pursuits -

Bicycling – the Rec. Path is just a 1/4 mile away and provides a wonderful lunch hour break. The trail is 5.5 miles one way and typically I can make that roundtrip of 11 miles or so well under an hour, unless of course I stop to take photos and get distracted by the ever changing scenery along the Path.

Hiking – there are several short hikes within minutes of our Inn – Moss Glen Falls is one of our favorites and an easy one to slip out of the Inn and enjoy.

Golf – unbelievably beautiful vistas from every hole of the Stowe Country Club. The SCC is not a fussy, high brow kind of place but one where I am likely to see a neighbor a fellow Rotarian, our own guests or get partnered with a tourist and have a great time and a good conversation over a Trapp Lager at the 19th hole. It feels more like a club that happens to be in in the country.

Sailing – ok, I have to admit, I do miss the Chesapeake Bay (our former home of 20+ years). Stowe, VT is a heck of a long way from our other favorite town, Oxford, Maryland, where we used to spend some great family time in the summer sailing our 19′ Mariner. “Oh Chessie,” though most would consider as a small sailboat (at least by Chesapeake Bay standards), is still a bit big for most of the bodies of water near us. While Lake Champlain is really only about 50 mins. away, typically it is difficult to fit this into the time schedule of a Innkeepers life. And Lake Memphramagog is just 60 mins. north along the border with Canada, that too is even more difficult to squeeze in.

As most of us inherently know, of all of thie “things” we can possess, time is probably the most precious (though I guess one could argue or question whether or not you can actually possess time). We typically do not know how much time is left in our personal account and unless you have “hit the lottery” or “have other means” we all of course have to “make a living” and consequently have to strike some realistic balance in our pursuit of happiness and surviving.

That is why it is so critically clear to this dreamer, now Innkeeper, that prior to creating this Chapter 2 in my/our life I had better find a balance in my life for the things “I have to do” and the things I truly “want to do.” And if you are really lucky, as I believe I am, by witness of being here in Stowe, Vermont, you find a way to do both. I am still challenged with that pursuit to find that balance each and every day and can’t imagine it any other way.

We look forward to helping you find your passion or perhaps retreat here in Stowe and hope you feel comfortable while here to share your Stowe experiences with us on the back porch at the end of the day. Happy Trails All. George

Innkeeping in a Stowe Vermont Lodging Business

7 July 2011

Even in our relatively short tenure as Innkeepers of the Brass Lantern Inn we have spoken to many, many guests that tell us, “you know, my husband/wife/partner/better half and I have always talked about running a Bed & Breakfast.” We realize that this lifestyle may inspire some romantic notion of a wonderful alternative to the corporate 9 to 5 work style but please note this innkeeping gig is not just about baking cookies or sharing life stories over a glass of wine with our guests. Though these are a couple of the perks.

We tell our guests, with a very sincere smile, “perhaps you would like to take the Brass Lantern Inn on a test drive.” “We would be happy to let you step in and get the experience of what it is like to own and operate a B&B” here in Stowe where there are numerous choices for owning and operating a Stowe Vermont Lodging experience.

Even our local banker, when completing the final loan approval documents, asked me this one final question “This isn’t the Bob Newhart syndrome is it?!” And if you are too young to know that reference just Google it. I’m sure the local bankers have seen these corporate type burn-outs looking for utopia here in Stowe, Vermont, many times over. Perhaps even a place like ours in the form of a romantic and historic farmhouse. And perhaps there have even been a few, or maybe, unfortunately, more than a few who never fully understood the risk of this type of business and somewhere in pursuit of the dream they lost track of reality. You have to do your homework.

And we did our homework. Among the many “due diligence” items the number one item was attending a three day seminar for “Aspiring Innkeepers,” through the B&B Team, www.bbteam.com . The setting for this seminar was at a beautiful Bed & Breakfast, the Captain Jefferds Inn, in the picturesque coastal resort town (and summer home of George Bush) Kennebunkport, Maine. The B&B Team, which at the time included Peter, Rick and Jan gave us an amazing level of personalized service from this first seminar to our initial searches of B&B’s for sale through in-depth due diligence analysis of the purchase of the Brass Lantern Inn. Completing your homework is essential. Remember what your high school teachers told you about completing your homework assignments? They were right.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a hobby or a side venture, it is a business that we have developed, work on daily to maintain and is the basis of the support our family. It is our livelihood. And it is through this business that we now have the luxury to call Stowe, Vermont our home, with a commute that requires only a walk down our hallway and the incredible opportunity to welcome guests to this beautiful area, guests that quickly become our new friends. And as you would imagine, it is the opportunity to meet incredible people from around the world that becomes the real reward of this business/lifestyle.

So, you still want to be an Innkeeper? Give us a call, we would love to chat about it and perhaps even give you a chance to take her out for a spin around the block.

Service, Please!

