Joyce and Frank Stewart likely didn’t envision being innkeepers together on their first date when they both mentioned this desire but that is what they have become. Since they arrived in Richmond just after 911, they have been an important part of the hospitality our community offers. Several years ago they founded the Western Slopes Business AssociationHoliday Market which continues to take place on the first Saturday of December bringing hundreds of visitors to Richmond. Journey with me to get to know Joyce and Frank Stewart, innkeepers.
Larry: Tell me a bit about yourselves. Where were you born, grew up, went to school, interests, hobbies, family, how you came to live in Richmond…? Joyce: I’m a native of Washington, DC. We moved to Maryland when I was 3 or 4, and I grew up in Oxon Hill, Maryland. I’m the oldest of three, with a sister and a brother. My dad was in the Air Force, but unlike most Air Force families, we never moved. I grew up in the same house we moved into when I was 5. I love to travel, to bake, and read when I have some spare time. The last book I read was Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, and it took me several months to finish that paperback. You ask how we ended up in Richmond? Pure serendipity or fate or whatever you want to call it. When we bought our last house, in Chantilly, Virginia, Frank and I had said that we wouldn’t move again unless it was to purchase a place for a business. We really liked the area and the neighborhood was a nice place for our daughter to grow up. The schools in the area were great, and that was important, because we had Hilary a few months earlier. We thought we were set.
In 2001, I saw a beautiful marble mansion for sale in the back of a magazine. It was fully furnished and sounded like the perfect small hotel, with a ball room, conservatory, 16 bedrooms and a third floor owner’s quarters. It was in Fair Haven, VT, on the town green, near lakes and colleges and some other tourist attractions. Vermont was someplace I always wanted to go, having watched White Christmas and Holiday Inn too many times as a kid. We called the realtor and talked to him about it. After that conversation, we decided the timing wasn’t right for us and didn’t think much more about it. Later that year, I checked on the house again and it was still for sale, fully furnished. My dad had passed away and we used money he left us to pay off bills, so we were in a better place financially. With a lot of arm twisting, I talked Frank into coming up the look at the place. Since we didn’t know a soul in Vermont, we asked the realtor for a recommendation for a place to stay. I told him that since we were coming up the look at a place for a B&B, it might be nice to stay in one. He thought for a minute then told me that, if we didn’t mind staying about 15 minutes outside of Burlington, he knew this place that "was cute as a button, and neat as a pin." He gave me the innkeeper’s name and number and I called. We told the innkeeper what we were doing and she said "well, this place might be for sale," and said she would be happy to talk to us about the business. So I booked a room for the second weekend in September, because the realtor was busy over Labor Day. We came up on a Friday night, got picked up by the Realtor, and he brought us to the Inn. It was love at first sight, and the rest is history.
We did go look at the marble mansion, as well as several other places, but felt that, if we did buy a bed and breakfast, The Richmond Victorian Inn would be the right place for us. We went home Sunday evening, after a lovely weekend in Vermont, and thought we would have a little time to think about the place and whether or not we were ready to make the move away from family and friends. It didn’t take us long to make a decision – two days later was September 11th. We knew right away it was time to head north and get away from the DC area.
As first time Innkeepers, we couldn’t have asked for a better place to start. The Inn was turnkey, with reservations already on the books. Being just a few minutes from Burlington and the airport, as well as walking distance to great restaurants and the Village, it’s a perfect location for our guests! It is within walking distance to school, our pediatrician is on one side and our veterinarian is on the other! Being near Burlington, I was able to find a government job without much trouble, too. So, right away, we knew it was the right move for us. Frank: I was born in Glasgow, Scotland. My family moved to a suburb of Glasgow, East Kilbride, when I was 2. I have a an older brother, younger sister and a half sister. My dad passed away when I was 5. My mom remarried when I was 8 or 9. I grew up playing football (soccer), doing judo and boxing. Because I was the smallest one in my class, I had to learn to defend myself. I left school when I was 15 – that’s when you left school in Scotland – and went to work as a bus boy in the 4-star hotel in Glasgow, the Bruce Hotel. I did a four-year "apprenticeship" and worked my way up through the dining room – demi chef, chef de rang, cocktail barman, function barman, function setup and server, waiter. While I was a waiter at the Bruce, I learned the art of silver service, and flambe (tableside cooking). When I was 19, I moved to the Channel Islands to take a seasonal job as a banquet waiter in the tourist hotels on the island of Jersey. I ended up staying for 4 years. I still like to play football, but I’m not a young pup anymore, and I like to play golf when I get a chance. I also like to travel and it even though it took some convincing, I’m glad Joyce talked me into coming to Vermont.
