Sunday, January 17, 2010

Remembering Chester

Our beloved dog Chester passed away in November at age 14 after serving faithfully as Stewart Inn Greeter for many years.  He joined us in San Diego in the summer of 1998, a two-year-old mixed breed rescue from the Bonita animal shelter there.  When we moved to Wausau in 2001 to buy the Stewart House, Chester's preference for cooler weather became apparent.  He loved to gallop through the snow and bury his face in the drifts.

As we hired workers to renovate the mansion, and later began welcoming guests, Chester showed an amazing talent for evaluating people. He could instantly judge the character of a person, determining in a few seconds what it took us from hours to weeks to discover for ourselves.  His herding instinct made him treat guests as part of his flock, and he would wait up late at night until the last of the guests made it back to the inn.  He stayed on the first floor, usually near the main entrance, and never climbed the stairs to the guest rooms on the second floor, even when tempted by a guest dog.  At check out time Chester would often retreat to the dining room or kitchen to avoid having to see guests leave.  Indoors, he was always a calm dog, barking only when the doorbell rang so as not to keep anyone waiting at the door.

The highlight of each day for Chester was his walk through downtown Wausau and along the Wisconsin River.  His distinctive prancing gait and ever-present smile was well-known to the locals he encountered, and it was fun to see his joy reflected in their faces.

Although we miss Chester greatly, we're grateful to have shared so many wonderful experiences with this gentle, noble creature.  May his spirit run free forever.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Select Registry Meeting on Michigan's Gold Coast

We're just back from a Select Registry Regional meeting at Stafford's Bay View Inn near Petoskey, Michigan on the 'Gold Coast' of Lake Michigan.  This area, famous for its wide variety of fruit production, is at the same latitude as many of world's best vineyards.   Bay View is a religious resort community founded by a group of Methodists in 1875.  On our first night in Bay View, we thought there had been a huge power outage as we drove past block after block of completely dark homes and mansions.  Stafford Smith, owner of Stafford's Inn, later explained that the community bylaws allow members to reside in their homes only from May 1 through November 1, so everyone was gone for the winter.  His and one other inn are allowed to remain open year-around to accommodate members opening and closing their summer homes.

As always, it was great to meet with fellow innkeepers and exchange stories and tips.  Our favorite session was a round table where we talk about topics germane to small inns, such as where to find green amenities, good coffee, comfortable sheets, quality electronics, and effective marketing help.  At one point the conversation turned to cancellation policies, and the emergence of cancellation insurance.  Acting on a reference from another innkeeper, we've added links to iTravelInsured on our website and confirmation emails.  This gives our guests the option to get cancellation insurance at a very reasonable cost with easy online enrollment.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Satisfying Lunch

Christie, an old friend from our San Diego days, recently paid her annual fall visit to the Stewart Inn before heading South for the winter. We had time for lunch before the Twins-Tigers game so we decided to walk a few blocks in the rain to the Red Eye Brewing Company. It was after the noon rush, giving our articulate server Jackson time to explain in detail both the chef's menu offerings and brewmaster Kevin Eichelberger's beer selections. A unique feature of the pub is a blackboard showing the properties of each beer including specific gravity, international bitter units, and alcohol by volume. Jackson explained how these influence the character of the beer, giving us an idea of what to expect from each. Christie selected the seasonal Fest beer, Jane went with her favorite, Veruca Stout, and I tried Kevin's Belgian dubble called Scarlet 7. All were true to their types and went especially well with our sandwich selections. We saved room for the Redeye's killer desert, a folded pizza crust filled with Nutella and dusted with powdered sugar. Christie loved the feel of the pub and remarked what a great value the beers are. We couldn't agree more.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Magic of the House

We often observe a noticeable change in guests' demeanor during their stay at the Stewart Inn. A typical situation is a couple arriving late Friday evening following a stressful week on the job. When they step into the warm ambiance of the Drawing Room the tension drops along with their jaws as they view the floor to ceiling fused glass fireplace, shimmering with changing greens, golds and reds. The beamed ceiling, graceful arches, art-glass windows, and golden oak paneling give this room a comfortable feeling that belies its size. Thick stucco walls keep the interior extremely quiet, adding to a sense of peace and security. The next morning when guests come down for breakfast they are invariably relaxed and happy. Jane and I just look at each other and say 'It's the magic of the house.'

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wausau Fall Exhibitour

Wausau Area Events hosts the Fall Exhibitour on Saturday, September 19 from 6:00 to 8:00pm in Downtown Wausau. During this semi-annual event about a dozen shops sponsor artists, display their work, and offer complimentary wine samples and hors d'oeuvres. We always enjoy walking from one venue to the next, mingling with the artists and friends along the way. And even if you're not interested in a horse-drawn wagon ride, you'll enjoy the clop-clop as it passes by.

Wisconsin Fall Color Update

Paul and I enjoyed a wonderful walk at Dells of the Eau Claire County Park on Sunday. The weather was perfect and some trees are beginning to show color. We were also pleasantly surprised by some trail improvements - new and better signs and a new bridge over the dam. Hikers are now able to walk both sides of the river without backtracking. We invite you to make the Stewart Inn your headquarters for enjoying the brilliant fall colors in the Wausau area.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wausau’s Artrageous Weekend

On September 12 and 13 Wausau hosts its annual arts celebration, rated the number one art festival in the nation by American Style Magazine. Artrageous Weekend consists of three major events, each with a distinct flavor.

Art in the Park is a bazaar-like arts and crafts event held in the county fair buildings at Marathon Park. There’s something for everyone here, from leather and wood objects to pottery and paintings. Several years ago we purchased an elephant painting from artist Jackie Flaten at this exhibition and hung it in the Stewart Inn entry. It reminds us of the time when the Stewart House was called the "Gray Elephant on Grant Street" because of its massive size and distinctive periwinkle color.

We love to spend a sunny afternoon walking from tent to tent and admiring the extraordinary objects on display at the Festival of Arts in downtown Wausau. This art fair presents the work of more than 100 juried fine artists from throughout the Midwest. in downtown Wausau. That’s where we discovered Adrienne the potter, who made the delightful platters and plates we use for afternoon wine and cheese at the Inn.

In our opinion, the annual opening of the Birds in Art exhibit at the Woodson Art Museum is THE cultural event in Wausau. Many of the artists whose work is on display attend the opening events. We like to purchase a copy of the exhibit book and take it with us as we view the art. The artists are always happy to sign the page next to their entries in the book.