26 June 2011

Service, Please!

It appears that in this country, and the world for that matter, we seem to have lost the sense of what “service” stands for. I’m sure we can all share some horror story or two regarding air travel or trying to return some defective product to a store.

As Innkeepers our “product” can certainly be defined by our physical building and grounds. We work hard to provide a level of comfort and atmosphere in our Inn at a level we hope is above expectation. Service is also something that is expected to be part of the overall experience of a stay in a Bed and Breakfast. And it is the service “with a personal touch” that you will find in most Bed and Breakfast’s and one that we can promise you will find at the Brass Lantern Inn.

A couple of examples of the two extremes of Service –

The Bad –

Fourteen months ago I purchased a new yard tractor at a local store (affiliated with a huge, national chain of stores). On June 19th, while mowing our 1.5 acre yard, the tractor began to run very rough, as if it was ready to shut down. This rough running occurred whenever I engaged the mower deck. It seemed to run better, but not like new, when the mower deck was disengaged. That’s great, but I needed to mow the grass, not use it to pick up a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk at the corner store.

I called the number listed with the Two Year, Unlimited Warranty. By the fourth person on the line I felt like I had shared the symptoms of my problem sufficiently to at least have someone give me some idea of the severity of the issue and even offer a potential resolution. After confirming that yes, I am the owner, and no, I have not been abusing the machine, the service representative explained that the first chance that a repair person could be out to “look at the tractor” was July 23rd, a full 5 weeks away. And the service representative seemed to be telling me this with a straight face. I’m sure they were just following the corporate line on this kind of issue. I needed to speak with someone of a higher pay grade.

After more phone calls and here is the real motivator, posting my situation with blow by blow detail on this national chain’s Forum/Discussion Board the July 23 appointment was changed to June 25th. It is amazing how powerful the internet can be…

And, as anyone who has been in this situation could script – Repair person comes out this past Saturday, opens the hood of the tractor, listens to the rough running, pulls at a few wires and says, “yep, you need a new ‘coil’.” I then say, “great, do you have the part in your truck (with my fingers crossed?” Repair Person, “No, sorry, it is a ‘Special Part’ that we will have to ‘expedite’ delivery.” So of course I ask, “when do you anticipate delivery of the part.” “Well, my computer here says it will be, July 25….” Lovely, so what am I supposed to do with my yard for the next four weeks? I think I will see if a local farmer has some sheep that they could lend me.

In my book that is not service. That is meeting the absolute minimum of a warranty agreement. Period. Ultimately, this has left such a negative impression on me that I can promise you that I will do my best to never, ever purchase anything from the company ever again.

And for a positive example –

Our family had plans to go on a spring vacation to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, just outside of St. Michael’s in particular. Online, we saw a rental house listed through a local realtor that appeared to meet our needs; bedroom space for our immediate family and a dock for our sailboat. Deposit submitted, confirmation receipt from the Realtor and we began to packing for our vacation.

About two weeks prior to our planned arrival, we receive an e-mail from the Realtor, “sorry, the owner of the house can not honor the originally agreed reservation.” No explanation provided. I called the Realtor to discuss. Turns out that the owner of the house neglected to tell his wife about our reservation request (that included Easter Weekend) and they had plans for a family gathering there themselves.

The Realtor explained that he would do everything he could to provide us with a comparable house. He really was on it immediately. After a few options we were presented with a wonderful house (larger than our original reservation) and at no additional cost. It was most likely a better house in the end and the Realtor never discussed or presented any issues of additional payment due.

We had a great vacation as a result of great service. And if poor service warrants a review, then good service does as well. I posted our story on the rental web site to show others that this Realtor provided an excellent level of service. We sincerely hope that others that may be considering a stay through this agent see that service is a key component of their business model.

We hope to provide our guests with that “ah, this is just the getaway that we needed!” kind of experience. Given the chance we will show you our level of Service. And if you are still skeptical and you have a moment, check out what others have to say about our level of service on TripAdvisor.com.

Welcome to the Brass Lantern Inn Blog!

16 June 2011

We are as excited today as that first day of ownership of the Brass Lantern Inn, back on December 16, 2009. Why is that? Well, our excitement is due to the launch of our new web site. As new owners we quickly became very aware of the treasures within this Inn and Stowe. Our old web site, however (and frankly speaking), treated these items more like hidden treasures.

We had also found (from reviews on TripAdvisor and others) that guests had posted comments such as, “We had no idea this Inn and Stowe was as beautiful as it really is.” Well, we hope that this new web site changes that perception.

We also are aware that “everyone has a blog” a “twitter” “FB” and whole host of ways to share and diseminate information. While not a writer by profession we hope that this site will keep you abreast of not only our Four Seasons (which really are 12 – one for each month) but special packages and yes, some discounts that we can offer throughout the year.

Thank you for considering a stay here at the Brass Lantern Inn!

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