Larry: What would people be surprised to know about you? Joyce: Back in the early 80s, I was in the Air Force, as an officer. While I was stationed in the UK, I was a member of the Royal Air Force Gliding and Soaring Association (I flew gliders in my spare time.) Frank: Not long after I came to the US, in 1986, I got a job working as a Special Functions waiter in the Banquet section of the US Senate Restaurants at the US Capitol. While I was there, I met and served several foreign dignitaries, celebrities, former Presidents and Senators. I’ve even got a photo me and former President Nixon having a "fireplace chat." When Joyce and I lived in the Brussels, Belgium, I attended a course at the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in London. I also ran my own catering business and catered private parties for US and NATO officers, including the NATO Christmas party. I auditioned for the TV show, Master Chef, in 2011 and made it to the 3rd round of interviews, but I didn’t make it onto the show. Joyce thinks it was because I was too nice!
Larry: What motivated you to become innkeepers? Joyce: I’ve always loved to entertain and always wanted to have a little catering business or run a B&B. Frank and I even talked about that on our first date. Now I’ve got the best of both worlds, Frank runs the Inn and I get to bake! Frank: I worked as an Executive Chef for Sodexho-Marriott (corporate food service) for 3 or 4 years and wanted to work for myself. The timing was right and it’s been a good move. The Inn is small enough to handle by myself, so I don’t have to hire extra staff.
Larry: Tell me about your inn. Joyce: The Inn is an 1850’s Queen Anne Victorian, signed 1852 by a Mr. Charbonneau. We believe it was built for A. B. Maynard and his wife, and Julia Maynard. We have records that show the house was sold by the Maynards in 1854 to Alfred Pierce. For a time, it was also known as the George Edwards Homestead. From what I’ve been able to research, I believe Mr. Edwards was a Vermont State Senator in the 20s. In 1945, the home was purchased by Luke and Mary Harrington. While they lived here, they built the smokehouse across the street. In 1968, Mary Harrington, a widow by this time, sold the home to the Stuart and Jeneva Burroughs. It’s had a few other owners since the Burroughs sold the house, but since we’ve been here, we have had the good fortune to meet members of the Harrington family, the Burroughs family, Mrs. Whitney, a former kindergarten teacher at the Richmond School, and Vicki Williamson, the first B&B owner. Frank: We have 5 guest rooms, and each one has a private bath. We serve Harrington’s bacon and sausage for breakfast, and like to use locally grown fruits when they’re in season. We also serve local maple syrup, produced in Huntington. We like to promote our local businesses whenever we can.
Larry: What challenges have you faced in running your inn and how have you solved them? Joyce: I’m fortunate that with my full time job, I can cover our insurance and help out with the bills. Frank: Since the downturn in the economy, folks have cut back on travel over the last few years. Our occupancy rate dipped below 30% a couple of years ago, but it’s slowly coming back. We don’t have as much Winter and Springtime business as we would like to have. Folks assume that since we’re so close to Bolton, we must get a lot of skiers. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Business drops off after Foliage season, picks up around the holidays and drops off again after the New Year. We’re dead in the winter, so I take on a part time job to help make ends meet. Around college graduation season, things pick up again.
Larry: What has surprised you about running your inn? Frank: How much time you don’t have to yourself, even when you don’t have guests.
