All posts by dholmes020105

Living and Working in Conway NH – A series – finale

Well, this week will be my last week with the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.   I will be heading south to be the Executive Director of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce with offices located in Laconia and Franklin.  As some of my previous posts mentioned, I moved to West Ossipee at the end of June, so I will continue to commute from there to my new office location.

I spoke about owning your own business, but briefly touched upon other opportunities.  Working at the chamber is one, there are also many other non-profits to work for if you are interested in that avenue like Memorial Hospital.  The Mt Washington Valley Economic Counsel is at the new Tech Village and that has many high tech companies located within that people can work for along with Educational Opportunities.  Working at the outlets in a retail environment is another option; Settlers’ OVP and Settlers’ Crossing have many stores and opportunities.

If you are a teacher we have elementary and high schools to teach at; we also have manufacturing and service jobs.  Basically, there are many jobs available based on ones vocation.  If you are relocating from a larger city, you will find the pay scales to be different and you will need to be aware of that when looking for a position.  Then again, the housing and rental markets are different than the larger cities also.  Driving 20 – 40 minutes to get some where is not unheard of when you move to this area.

Many people relocate here for a quality of life change.  The natural beauty and outdoor activities draw people here from the southern cities.  Skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing, skating, road biking, hiking, kayaking… the possibilities are endless and are up to you to decide on what will be your hobby or escape.

The Chamber has relocation packets available if you are interested in learning more about this great area to live and work.

Doug

Living and working in Conway NH – A series part 4

I joined the chamber as a staff member on February 1, 2005; I was working as many hours as possible while still running the inn as we had guests up to the second week in March.  In addition to these two jobs I was also coaching Girls Ice Hockey at Fryeburg Academy, things were busy for me, but that’s how I like it.

I remember an old TV ad where there is a man talking about the Hair Club for men and he uses the phrase, “I’m not just the President, but also a client”.  Well, there can be nothing more accurate for a statement that I could make, from being a business owner in the valley, I could talk to potential Chamber members and tell then honestly what being a Chamber member could do for them.  I was not just a staff member but also a past client / chamber member.

Through the years I have seen businesses succeed and fail in the valley.  I was a SCORE counselor and spoke with individuals who wanted to start up a business or buy an existing one; I must say this was an interesting experience, some had no idea what they were doing and others were exactly where they should have been and doing due diligence.  Some successful businesses I have seen start up or be purchased through the years when I was a SCORE counselor are the MET, The Inn at Jackson and Chef’s Market.  Each of these owners worked hard at a business plan and also at getting their businesses open and successful.  There are many resources in our valley to help people start a business; the Chamber, SCORE and Mt Washington Valley Economic Counsel are the top ones that come to mind.

NH is full of entrepenuers, do not be afraid to be one of them, but be prepared and do not take this task lightly.  Do your homework, talk to people in the field, do something that interests you, take a stand and work hard.  Best of luck to the future business owners.

My last post will be in the next week or so as I am leaving this Chamber to be the Executive Director of another Chamber in this wonderful state of NH.  I’ll talk about other opportunities for those that do not want to own a business.

Doug

Living and working in Conway NH – a series part 3

As we went along building the inn business and creating relationships in the valley, we met many great people.

Don Nicoletta and Evelyn Whelton from Northway Bank were our bankers and were a great help with to us as new business owners in the valley.  We found Pat Murphy from Apex Plumbing to be reliable and fair especially with an older home that needed major updating.  Another Pat Murphy, this one from Heartland Payment Systems was also great in setting up our charge machine and payment options for receipts.

I will tell anyone thinking about owning an inn to be realistic and not just think about “living the life” and having it be all fun and games.  My wife and I had spoken to someone back in Rockport, MA when we lived there who was an innkeeper and he was brutally honest with us.  We also read the book “So you want to be an Innkeeper” which provided great insight.  A normal day in the busy season for me was waking up before 6:00 am and going to bed at 12:00 am.  This is normal for an inn with business and only a husband and wife as a team taking care of the property.  In the off season you do get more rest and have time to yourself, but you always have your phone with you and never are really “away” from the inn.  When we did get away from the inn we loved to go to the Kanc and sit on a rock by the water or go to Cathedral Ledge and look out over our beautiful valley in which we live.

We closed our inn in March 2005 as my wife went back to teaching full time and I took my current position with the Chamber as Business Manager.  It was at this time that we could actually take a real vacation and went to New Orleans in April before Hurricane Katrina came in later that year.  We turned one of the large suites in the barn into an apartment and a year later we built out another apartment in the lower part of the old barn.  As it was, being a landlord was much easier than being an innkeeper and the money was consistent thanks to the great tenants we had during that time.

More to come on working at the Chamber and in Conway, NH.

Living and Working in Conway, NH – A series part 2

So we bought an inn that had no clientele, what to do?  First thing was to get our marketing going and make our website better, actually better is not the word, we had to create a site as the previous owners did not have one.

The valley we live in has many talented people and two of those are Stephen and Lisa Surrette of North Country Graphics who we went to for help in designing our website and marketing materials.  With their help we now had business cards, rack cards and a website that got rave reviews, .  Our website became so popular with search engines that by the time we closed our business in March 2005 we were being listed on the first page of Google.  I remember talking to Marti Mayne of Maynely Marketing 6 months after we had closed the business as she called me at the Chamber office to tell me she was doing a Google search and we were still coming up on the first page of Google.  We did so well with the web thanks to Lisa and Stephen but also due to some SEO tips I learned through the years.

The other way we improved upon the inn was using local knowledge by joining an inn association, of which there are two in Mt Washington Valley; Bed & Breakfasts Inn Mt Washington Valley and the Country Inns in the White Mountains.  It was by joining one of these that we became part of the Annual Cookie Tour and getting more exposure as we hosted a writer from a Boston Paper and got great press from that.  Also, by joining the association we met great people like Kevin Flynn who had owned an inn on Long Island and then moved to Snowville to operate a successful inn there also.  Others who were great resources were Bill and Lisa Guppy who owned an inn in Intervale and Mark Donaldson of the Darby Field Inn.  These long time innkeepers were a wonderful source of knowledge for fledgling innkeepers.

Stay tuned, more to follow….

Doug

Living and working in Conway NH – a series

First I’d like to start off this first of the series with how my family came to live in Conway, NH

It was January 2001 and my wife and I were searching for a Bed & Breakfast to buy.  We took a ride from Rockport, MA up to Wolfeboro, NH to look at an inn.  Well it definitely was not the one we wanted based on decor and setup and the final piece that made us not want it was when the realtor asked us to sit with the current owners to talk about the ghosts that inhabited the inn.  In February we had a ski vacation at WatervilleValley and we decided on the way home to go to Conway to look at some places.  We arranged with Antonella Bliss, formerly of RE/MAX and now principal with Coldwell Banker Wright Realty to show us some properties.  The first two properties were definitely not for us but the third was The Lavender Flower Inn that was in Center Conway.  The inn had not operated full time for about 5 years due to a death of one of the innkeepers, so we knew it needed work and the clientele needed to be built back up.

We decided on purchasing the inn and came back in March and had a home inspection on Mary Ellen’s birthday, not the best thing for a husband to arrange, but I did get out of it somewhat by spending a nice evening out at dinner and spending some time in the Up Bar at Horsefeathers on the nice large leather couch in front of the fireplace.

Things got slow in the final purchase time line and we moved in at the end of June in 2001.  I arrived a couple days earlier than my wife and daughter to rip out all the built-in beds in the owners quarters so our furniture would fit.  We ended up opening the inn the 5th of July with no reservations.  We had a great location so we did get drive in guests until we got our website up and running and the marketing going the way we wanted it.  We made some great contacts early on in the Chamber and local lodging community which helped immensely.  Patti and Ed who had owned the Saco River Motor Lodge down the street from us sent us business from their overflow and Fryeburg Fair filled us up each year.  Patti is now the General Manager of Holiday Inn Express.

The hardest part about 2001 was September 11.  My wife and I were out on the Kanc sitting on a rock having coffee as it was a slow day for guests and then came back to do some banking at Berlin City Bank (now Northway Bank).  Well Lyn from the bank told us about the plane flying into the building, but we had no idea of the tragedy until we got back and put on the TV.  This day affected the entire valley with travelers changing and cancelling their plans.

In the winter of 2001/2002 I became a ski instructor at Attitash while my wife worked the inn during the 3 weekdays I instructed.  I also became an Assistant Ice Hockey Coach for Fryeburg Academy, where my daughter attended high school, and coached Girls Junior Varsity and Varsity Hockey, something I would continue for 6 years before resigning from the Head Coach position in 2007.

More to come over the next few weeks…

Doug

Fall in Mt Washington Valley NH

The past few days the colors have begun to pop on the trees.  Each day I see the leaves becoming more vibrant and colorful.  I have a 22 mile ride to and from work each day from West Ossipee to North Conway and the scenery is magnificent.  I got home last night and went for a motorcycle ride after playing with the dog and it was just about dusk.  The colors at this time were amazing and I thought about how I could share this with you.

Well on the ride to work this morning I brought my Flip Video recorder with me and stopped at Chocorua Lake to take some video.  Now this morning was not the best of days as I was in and out of rain on the way in, but the rain stopped long enough for me to record these videos.  Click on this link for video one and this link for video two.  When I stopped to record these there was only one car in the pull off and it was from Missouri.  People from all over the US come to our great state to see the splendor of our fall foliage.

What’s your favorite spot for foliage viewing?

Doug

Fryeburg Fair

Well, it’s that time of year again, the Fairs are around New England and what better Fair to go to than the Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg Maine.  This year is the 158th year for the Fair.  I’ve gone to it each year since moving here.  As an Innkeeper who lived just 5.5 miles from the fairgrounds, it was always a busy week for me, but I somehow managed to get to the Fair anyways.

It is a huge Agricultural Fair with a midway and plenty of food vendors; they even have harness racing.  There are just too many events to list, but if you want to experience a great Fair then this is it.  I grew up in MA going to the Topsfield Fair and my brother told me about Fryeburg as he had gone to it, but I never knew what the draw was until I experienced it myself.  You could probably fit 5 Topsfield Fairs into the Fryeburg Fair and still have plenty of room to move around.  What I can remember of Topsfield were all the people and the feeling of being a Sardine in a can; you do not get that feeling with the Fryeburg Fair.

Some tips for getting to the fair – use these less traveled roads: East Conway Road, Corn Shop Road, Fish Street, River Road, Route 5 from the north, the power lines from Route 302 from the East (need good ground clearance on your vehicle).  You can always pay to park at Fryeburg Academy on the weekends and walk a half mile.  Also, park on Swans Falls road lots, they are easier to get in and out of if you’re going South or West.

So whether this maybe your first time there or your 20th, enjoy and have fun.

Do you have any memories of the Fryeburg Fair you care to share?

Motorcycling in the North Country of NH

This coming weekend I have plans to go on a group ride with other motorcyclists from NH on a northern route ride.  My plan is to leave Ossipee in the morning and ride into Conway and then go up route 16/302 into Bartlett.  Once in Bartlett I’ll continue on route 302 up through Crawford Notch and past the AMC Highland Center, Mount Washington Resort and Bretton Woods.  From there, I’ll pass the entrance road to The Cog and make my way to a meeting point in Twin Mountain.  From Twin Mountain we’ll ride up to Jefferson where Santa’s Village is located and then across to Gorham Berlin area.  Once in Berlin we’ll stop for Ice Cream then head south to Pinkham Notch past the Mt Washington Auto Road, Great Glen Trails,  Wildcat Ski Area and the AMC Joe Dodge Lodge.  There is a plan to stop for a group picture at one of the picturesque turn offs then back to North Conway area via Jackson.

At this time the weather outlook for the weekend is great, so if you’re planning a trip to the Mt Washington Valley area for some sight seeing and foliage peeping, then this would be a great weekend to do so.

Doug

Food, Rain, Wind and Mud in Mt Washington Valley

This weekend had plenty to offer for those living and visiting Mt Washington Valley.

Friday morning the Mud Bowl kicked off and ran through Sunday and the championship games.  The rain from Hanna on Saturday night helped the field for the mudbowl, but stayed off long enough for the first Annual Fields on the Saco event to go off tremendously.

Speaking of the rains from Hanna, we moved our daughter back to college for her senior year at Endicott and got to drive home 3 hours in the pouring rain Saturday evening.  There were times just seeing the yellow and white lines on the road were near to impossible.

Hanna pushed out in the early hours of Sunday allowing beautiful blue skies for a (windy) motorcycle ride to North Conway and Settlers’ Green OVP to see the annual MWV Old Car Club car and motorcycle show.  The cars were great as always and fun to see.  Not many motorcycles to see though, it made me think I should have entered mine as there was only one “nice” chopper and the rest were run of the mill bikes.  Honda VTX1300C

What did you do this weekend?

Doug

Labor Day Weekend in Mt Washington Valley

Well, another beautiful 3 day weekend has passed and what fun it was.  We had company up for the weekend and enjoyed the beautiful area in which we live.

Friday night was relaxing with cooking on the grill and staying in.  Saturday morning though the activities began.  Mary Ellen and our friend Donna went hiking at Dianas Baths in North Conway off West Side Rd, while Jeff and I went off to the driving range.  When we got back to the house the ladies were still out so Jeff and I set up horseshoes at the new house.

The ladies got back a bit later and we got together some appetizers as we were going to a neighborhood party that we were invited to so we could meet some of our new neighbors.  Well, the party was fun and it was at one of the houses right on the runway.  Afterwards we went out for more late night appetizers at the Whittier House.

