Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Interview with Linda and George West of Sunapee View Bed and Breakfast

Linda and George West say they have always enjoyed the results of hard work in their home and gardens as well as entertaining, but when one is working 40 to 60 hours in the traditional work place, there is little time left for that. With their B&B, the pleasure they find in planting gardens, cultivating fruits and vegetables, cooking up creative cuisine, creating a warm environment in their home and entertaining guests now becomes their work place.  They say they feel blessed to be able to earn an income doing things that they love.

George and Linda both have children from previous marriages. George has 4 children and 5 grandsons and Linda has 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren. Our Wheaten Terrier, Molly, is the only young one at home at this point and keeps us hopping! She stays in the innkeeper’s quarters when guests are here.

George worked many years for the phone company working his way through the system to a management position. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Eastern Nazarene College. He retired in the mid nineties and took on many creative jobs following that from driving a truck and bus to being the caretaker of a small country pre-school.

Linda had previously worked many years as an RN, graduating from Mass General School of Nursing in the days of diploma programs, later getting a bachelor’s degree from UMass and eventually a Masters in Nursing Administration from Northeastern University. For most of her career, Linda worked as a nurse manager and later a case manager. She still works during quiet times at Dartmouth Hitchcock in their care management department.

They recognized that it was time to consider how they wanted to spend the next phase of their lives. They had talked about different businesses that they could do from home and focused on the meals and hospitality businesses. They ending up coming back to the B&B plan over and over and took a course through the Boston Center for Adult Education entitled “So you Think You Want to Run a B&B?.”  It focused on the very unromantic reality of being an innkeeper.

At the end of the weekend, they were one of the few who still answered “yes” to wanting to own a B&B!  Shortly after that, Linda’s daughter and son-in-law purchased the old stone barn next door to the Fells, John Hay Estate. They planned to renovate the barn into a vacation home and suggested that Linda and George purchase the original farm house from them for a B&B.  They visited, were a bit overwhelmed by the work needed to be done on the property, but fell in love with the area and are thrilled to have met their goals.

George and Linda purchased the property six years ago and relocated from Plympton, MA believing that they would have the B&B up and running quickly. The building was in greater disrepair than they had expected, and it took them five years to completely gut and renovate it. The innkeepers section was torn down and rebuilt initially and by the time they were done, every wall in the inn was replaced. They welcomed their first guests on Valentine’s Day of 2010.

Linda says, "Having a bed and breakfast with only 3 rooms is great in the sense that it can be managed without hiring staff to assist. The flip side of that is one always needs to be there or plan carefully for time away. Our home is also our business, so people may drop in anytime to ask for a tour or check to see if there is a room available. We are learning to be creative about how we manage our time so that we can be sure that our guests have the best personalized attention, while still being able to enjoy time for ourselves. "

When asked, "What do you do on your time off?" Linda says, "We both enjoy the outdoors. We turned in our sailboat for kayaks when we moved up to NH and meandering through quiet waterways is a favorite summer past-time. We also enjoy many of the same things that our guests enjoy-hiking, music events and theater. During the winter we love the beauty of the area and especially enjoy cross-country skiing and snow shoeing. George piles the winter snow into a huge mound at the top of a hill and has as much fun as the grandkids tubing down! George enjoys singing and is a first tenor. He sings in the church choir and other local seasonal choirs as well as with the Sunapee Singers, South Church hand bells and a Doo Wop group. "

Linda feels that their skills complement each other well. George is able to fix just about anything. He loves doing the heavy outdoor work and has purchased a tractor for the many outdoor jobs that their very overgrown property required.  He finds the snow plow on his old Tahoe a great way to spend a snowy afternoon. Linda is the cook, decorator and gardening person.  Both pitch in to do the cleaning.

George thinks The Dartmouth Lake Sunapee Region is a great area for outdoor activities from downhill skiing to water sports.  Cultural events including community theater, concerts, art and literature abound. The Fells, John Hay Estate is just a short walk from their door and offers quiet woods walks, beautiful gardens and a wealth of educational and outdoor events.  Mount Sunapee Resort is well known for its ski conditions and ski school programs and offers events throughout the year. Lake Sunapee State beach is just 4 miles from the door with its beautiful beach area.

Linda says, "There are probably as many different reasons as there are people that guests choose Sunapee View Bed and Breakfast.  This particular summer, is the summer of weddings for us.  We have been surprised by the age groups of people choosing our B&B. We had anticipated that the age group staying in B&B’s would be fifties and up and have been pleasantly surprised that in addition to this age group, we are appealing to many generation X and Y folks.  They tell us they find our d├ęcor more to their liking and appreciate the flat screened TV’s in each room. We have welcomed bridal parties, newly-weds, overflow company from nearby homes, skiers and just people driving through the area and deciding to stay.  Our goal is always to provide personalized service to our guests. We recognize that what we may like when traveling is not necessarily what our guests like, and we try to make the experience personal to them."

Linda finds that having a commercial kitchen in their B&B, opens up many possibilities. They offer a complimentary dinner on the night of arrival for all two night and longer guests. When they travel, they often find it bothersome to arrive late after work on a Friday and have to head out to find a restaurant only to discover that in rural settings they may have closed at 8:30. Their guests are able to settle in and enjoy a simple supper. This is usually soup or stew in winter or grilled chicken and salad in summer with homemade bread and dessert.  In addition guests are able to request special dinners, picnics or meals for additional cost. Linda says they have a very special brunch that has been served to wedding groups.

When asked, What would you say to people who have never stayed in a B&B? How do you feel B&B’s differ from hotels? Linda says, "Try it! Long before we owned a B&B, we heard concerns of friends when we suggested we stay at a B&B on a group trip… “You don’t have any privacy”…”I don’t want to share a bathroom”…etc.  Each of our guests has their own bathroom, and a spacious one at that. 

Our innkeeper’s section is in an attached wing of the house with our own kitchen, so there is no need to feel that you are sharing someone else’s space.  We have never stayed in a hotel or motel where someone knew our names, that we were allergic to strawberries, liked a cheese tray with our glass of wine in the afternoon, or cookies and decaf tea prior to bed. A personal approach while respecting one’s privacy is what it is all about. "

Sunapee Views B&B offers a full breakfast each day always starting with a fruit dish followed by warm comfort food.  Fresh fruits from local vendors or their own garden are mixed into breads and muffins or sprinkled on fruit dishes.  Snacks are available during the day based on preferences. Cheese and cracker plates are left in the guest refrigerator for those enjoying a glass of wine by the fire at the end of the day or homemade cookies are left out with coffee or tea prior to retiring for the night. In addition to the complimentary dinner on arrival, they offer dinners for additional charge that are a bit more elaborate. Linda says, "A perfect reason to stay in by the fire on a snowy night!"

Linda thinks they are not sure that there is just one dish that stands out that they cook yet as a signature dish, but they say, "keep reading the monthly recipes and highlighted inns on NH Country Inn Website. When their turn comes up for a recipe,  Sunapee View B&B will have a yummy strawberry banana French toast that makes one say mmmmmmm…….!"

Sunapee View Bed and Breakfast
603-763-4212 | 348 Route 103A, Newbury NH
There's a beautiful view every season at Sunapee View Bed & Breakfast. Located just down the road from the Historic
Fells estate in Newbury.