Larry: What have you found to be the best marketing avenues for the Richmond Victorian Inn? Joyce / Frank: Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and some of the larger B&B websites work the best for us. We have a limited budget for advertising and need to get the biggest bang for our buck. WSBA can help with that by promoting the local businesses as well. Hopefully, the WSBA wedding group will bring more business to the area by promoting all that we have to offer, within a 2-3 miles radius.
Larry: How important is having a Web presence, email and social media marketing to Richmond Victorian Inn? Joyce / Frank: Having a website is very important to us. We get a fair amount of business from some of the larger B&B web advertisers, and nearly all of our confirmations are sent by email now. We’re just starting to use Facebook for the Inn, but have limited time to update our page.
Larry: You’ve been faithful members of the business association for many years. Why do you continue to support the Western Slopes Business Association (WSBA)? Joyce / Frank: We both feel it’s important to support local businesses so they, in turn will support us. It’s all about community.
Larry: What role do you see for the Western Slopes Business Association (WSBA) for businesses in Bolton, Huntington & Richmond? Joyce / Frank: I see it as their job to support and help us stay in business by reminding folks to choose local, instead of using big chain hotels. We’re as competitive as Burlington hotels, and provide a more personal service. And, our guests get a great breakfast included in the price. You don’t find that everywhere.
PS – How to contact Joyce & Frank: email – PO Box 652/191 East Main Street; Richmond, VT 05477 – 802-434-4410 / 888-242-3362
February WSBA Member’s Perk At Bridge Street Cafe
Western Slopes Business Association Members SAVE at Bridge Street Café. On any Tuesday during the month of February WSBA members will receive this bonus perk of $5 off an order of $20 or more. This is a onetime offer. Just bring in a copy of the offer/ad by printing it off our website perk page and let Bridge Street Café know you are a member (they will look it up the website as well).
Enjoy this February Membership Perk and thanks for this offer!
Do you have a WSBA Member to Member offer you would like featured? Email Sherry Daniels.
WSBA Wedding Market Group On the Move
Are you a wedding venue?
Do you sell wedding goods, services?
Want to develop a wedding market?
Want to increase wedding sales?
Want to network with wedding market businesses & organizations?
Join the WSBA Wedding Group!
The first WSBA Wedding Group meeting occurred Monday, January 21, 2013 with a packed conference room at the West Monitor Barn. Lots of ideas and enthusiasm for working together to promote our area as a wedding destination, networking and supporting each other.
WSBA is excited to announce that Nick deTarnowsky, Richmond resident and owner of Blue Sky Weddings & Events will be leading the group. Nick brings a wealth of life experience in marketing and event planning to the group. Email Nick with questions, comments and/or to get on the WSBA wedding group email list.
Bride & Groom Photo Credit: Benjamin D. Bloom
WSBA / REDC Joint Breakfast Meeting
February 28, 2013, 8 AM – Richmond Congregational Fellowship Hall
The Western Slopes Business Association and the Richmond Economic Development Committee invite you to enjoy a hearty local foods breakfast with us.
Presentations by leaders of both organizations will update you on what they are doing and their plans are for 2013. A great opportunity to network with our business community and get your questions answered. Everyone welcome!
A delicious breakfast will be served with local food prepared by Karyl Kent of Huntington and RES chef. Check out the menu to the right. Hungry yet?
To confirm your attendance, send an email to Dave Thomas or call 802-434-3654 by February 21, 2013. Donations will be appreciated to offset costs.
Thank you to these WSBA members who show their Association pride by presenting an WSBA Member icon on their websites. The icons include links to the Western Slopes website. Googles considers back links as one measure of a site’s importance. The more important Google considers the Western Slopes site the higher it will rank in searches = more visitors = increased business to our area. The Board of WSBA greatly appreciates the extra support the following members are showing:
The Western Slopes logo is a beautiful symbol of your faith and support in the Association. Why not show your pride by placing one of these images on your website? We’ve created three sizes each with its own HTML code, one of which is sure to fit in with your website’s design. Questions about installing one of these images? Email Larry Bohen.
Text back links are also very important to Google for the same reasons mentioned above. These members have text back links to the Western Slopes site: