|By Karen Gardner, The Frederick News-Post, Frederick, Md.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 14, 2005 - BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The first thing one notices about the Berkeley Springs Inn and Spa is the quiet. And that's the way innkeeper Chase Everhart wants it.
What you do hear is the sound of the brook flowing past the inn into the adjacent woods. It's all part of Mr. Everhart's plan to create romantic weekends for couples staying at the inn.
And couples is the key word. The Berkeley Springs Inn and Spa is for couples only -- husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend. "We won't take couples traveling together or singles," Mr. Everhart said. "We won't take people having affairs."
He said after 15 years in the business of running an inn, he can tell when a couple calling to book are having an affair. "You just know it, really," he said.
Each prospective guest must answer a series of questions on the phone, which takes about 20 minutes. No smokers are allowed; smoking is not allowed inside or on the inn grounds. "We won't even talk to you," he said.
"We don't take everyone who calls," he said. "We're picky." He does not accept reservations from same-sex couples. "A gay couple will not work here," he said.
It's all aimed at providing heterosexual couples with a romantic getaway. Muted, recessed lighting is provided in the public areas, and in the background, soft music plays. The inn's foyer is a large, airy, plant-filled room that during the day is filled with natural light from the glass-covered cupola, which rises 40 feet above the spotless white-tiled floor.
In the dining room, there are tables for two only. Each table is covered with white tablecloths and candlelight is featured. He does not provide seating for four. "The volume is too much," he said. Nothing should take away from a couple's focus on each other.
"I let people know what the expectations are up front," he said. "We're not a hotel with anonymous service."
The atmosphere is certainly there. A brick path leads over the brook to the front entrance, where presidential rockers sit invitingly on the broad front porch. The house, now a 10,000-square-foot inn, was once a 1910 four-bedroom Sears house on a tomato farm. Berkeley Springs was once known for its tomatoes. A large stone fireplace was added in the 1950s.
The house is now a combination of new and old. Flooring in the dining room came from a barn that once stood on the property, which is located about three miles outside of Berkeley Springs on New Hope Road.
The fireplace is now in the lounge, which contains a library of 2,000 movies, anything from lighthearted comedies to steamy romantic thrillers. Each of the eight guest rooms in the inn is equipped with a color television with 200 satellite channels and a VCR. DVD players will soon be added, Mr. Everhart said.
Each guest room has a private bath, and each closet comes with bathrobes for the couple to wear over bathing suits to the Jacuzzi. The inn also has a heated in-ground outdoor pool which is usable from late spring to early fall.
A weekend stay at the inn is marketed as a package, Mr. Everhart said, and he asks that couples not deter from the package. Dinner each evening and breakfast each morning are provided, and a spa treatment is included.
Each person is provided a massage, and a choice of a facial, manicure or pedicure. Most of the men choose the facial, Mr. Everhart said. For those who would like more than one service, the others can be added for a price.
The weekend package costs between $530 and $560, depending on the room. Gratuities and beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are not included in the package price. There are also single-night packages for Thursdays and Sundays.
"We guarantee a quiet dinner, meals, a commitment to dinner and spa times," he said. Each couple is asked to reserve dinner and spa times before they arrive. Breakfast is served between 9 and 10 a.m. "I want it to be romantic," he said. "I want couples to have a leisurely morning."
Guests are not hurried during meals, but rather encouraged to linger as long as they like.
After dinner, they can enjoy cordials, either at their table, in the inn's lounge or in their rooms. Mr. Everhart stocks wines, champagnes and cordials. There is a soda and candy machine tucked in an out of the way corner. "It's very noncommercial here," he said.
Fresh flowers do stand out. There are vases on every table in the dining room, and bouquets of fresh flowers in each guest room and in other spots throughout the inn.
The inn is furnished in natural oak, with fabrics, wallpaper and paint in coordinating colors. Each of the guest beds has a quilt. Paintings from all over the world hang on the walls. Mr. Everhart said he has a talent for design.
Some of the rooms are spacious, others are cozy. Each opens onto a balcony; some have private balconies while others are shared. Views of the nearby forest unfold from nearly every window.
A brick patio stretches from the back of the house, leading to the swimming pool, which is now closed for the winter. Eventually, Mr. Everhart plans to enclose the swimming pool. Nearby is a Jacuzzi filled with water kept at 104 degrees. On a cold day, steam rises off it.
Sometimes couples socialize on the porches or in the lounge, but mostly they stay among themselves. "Today's couples are very private," he said. For the first decade he had the inn, most of his guests were in their 40s and up. Now, however, he has guests ranging in age from early 20s to retired people.
He estimates he's hosted 41,000 couples in the 15 years the inn has been open. The inn started as a three-bedroom, shared bath bed and breakfast. He quickly shifted to an inn with the couples-only concept. He added the spa a few years later.
The spa is housed in a former ranch house a quarter mile down the road from the inn. Couples drive over, and are told to plan for a three-hour stay. During this time, they can use the spa's Jacuzzi or exercise room. Clocks are placed throughout the inn and spa to help couples stay on time.
The clean rooms in the spa are painted muted lavender, sage or other relaxing colors. Fresh flowers are abundant. There are separate dressing rooms, with shower facilities, for men and women.
Mr. Everhart estimates three-quarters of the couples coming to the inn are celebrating a birthday or anniversary, while the other one-quarter come to get some time away from their children. Most couples come from nearby states, from Baltimore, Washington and Pittsburgh.
"This is a professionally-run inn," he said. There is a commercial kitchen. The chef prepares the meals using as much locally-grown and raised food as possible, and the rest of it is brought in from nearby areas. "No trucks ever deliver food here," he said.
Outside are several raised garden beds where he and his staff grow tomatoes, green beans, onions, squash, zucchini and herbs. He said all the food is grown without pesticides.
The inn provides substantial breakfasts. They feature fresh fruit, waffles, egg dishes and breakfast meats, along with coffee and tea.
Dinners feature hand-selected seafood and meats and vegetables in season. Typical entrees include chicken cordon bleu, filet mignon, chicken marsala, chicken Kiev, salmon wrapped in phylo and crab-encrusted orange roughy. The salads feature seven or eight greens and slivered spiced almonds.
Dinners are five-course, made from scratch, with no bread. "I don't want you filling up on bread," he said. All soup stocks, salad dressings and desserts are homemade at the inn.
Mr. Everhart, 43, learned gourmet cooking in his 20s. He trained as a software engineer, and now owns a software development corporation geared toward innkeepers. He also owns an international project management consulting and training company, and is getting into property development. He is writing a book on innkeeping.
"I'm very romantic and craftsy, but I also have a business side," he said.
While he greets the guests and checks in on them every now and again, his staff take care of most guest needs.
He suggests prospective guests book 90 days in advance. "We're booked every weekend," he said.
"We promote the quietness," he said. "It's you and him in your own little world."
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