Travelers have a new alternative to the cramped, uncomfortable, and often over-priced hotels in the region — they just have to know where to look.
Secluded in scenic privacy, the Applewood Manor Bed & Breakfast sits peacefully along the currently snow-scattered hills of Castleton’s North Road. The milky white two-story colonial, originally built in 1789 – two years after the founding of CSC – represents a classic slice of New England history worthy of its own postage stamp.
Guests are greeted with a complimentary pair of slippers and a cup of fresh-brewed coffee or glass of wine — depending on their personal fancy — courtesy of Nancy Cameron, one of the owners of the Manor. Her husband, Ralph Hirschfeld, also sees to it on blustery winter days, fresh logs are kept burning in the house’s cozy fireplaces.
“Our focus is to make people feel comfortable so they’ll want to come back,” Ralph said kindly. “That’s the whole key.”
Keys to comfort
Walking into the house’s beautiful kitchen, complete with hardwood floors, onyx-colored granite counter tops, and crimson poinsettias is enough to make anyone take an extra second to gawk in awe. For added flair, a row of Pez dispensers, featuring Donald Duck and Santa amongst others, stand in the corner next to a few bottles of various red wines.
“It’s what brought us here, I think,” Ralph continued. “When we saw the kitchen and the way the house was laid out, it pretty much sold us on it. We knew it’d make a wonderful bed and breakfast.”
Everything in the house, from the marble and glass chess set in the library, to the 18th century reproduction Flintlock rifle that hangs above the dining room’s fireplace, exudes an aura of vintage American charms.
“It’s a beyooootiful house and it’s been restored so painstakingly,” said Sanjukta Ghosh, close friend of Ralph and Nancy and CSC professor of communications.
Oh, and the beds are comfy, too.
“It was one of our priorities– Bed and Breakfast. We had to make sure our beds were really comfy, and our breakfasts were really good,” Nancy said with a lovely Scottish accent and laugh. “That’s always been our focus — personalized service and creating a comfortable environment.”
Home is where your pillow is
Applewood Manor is far more than just another B&B, Nancy said. It’s another place for travelers to call home.
But not everyone is entirely comfortable with the concept of a B&B. Some would rather stay in chain hotels, such as a Motel 6 or Holiday Inn, when traveling. They believe a typical B&B is impersonal or invasive, when in fact it is the exact opposite, Nancy said.
“Sometimes people might be concerned that they’re coming into somebody’s home, so they feel a little bit awkward,” she said. “But we’re very hands-offish. When they come in as a guest, it’s actually their home rather than our home.”
Numerous guest speakers, student families, and job seekers connected to CSC have stayed at Applewood Manor since it opened in late 2006. It has also played host to numerous journalists, doctors, business professionals, and even a retired astronaut.
Castleton Associate Academic Dean Tony Peffer also stayed briefly while his was applying for his current position at the school. He recalled needing his dress shirt, which had wrinkled greatly in his suitcase on the flight from Ohio to Albany, ironed before the interview.
“I asked Nancy for an iron,” he said in an email. “Instead of bringing me one, she took my shirt, ironed it much more expertly than I would have, and had it hanging on my door the next morning. I always tease her that it was the quality of my shirt that got me the position.”
Nancy’s husband echoed further praise to her, crediting her ability to go “above and beyond” what people would see at most B&B’s or hotels.
“When guests come in and she offers tea and cookies or a glass of wine,” Ralph said. “It’s all of these things that make people feel welcomed and comfortable.”
Cost less, who knew?
But when considering places of lodging when traveling, one must also look beyond comfort, looking to that other all-important “C” word – cost.
As local area chain hotels such as Rutland’s Red Roof Inn or Comfort Inn are raising prices in order to capitalize on the bleeding wallets of skiing tourists – ranging between $110 to $130 a night according to Expedia – Applewood Manor is actually lowering its prices.
Applewood Manor’s most expensive room goes for only $105 a night in the winter season – an absolute steal compared to other hotels that only offer a TV, concrete mattress, and a shower for twice the price.
“We really offer a service that is far superior to what you can get at a [chain] hotel, and we know that,” Ralph said smiling.
But even with the lower prices and superior service, Applewood Manor is facing some bumps in the road when it comes to attracting guests. The trouble, Ralph says, isn’t so much that people don’t want to stay there. It’s that people simply aren’t aware of its existence.
“It’s amazing how many [CSC] parents don’t know about us. When somebody finds us they go ‘oh, we didn’t know you were here.’ he said. “To hear that now, having been opened for a year now, it’s like whoa – we’re not reaching somebody. Something’s not happening.”
In order to create a wider appeal and become more competitive with other B&B’s and chain hotels, Applewood Manor is also in the process of creating packages for weddings, reunions, and other small events for the near future. “Spa and fitness” and “culinary / wine tasting” packages are also in the works.
Casanovas looking to score crucial relationship points with their significant other this Feb. 14 can also take advantage of their Valentine’s Day package. It includes a room and full breakfast for $70, with an option to have romantic essentials, such as flowers or champagne, thrown in as well for an additional fee.
Blue skies ahead
With a plethora of new ideas floating around and a word-of-mouth buzz beginning to resonate throughout the community, people are slowly, but surely, beginning to notice.
Tripadvisor.com, one of the most trusted websites for hotel and lodging reviews on the Internet, scored Applewood Manor with five stars. It received positive comments ranging from delighted guests who have stayed multiple times, to others raving about the soft pillow top mattresses and delicious chocolates left in the evening.
Ralph and Nancy’s top-notch service and dedication has even torn down cultural stereotypes. One couple traveling from Australia was surprised to find out that Americans aren’t always as smug and arrogant as they often seem.
“We converted that couple,” Ralph said with a great big smile. “They realized that Americans don’t have two heads, they’re not habitually ugly . . .that we are nice people.”