As I sat at our beautiful chef’s dining room table looking thru a wall of glass at the pines by the trout pond, I gave thanks for all the people we had the privilege of serving at River Spring Lodge. For almost four years, people from all over New York, nearly every state in the nation and each Province in Canada along with guests from around the world have walked through the front doors of our country estate. They come to stay in our luxurious bedrooms, enjoy good wine and feast on our five-course refined American cuisine while experiencing Carolyn’s warm impeccable service. As guests continually affirm in their reviews, Carolyn is the sweetest innkeeper anyone will ever encounter.
I thought about the hotel industry recognition we received when we opened with a four-star hotel class rating. Shortly after opening we became a Bed and Breakfast Diamond Collection Boutique Inn. Then we were chosen by I Love Inns as a Top Ten Most Romantic Inn in America in 2018. In 2018 River Spring Lodge was accepted into the prestigious Select Registry Distinguished Inns of North America. In 2018 and 2019 we earned the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award. We were especially proud in March of 2020 when we were awarded the coveted 2020 Travelers Choice Award by TripAdvisor with an incredible 97% five-star rating.
I also thought about all the beautiful memories couples had made here: first dates, marriage proposals, wedding nights, romantic escapes, birthdays and anniversaries. We also hosted many group events including rehearsal dinners, retirement parties, Christmas celebrations, lobby concerts, church retreats, business meetings and lawn concerts with fireworks as fundraisers for charities. Then I thought about all the groups of friends that had gathered at the chef’s table laughing and talking as they enjoyed food, wine and each other’s company. Now I was sitting alone at that table. Carolyn and I love to serve people. It became strangely quiet the Day COVID came and shut the front doors of our home.
As I sat, I was praying to the One Who guided Carolyn and me back to New York in December of 2015 to become caretakers of the amazing property that became River Spring Lodge when we became the proud owners and innkeepers in 2016. I was praying for wisdom that day as I lingered around the table with my Friend that sticks closer than a brother.
Governor Cuomo was talking about reopening regions in stages and I was seeking God’s guidance on reopening or staying closed until a vaccine was widely distributed and a lid was on the virus. Until that day, I was leaning toward staying closed at least until the spring of 2021. Closing permanently never once crossed my mind. Our business would have survived even if we stayed closed until the spring of 2021. My only concern about reopening was the safety of our guests, our employees that serve beside us and of course Carolyn and myself. That day when I got up from the table, I knew we would reopen in early July.
Select Registry Distinguished Inns of North America announced to the innkeepers of member properties a safety, cleaning and sanitizing protocol that members could implement called Select Safe, Stay Safe. These stringent, best practices hospitality industry guidelines addressed my concerns and began to put my heart at ease. I began to see a way that we could reopen and operate River Spring Lodge safely. I had several conversations with the Wyoming County Health Department and New York State Health Officials. When I explained my plans for contactless, five-course wine dinners for couple’s delivered to their rooms in stages with a knock at the door, I was told we could reopen right then because the food was being delivered. We decided to wait until early July about two weeks after restaurants in our region opened under our Governor’s guidelines.
Preparing to reopen safely was a big task. In the past four years River Spring Lodge became established with a stellar reputation for affordable excellence. Although safety was my foremost concern, I would never sacrifice the quality of our accommodations, food, service or any of the high standards that elevated River Spring as the premier lodging and dining destination in all of Western New York. We had to reinvent ourselves to respond to the needs of our guests in the era of COVID. So, I created a revised business plan for River Spring Lodge thru 2021 that included in room dining for people seeking a safe place for a couple’s getaway.
First, we tackled the rooms. All decorative pillows and things like throws were removed along with all reading materials and written guest instructions. We stored our down duvets and bought blankets that are washed after each guest stay. We bought mattress and pillow covers that liquid, therefore COVID virus, cannot penetrate. These covers are removed and washed whenever a guest checks out. We added tables for two that are preset with our beautiful purple table cloths, fine platinum china and German crystal stemware for our guest’s five-course candlelight dinner with wine.
As all of our past guests know, our suites are scrupulously clean. We have moisture resistant full grain leather furniture in our guest rooms which is sanitized between stays. We have hardwood floors in the bedrooms and heated tile floors that are washed and sanitized between stays as well. All surfaces touched like light switches, table tops, door handles, faucet handles are also sanitized. We also have two sanitizing wipes in each room for the guest’s use. We have hand sanitizer at the lobby entrance door, the front desk and in the hallway of the guest suites. We have safety signage at the entrances and in the lobby.
We are apolitical about the safety of everyone that walks thru our doors. Please stay home until the COVID era passes if you do not want to comply with all the current NYS guidelines for public safety.
For now we are only serving dinners to overnight guests in the privacy of their rooms. The dining room is temporarily closed. When two or more couples are renting rooms together at the lodge we give them the option of dining together in our private dining room at the Chef’s Table.
Carolyn and I hope we have the privilege of serving you soon.
Stay Safe…Chef David