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…