A Tale of Passion and Chutzpa
As soon as I pulled up to the Wedgwood Inn, I felt sucked into another time, another century. The Inn, with its purple-blue siding, stands out from the surrounding properties, looking inviting yet mysterious, hovering peacefully above the New Hope Creek. As I walked in I had a strong feeling of Déjà vu, as if the Versailles palace, Williamsburg VA and Old City Philadelphia had converged together to create this unique spectacle. I was guessing that a place like this must hold countless secrets and stories.
What kind of story was I about to divulge? It could easily be a story about history and restoration. After all, this building was built in 1720 and rumors are that it hosted some of George Washington’s troops during their fight for independence. Yet, there is no lack of historic landmarks around this part of Bucks County, PA. with similar claims to fame. Maybe I should focus on the extraordinary art and beauty of the Inn? As Carl takes me on a guided tour of the Inn, I am struck by the fine meticulous detail of every piece of décor, painting and furniture in each room and hallway, creating a unique ambiance of romance and nostalgia.
However, after meeting Carl and Dinie Glassman, the owners and visionaries of the Wedgwood Inn, it quickly becomes clear to me that this story has mostly to do with passion . . . and a lot of Chutzpa.
Appropriately, Carl had me sit by the burning fireplace as he shared his story.
Dror : So Carl, how does someone wake up one morning and decides to start a Bed and Breakfast business in Bucks County?
Carl (laughing): Well, it wasn’t really a decision I made lightly. It all started back in the early 80’s. Dinie (Nadine) and I were in our early 20’s and lived in an old rented house in Lambertville. An old house means a lot of work and maintenance. We became friendly with our landlord who also happened to own the famous Logan Inn in New Hope. We began helping him to fix up the house and to do routine maintenance. We both were bitten with the “fixing up bug”. However, we both held busy day jobs. Dinie worked as a social service policy professional, and I worked for a social policy think tank in Princeton. We were young, enthusiastic and idealists.
It sounds like you were on the fast track to success, what went wrong?
As you grow up, you get to a point where you realize that while you can be working in a nice cushy job, with a steady income and make a comfortable living – the smooth sailing for many years just doesn’t guarantee happiness. I hated working for corporate America and being a part of the machine and so did Dinie, who had to struggle with the Reagan administration slicing most of the budget for the social services she was trying to move forward. We were frustrated and needed an exit plan that would allow us to do something we were really passionate and wholehearted about. That seeded the idea of Inn-keeping as an alternative way of living that would allow us to be independent.
So, essentially, you took the red pill, like in the matrix?
“In a way we did (laughing), by choosing to jump off the corporate ladder instead of climbing up, we took a leap into the unknown. But it also had to do a lot with the fact than Dinie and I really love to spend time together,” he explains,” . . .and we were looking for a way to live and work as a couple. Dinie was braver than I and quit her job first. She started to work at the Holiday Inn, the only hotel around here back then, and then moved to work for our landlord at the Logan Inn, in New Hope as an Inn keeper. It took several years of building our skills and confidence until one day we were driving by this old, historic building on Bridge St., walking distance from the Delaware River, and saw a for sale sign.”
And the rest is history?
Not quite; it took some loans and tough negotiations to get the place and a lot of rehab work to get the place into decent shape.
So how did you get your first guests in 1982 without the Internet?
Good point; there were no Google, smartphones or Trip Advisor back then. You had to wait years to get into the travel guides. Fortunately, our friends from the Logan Inn and the Holiday Inn were very helpful and referred their surplus visitors to us. That help was crucial to our success and I will always be thankful for that “carry it forward” spirit by helping new businesses.
Tourism in America was transitioning in the 80’s. After the bicentennial celebrations, Americans showed a renewed interest in Americana, the culture, the history, the nature… They adopted the European trend of vacationing in bed & breakfasts that was a different kind of experience and more accessible than staying at traditional Inns and Hotels. The industry was evolving and we were lucky to be there on the ground floor.
We took on Wedgwood as our logo – this fine china, porcelain art form thrived in the 18th century and defined the atmosphere we were aiming to convey.
Dinie, took the professionalism to the next level by meeting with and forming relationships with colleagues around the country. Being a good listener helped. I started to spend more and more time at the Wedgwood turning it into a business and home while I phased out of my official day job.
WHEN IN NEW HOPE, DO AS THE LOCALS
CARL’S GUIDE TO NEW HOPE LOCAL LIVING:
A place to grab a coffee
” Last Temptation ” on S Main St
A romantic dinner
“Zoubi Restaurant & Bar“. Make sure to have reservations.
The best beer
A good parking
On weekends and in the evenings, use the New Hope-Solebury High School parking lot on W Bridge Street
A secret nature spot
The Canal Towpath through town. Parallel to Main Street, yet 200 miles long.
A fun outdoor activity
Hiking through Washington Crossing State Park, and its Wildflower Preserve.
Must thing to do
Take a leisurely stroll on the pedestrian walkway of the New Hope-Lambertville Free Bridge and enjoy the architecture of this historic steel bridge as well as the sweeping views of the Delaware River. Straddle the NJ-PA state line painted across the walkway. Wave to boaters, fishermen and jet-skiers too.
Best Place to Kiss
At the Wedgwood Inn of course!
When did you know that you really made it?
A few hours after we completed the renovations, Dinie made some phone calls and we got our first reservation on that day. A few days later, we were fully booked! And thank god, 35 years later, we’re still mostly booked way in advance, at the Wedgwood and the two other B&B’s we own. I now acknowledge that none of that could have happened without the help of our friends and the welcoming community of New Hope that embraced us.
Dror (Teasingly): Forgive me, I need a tissue now, maybe you can help me stop sobbing by sharing a good business tip?
Absolutely, my tip is not to overlook the potential in the long term guests that stay in the middle of the week. They make a huge impact on your bottom-line.
Looking back, what are you most proud of?
I take a lot of pride in our success to hold, maintain, and one day, pass on a part of American history. Dinie and I have done all of that while raising our child and playing an active part in this great community of New Hope and Lambertville. I am also proud of the Bucks County B&B association – a collection of 35 inns that I formed in the region. It’s a great community of business people that help one another.
I am getting weepy again . . . do you also have any regrets?
Hmm, maybe if I stayed in the corporate world, I could have retired by now. So sometimes I do wonder but not really. I am very satisfied with my life’s choices and accomplishments.
Do you and Dinie go on vacations, if so where do you stay?
Throughout the years I’ve been helping folks around the country to open B&B’s. We have colleagues and guests that became friends from around the world, so we did use to travel a lot and see our friends. We love the American southwest. We’ve traveled a lot to Israel and Canada and stayed in B&B’s there. Today, however, we don’t go too far and sometime even stay in hotels especially when traveling as a family.
If you could invite anyone to stay at the Wedgwood Inn who would it be?
We host celebs, rock stars and famous people all the time and all of them have many interesting stories to tell. But to answer your question – I’ll have to go with Ralph Nader, who stayed with us once. A fascinating fellow whom I have so many questions to ask, especially on his consumer protection research and his role in the 2000 presidential election.
Which top 3 attractions or activities do you think your guests must see or do around here?
There are so many things to do in New Hope – Lambertville and the Bucks county area, it’s hard to choose. It depends on whether you come for a family vacation or as a couple for a romantic getaway. But if you insist on an answer, so I would say:
- Visitors should spend time walking and exploring the small shops, art galleries and restaurants and cross over the bridge to Lambertville. New Hope and Lambertville are actually one destination.
- Take a stroll, a bike ride or a horseback ride along the historic towpath canal trail. It is a great activity that combines nature, history and physical activity.
- Don’t miss Washington Crossing Park and Visitor Center where you can truly feel the revolutionary war history come to life.
Carl is there anything I didn’t ask you that you think readers should know about you?
I think it’s important to emphasis the unique spirit of New Hope and this region. We were founded by Quakers. Quakers were interesting folks with high level of tolerance to other people. This area used to be an important rest spot for travelers between New York and Philadelphia. The stone carriage houses you see around here were the B&B’s of colonial times; we are just continuing the hospitality tradition. Since then, many artists fell in love with the beauty of this land, and then came the actors that made this place into their home followed by the LGBT community who enjoy the openness and acceptance of the community. So you should not be surprised that even a left-handed Jewish guy from New Jersey like me had the Chutzpa to open the first B&B in town.
As I was saying goodbye to Carl and walked to my car, Dinie came over, gave me a piece of hot bread wrapped in aluminum foil and gave me a hug. The fresh bread smell in the car was delicious. At this point, I knew that the Wedgwood story is not about anything I have seen in any travel website or brochure. For me it was a tale of passion, love and just the right amount of Chutzpa.
Wedgwood Inn, New Hope Borough
III West Bridge Street, New Hope, PA 18938