Most guests are curious about Hill House's operational model, perhaps more than usual, because it's one of the few B&Bs not run by a single person and not a couple.
Bed and Breakfasts began as an extension of a couple's primary residence, with breakfast being prepared out of the hosts' personal kitchen and socializing taking place in their living room. This still is the model in Great Britain and Ireland, but in the US and Canada, most hosts have their own living quarters, often in a separate building on the property. (State and/or local laws generally require onsite residence.) Many of these B&Bs have only one host for whom operations are his/her primary employment, with the partner having full-time work elsewhere.
After a year of living and working at Hill House, I took a two-week vacation and my assistant innkeepers, Crystal Barnwell and Nat Allister, ran the show. When I returned I quickly decided I coudn't continue working and living on the property and both keep my sanity and my health with the incessant time demands. And I realized that if I were to become sick or injured for any length of time, Hill House couldn't function without a functional person living on the property.
So I moved to a condo 3/4 mile away and hired a resident manager couple, Katie Nagel and Joe Gill. They have light duties after 3;30 five days a week, and I hold the fort the other two days in the office. So now Crystal and Nat alternate days, arriving between 7:00 and 8:00 each morning and keep the workflow going throughout the day. I come in most every morning between 8:00 and 9:00, and help get breakfast out and the daily cleaning underway, and spend a couple hours in paperwork. I usually leave around lunch time, work some more from home in the afternoon and/or run errands, and Nat or Crystal manage the inn and do project work, and then hand off to Katie or Joe at 3:30. On busy weeks, either Nat or Crystal work an extra day.
It's seeming to work for us.
Hotel bars have their happy hours. Social hours, also called wine hours, are regular features of many bed and breakfasts, including Hill House. At some inns, some gregarious innkeepers like to hold court from 5:00 – 7:00, pouring wine and entertaining guests.
At Hill House, Katie, Joe, and David love to chat up guests when our paths happen to cross. But we all prefer to let the guests have as much space in the parlor or on the porch as they desire.
We set red and white wine out with a bottle opener and a hors d’oeuvre, or two of them on a busy night. Some popular ones we’ve found are cherry tomatoes with a mushroom stuffing, thin Italian deli meats rolled around cheeses, one-bite pizza slices, and french bread topped with either olive tapenade or bruschetta.
Some guests prefer to sit alone and nosh and sip in a corner of the porch. Others like to make new friends. Hill House wants all to enjoy.
Some B&Bs bend over backwards to make various reservations for their guests. Hill House's previous owners provided a lot of advance concierge services -- whitewater rafting, horseback riding, spa visits, food tours, you name it.
I did it for awhile, and after a few months, honestly, I decided that being an appointments secretary wasn't, how shall we say, the best use of my time. I like to make my personal appointments myself over the telephone, so if the ideal place at the ideal time isn't available I can make the next best choice. And I think most guests feel the same way. I'm sure all of you, at some point in your lives, have experienced the headache of a middleman trying to go back and forth and find a mutually available time.
So now, if you're here at Hill House and within shouting distance, any one of us is happy to make a reservation at a restaurant or wherever else you may want to go. But before you arrive, Hill House now provides you a phone number and a Partner Discount Code, and we let you work out the best time and service option for yourselves, so we can concentrate on providing our guests currently in the inn with the great service they deserve.
Hill House is something of an anomaly among bed & breakfasts in Asheville in that it isn't located in a distinct neighborhood. Nothing like the cachet of Montford or Chestnut Hills. Some would place us in a little largely residential district called Five Points, but I think we're a few doors to far east for inclusion there. When someone asks, I just say North Asheville and just across Broadway from Montford.
Our immediate neighborhood will soon be known for its grocery stores. A Whole Foods (also called Greenlife which was the existing grocery on the site that Whole Foods purchased) has been around on lower Merrimon Avenue for a number of years. But later this year a Trader Joe's, the California-based specialty grocery with something of a cult following, will open next door to Whole Foods. About at the same time Harris Teeter, the giant Charlotte-based chain, will open a store on Trader Joe's other side. And just a few weeks ago, locally-owned Dough, a specialty bakery and deli, opened a few blocks to the north of Hill House, also on Merrimon Avenue.
Maybe soon some restaurants will follow. For now, there's hippie favorite HomeGrown (Slow Food Right Quick), across Merrimon from Dough, the elegant vegetarian restaurant Plant, across Merrimon from the new Harris Teeter, and the no-frills, diner-style Five Points Restaurant (breakfast and lunch only) at Broadway and Chestnut. Everybody's favorite coffee bar in the neighborhood is HighFive (formerly the Dripolator), on the ground level of the Pioneer condominiums and around the corner from Whole Foods.
We get calls or emails about every week from someone looking to have a luncheon, reception, private party, etc. at Hill House. Our immediate response is always the same -- book a couple of rooms and we'd love to have you.
One reason for this is regulatory and physical limitations. The state allows bed and breakfasts to cook only breakfast onsite. The city restricts bed and breakfasts to four non-guest events per year. And Hill House doesn't have a public restroom, because, well, we don't need one.
But more importantly, we're here for our inn guests, and while here, the inn belongs to our guests. If guests want to quietly sip tea all afternoon on the porch, kick a soccer ball around on the lawn, or hang out in their room undisturbed, we work hard to provide that ambience. Outsiders coming in for an event would destroy that.
But now again, if you'd like to book a couple of rooms in coordination with a catered function, then you'd be a guest with the same privileges and treatment......
If you don't know much about bed and breakfasts, you probably don't know much about what to expect at breakfast. So here you go....
At almost all B&Bs, choice is limited because of small, residential-style kitchens. None of us are order-from-the-menu restaurants. At larger inns, you may get a choice of entrees, but at Hill House, and most others, there's a single daily entree.
Some B&Bs serve two or three courses, and while some guests enjoy a leisurely meal, others want in and out. So Hill House only serves a single course, often a baked eggs recipe, other days perhaps our croissant french toast or baked apple pancake. We go light on meat, and use it as a side or for flavoring.
Like most other B&Bs in Asheville, our breakfast is at 9:00, and coffee and a morning pastry are ready around 7:15. Hill House seating is family-style at large tables, except for two small tables for those who are shy or just want their privacy. Meals are plated in the kitchen and carried to guests at the table, as in a restaurant.
If you're vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or have other dietary restrictions, please let us know in advance, and we will accomodate you. And if there's something in particular you like, also let us know, and we'll do our best.