St. Patrick’s Day, 2004
I’ve been thinking a lot about our inn these last few days as we near the one year anniversary of the sale. Which also means we are nearing the anniversary of when we first opened our doors. (In a complete fluke of timing, our sale date was exactly two days before our annual anniversary date for when we opened to the public. More on that in a minute.) We bought our inn in December of 2003. It was an operating bed and breakfast with a strong summer and fall business. We had the idea to add in a pub/restaurant that was open all year long. This way we would have business in the slower winter and spring months and we’d get to connect to the local community, not just the community of overnight, out-of-town guests.
Now it turns out some of the most magical inn moments happened when tourists and locals interacted. They were some of the most commented-on times. When guests had a great ‘local’ moment it cemented their new-found love for Vermont. They had the opportunity to travel in Vermont but to also sit and chat to someone (other than the hubby and I – who, let’s be real, will never actually be ‘from’ Vermont) who made their home here. We had not gone into our plan with this in mind but the more we thought about it the more we realized this is true in so many forms of tourism. We travel somewhere, and stay somewhere, but the only other people staying with you, pretty much exclusively, are other travelers to this place. So you continue to experience a new place in this bubble of other people from other places. I do think this is why organizations like VRBO/HomeAway and AirBNB have exploded, in addition to potential cost savings, they allow us to feel a little more connected to the actual realness of a new place. Allow us more one-on-one interactions with local folks. Give us an excuse to grocery shop in a new place. (Hubby’s favorite activity in every country/state/place we have ever visited.)
Back to our inn, we had many magical, coincidental moments. Like the time visiting potential Middlebury College parents ended up at the bar next to the Dean of Students. The time parents with two young children were invited to the pheasant farm to see thousands of baby chicks that had just been born. The time the dairy farmer explained to a city/stockbroker type what those mountains of tires are actually for, and that the little white huts are not veal, but baby huts to keep newborn calves healthy. The time cross-country cyclists were looking for a last minute room and we were full, stayed for dinner and a local couple took them home because they got chatting to them at the bar. This list goes on and on.
As new owners, we also had our share of these insider/outsider moments. But deciding that St. Patrick’s Day was our opening date goal, and (in perhaps a very misguided and overly cocky statement) made this public to the local paper, we accidentally made our goal a Shoreham goal. We were up to our eyeballs doing the construction of the bar, re-painting everything (so much painting), re-decorating, ordering supplies, figuring out how to be business owners and keeping our heads down trying to make sure everything got done. What we didn’t do was go out much. If you weren’t involved in the construction of our place, we probably didn’t know you for those first few months.
But, we were making a name for ourselves, unbeknownst to us. There was talk at the local service center about whether we’d actually be open on St. Patrick’s Day. Then there was talk about how many people were going to be there. No lie, On St. Patrick’s Day morning our builder showed up unannounced and went straight to the basement saying, ‘I’m just going to jack up a couple of the floor supports in the basement, everyone in town is going to be here tonight!’
We were also opening with only a beer and wine license and by the morning of March 17th our wine glasses had still not arrived. The company swore they were out for delivery, UPS swore they were on the truck. The UPS truck did not usually arrive to us until about 4pm, later than the time were were planning to open. (We opened especially early that first year, on special request, the elementary school principal was treating all the teachers to a drink at the new place in town.) And so, in a pure lesson of the wonder of small towns, every local business was put on alert for the UPS truck. Whoever saw it first was to ask for the Inn delivery to be handed to them. A veterinarian’s office in Cornwall succeeded – the glasses were pulled there and I dashed over to get them. (I’m fairly certain this is against some sort of regulation? Or ten?)
My long-winded point being, what? I’m not sure. Being that throwing yourself into a new place is scary and exciting and you truly don’t know what the outcome will be. And not having all the answers figured out ahead of time can be a blessing. And not everything will go well all the time, but some things might exceed your wildest dreams. Or be something you didn’t even imagine to dream about. And in one night you just might sell 2 1/2 kegs of Guinness and make 1000 new friends and find yourself, while preparing to open for a second night of business, huddled in the storage room with your husband doing a shot of limoncello and asking yourselves ‘what have we done?’.
Happy Former Business Anniversary to us and Happy New Business Anniversary to the new folks and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone.