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.
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.
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.
Check out my video from the orchard! Apple picking is a great way to take in the fall foliage, and a fun activity to do with the whole family.
As a family traditon, every year in October we go apple picking. This year was great! We went with just the girls in my family, and my 1 year old niece went for the first time. She was a great apple taster…and as we know, it is important to taste the apples from each tree before you start picking. We all had a great time, and ended the day with making apple pies and homemade apple sauce…yum!
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….
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…
As long I’ve known my sister-in-law, I’ve heard the story of how her parents drove by Story Land weekend after weekend on their way to their family camp in Colebrook, NH, and how weekend after weekend they promised her that they’d take her to Story Land next season. I’ve done the same thing with promises with my daughter. It happens. But living so close to Storyland, I recently decided that we needed to create a new ending for my sister’s-in-law story… by taking her and her two young daughters to Story Land. It was a blast (as Story Land always is…)! And if your story is that you haven’t been, there’s still time… they’re open through Columbus Day. It’s where fantasy lives! YouTube tea cup video
For other family fun adventures, you can camp, go mini-golfing, visit the Maize at Sherman Farm (and don’t forget Weston’s Farm), go hiking, bowl at Saco Valley Sports Center (parents can practice their golf swing upstairs!), skate at Ham Arena and enjoy so much more fun in the Mt. Washington Valley…
See you here soon,
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?
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?
WOW!!! What a night. The first annual Fields on the Saco (see my video) was held at the 4-H building at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds. The original idea for dining in the Weston’s hayfield was scrapped when our non ticket holding friend “Hanna” decided to storm the valley.
Spirits were hardly dampened however when guests were amazed at the effort put in to transforming this otherwise “barn” space into an idyllic al fresco dining experience. The guys from Green Thumb Farms laid sod, to cover the cement floors. Full sized trees were brought in from Western Maine Nurseries, along with mums, cornstalks, pumpkins, grasses, gourds and hay bales, all provided by Weston’s Farm and Sherman Farm.
The dinner was served to the one hundred guests by Chef’s Market of North Conway. The farms provided them with all the fruit, vegetables, beef, and dairy products necessary to put on a gourmet five course meal. Cold River Vodka graciously provided all with Nasturtium Martinis and Blueberry Vodka on the rocks. The award winning jazz combo from Fryeburg Academy, Birth of the Cool entertained during cocktail hour and into dinner. Artists from around the valley painted area scenes that were later auctioned off “wet”.
I know I’m already thinking about next year. The spotlight of this night was the farms and all they have to offer us. It reminds us of all that we do have right here in our own backyards. The importance of susatainability, creativity, history, improvisation, sense of community and good ole yankee can do spirit is what I took away from the experience and I hope that others did as well.
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.