Elodie Reed, St. Albans Messenger
MONTGOMERY — Montgomery is in the spotlight thanks to a couple of inn owners and a Travel Channel show called “Hotel Showdown.”
The show, which aired its second episode Tuesday night, is a winner-take-all competition between four hoteliers, each from a different state, that visit each competitor’s accommodation. Scott Pasfield, who owns The INN in Montgomery with partner of 16 years Nick Barletta, was one of the contestants on last night’s show.
“We were the newbies – the new kids on the block,” said Pasfield. He said that while he and Barletta have been doing hospitality for just two years, the other hotels – in Hawley, Penn., Camden, Maine and Provincetown, Mass. – had been open longer, were larger, and were more expensive.
Perhaps Pasfield and Barletta have beginner’s luck, or they’re just really good at what they do, because they happened to win the television competition, garnering glory and thousands of dollars in prize money.
“It was awesome,” said Pasfield.
“It was a level of acknowledgment for what we’re doing, or what we’re trying to do,” said Barletta.
Pasfield added, “We’ve [Montgomery has] always been Vermont’s best kept secret up here and we think it’s time to let the secret be let out.”
As Travel Channel viewers learned last night, Pasfield and Barletta put together The INN as a backwoods, Vermont-y lodge that has Hollywood flair. Animal trophies line the walls next to mirrors, framed art and nature-inspired stencils. Warm lamps light a wood bar table lined with glasses, fruit in baskets and silver vases.
The furniture in the inn’s 11 rooms and lounge is made of wood, is lined with cushions, and is invitingly comfortable. Fireplaces are a common feature.
“I wanted it to be a very warm, masculine sort of hunting lodge combined with a ski chalet and a New York City club,” said Pasfield. “And I’m not afraid of putting a dead animal on the wall.” He added that he liked to refer to The INN’s style as “Timber Swag.”
When guests visit, they can enjoy the comfort of their rooms, live entertainment in the inn’s bar and restaurant, conversation with Pasfield and Barletta, arts events held at the inn, and the number of outdoor activities around Montgomery.
“It’s a fantastic town,” said Pasfield.
The INN all came together after Pasfield, 46, and Barletta, “a little older,” purchased it in 2012 and began renovating. The couple, which previously bought a ski home in Montgomery in 2007 and continue to live there, decided to fully transition from their life in New York City to the northern Vermont ski town.
Pasfield said the timing seemed right with the recent growth of Jay Peak and the surrounding tourism businesses.
“This was a good opportunity to do something different and continue our love of entertaining and food and hospitality,” said Pasfield. “We saw it as a chance to jump on their coattails. “
He added that it was also a chance to help revitalize Montgomery by bringing life to the inn, which had been deteriorating for some time as the former Inn on Trout River.
“Everything kind of came full circle,” said Pasfield.
Using his background in architecture, photography and design, and a knack for finding good items on Craigslist, Pasfield focused on the feel of the place. Barletta meanwhile looked after the business side with his experience in corporate finance. They completed renovations by March 2013, and they’ve been growing – they now have a dog, Portland, and 12 part-time staff – ever since.
“It took an awful lot of support from an awful lot of people,” said Pasfield. “We’re still upgrading as we go.”
In addition to adding new physical features to their inn, Pasfield and Barletta focus on doing two things to ensure their success: become more involved with the arts and business communities in Montgomery, and market both the town and their inn as a destination to the outside world.
For instance, the INN hosts “Celebration of Expressive Arts” events routinely, duing which writers, artists and musicians showcase their work. Pasfield and Barletta also collaborate with the inn next door – the Phineas Swann – when large parties come to town and need enough rooms.
Working together, The INN hopes to strengthen the community as a whole.
“Jay Peak has grown so much and its hurt some of the small guys and that’s why we need more recognition,” said Pasfield. “We have to show what we do have.”
Pasfield and Barletta were given their chance to show off both The INN and Montgomery when they received a phone call this past fall from a casting company, offering to interview them to participate in “Hotel Showdown.”
“They found our website and liked what we did,” said Pasfield. “We said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
After several interviews, Pasfield and Barletta were selected for the show, and were given two weeks to prepare. The process began in November with a new layer of snow on the ground, and with Pasfield as The INN’s representative, an eight-day shoot began.
“It happened really fast,” said Pasfield. “Three other hoteliers and me traveled as this band.”
Going around to the four hotels, Pasfield said he and the others experienced the accommodations and entertainment each place had to offer.
“It was a great experience to force yourself on the other side of the counter,” said Pasfield.
At The INN, Barletta and Pasfield let the bar and restaurant, live music, and their cozy rooms do all the work for the day-and-a-half stay. Barletta, who was left to run The INN, said it was a good amount of work to get things ready.
“I was going crazy because Scott had a laundry list of things to do,” he said. Barletta said he tried to fine tune everything to be perfect – the rooms, the grounds and a special dinner menu with their best appetizers.
“To be competitive,” Barletta said of all that work.
He added, “I don’t know that I’d say it was fun, I’d say it was exciting.”
All the preparation and excitement paid off – quite literally – as The INN won the “Hotel Showdown” competition for the best stay and took home the cash prize of $25,000.
While some cash always a good thing for an inn still looking to add a sauna and other features, Pasfield and Barletta were more interested in what television coverage could do for Montgomery, the local businesses here, and the community as a whole.
“It was a great opportunity to bring a little life to the town again,” said Pasfield.