Sunday we loaded up the kayaks and went over to Chocorua Lake.  Jeff and I went out first and when we got back Mary Ellen and Donna took the kayaks out.  While they were out the wind picked up and actually had some whitecaps on the lake.  While coming back if they stopped paddling, the wind would push them backwards!  After kayaking we decided to go as a group to the driving range again.  Mary Ellen and Donna enjoyed this and Mary Ellen got to try her clubs out.  Last year Mary Ellen played golf with me once at Eagle Mt House and Golf Course.  After we got back we went over to Wolfeboro and had dinner at a restaurant right on the shores of Lake Winnepesauke.

Monday our friends left early after breakfast to avoid much of the traffic heading south.  Mary Ellen and I geared up and took the motorcycle out to North Conway for some shopping and relaxing.  Mary Ellen needed some supplies for her classroom so that was our first stop at Lowes, then once that was done we headed up the North South Rd to The Met for a coffee.  While there we met our friend Mike who along with his partner Sal own Salvatore Michaels Framed Art Superstore and Soyfire Candle.  While talking with Mike we also ran into our friend Kate who was in the village with family.

On the way home we passed many political signs as it is that time of year again.  We also passed Coldwell Banker Wright Realty where our friend Sean Bossie works.  Sean is the one who was instrumental in getting our blog up and running so that we could post these tidbits of our lives in the valley.

Hope everyones weeekend was a good one.  Care to share your weekend adventure with us?

Doug

Up Up and Away – Flying over Mt Washington Valley

Last night after getting home from work and playing with the dog, there comes a knock on the door.  It was one of my neighbors with an offer to go flying!  Without hesitation I agreed as I love flying and welcomed the opportunity.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I live in an aviation community with a 4000′ grass runway.  For the past two months I have been watching the planes take off and land and do maneuvers over our area.  My wife even took her summer school students to see the planes as part of a school field trip.   The local residents took the older children up while the younger ones could get into the planes and see what it was like to sit in them.  The kids had huge smiles on their faces on the pictures my wife took of this field trip.

In the past before moving to the mountains I was in International Business and flew around the world and across the US.  The smallest plane up to this point was an eight seater that one of the companies I worked for owned.  That alone was fun to fly in and I had even gone to Chicago on a business trip in that small plane.

The plane I went up in last night was a two seater and is now the smallest I’ve ever been in.  It is owned by Kelly and L.D. who live right next to the runway.  It was one seat behind the other with a sliding canopy.  We flew over Ossipee Lake and over to Moultonborough and could see Mt Washington, Lake Winnepesauke, Silver Lake, White Lake, the Sandwich Mountain Range and the Presidential Mountain Range.

I have to say besides riding my motorcycle, this has to be one of the best experiences I’ve had.  I really have the bug now to take flying lessons and hope that this will happen.  If I ever figure out how to post a video, I’ll put the video of last night on the blog

Thanks Kelly for taking me up last night!  Hopefully Mary Ellen will have the opportunity to do this soon.

My “local” vacation in Mt Washington Valley

Well I took some time off recently and what better way to spend it than to stay local with all we have here than go somewhere else.

Last Wednesday my wife, daughter and I went to Wildcat Ski Area and went on the Scenic Gondola and Zip ride to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday.  The Zip Ride was great and certainly something everyone needs to try once, even those like me that do not like heights too much.  On the way home we saw a moose on the side of route 16 in Pinkham Notch.  We then went to Decades for dinner and drinks with my now legal 21 year old.

This week I took 3 more days off to make my weekend a 5 day weekend.  It started off with a coed hockey tournament at Ham Arena where I skated in 4 hockey games in a little more than 24 hours.  Boy was I tired! 

Monday my wife and I went over the “Kanc” to Franconia Notch to meet friends from MA who have a place at Waterville Valley and rode our bikes from the Basin up to Cannon Mountain and the “Old Man of the Mountain” site.  It took about an hour plus to ride up the hills and not quite 30 minutes to coast down.  We even saw a moose on the way home on the Kanc (look for my video to be posted Friday). 

Tuesday was different and we did some house things in the morning due to weather and then came to North Conway for Flatbreads and a movie.  Later that night I skated in another hockey game at Ham Arena that Laurel from Chinook Cafe puts together each week.

Wednesday we finally got the motorcycle out and rode to North Conway for coffee at The Met and lunch at Chef’s Market, Bryant out did himself again with the duck dish he prepared for a TV show he was taping the day before.  We then decided due to high winds we would not ride into Crawford Notch and went the scenic route home through Fryeburg, Brownfield, Eaton and Freedom before arriving in West Ossipee.  All in all a 70 mile ride on a perfect weather day.

Hockey again tonight, Thursday night league at Ham Arena – more later…

Where do you vacation locally?

Doug