Salisbury couple begin new era for Inn on the Green
MIDDLEBURY — Chris and Chelsea Griggs got their first taste of the hospitality industry a few years ago. They had purchased a “fixer-upper” on Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, which they lovingly rehabbed and began renting out to help subsidize their investment.
But the experience turned into something much more than an income earning vacation rental.
“We started meeting people, people from all different areas,” Chelsea Griggs recalled. “We had a book (at the lake house) and people would write messages about their stays. We started building these relationships with these complete strangers.”
The Griggses were so inspired by that three-year experience that they decided to take their commitment as hoteliers to the next level — as the new owners of the Inn on the Green at 71 North Pleasant St. in Middlebury.
Chelsea, 30, and Chris, 34, officially took the inn’s reins on Dec. 11, from former owners Bruce and Brenda Grove. The Griggses are looking forward to a long run as innkeepers, and will employ a staff of eight full- and part-time workers to make sure guests have comfortable and memorable stays.
One of their employees, who’s performed varied tasks at the inn for the past 11 years, is Chelsea’s mom, Wendy Martell. It was she who provided the couple with some initial guidance while they were considering purchase of the Inn on the Green. She’ll now be working for her daughter, though the Griggses aren’t quitting their respective day jobs.
Chris owns East View Electrical Services, an electrical contracting business in New Haven. Chelsea is front office manager for the Mount Abraham Unified School District.
The couple has a 5-year-old daughter named Emelia, and a 14-year-old black lab named Sadie. They live in Salisbury, around six homes away from the one they just sold. They both serve on the Lake Dunmore-Fern Lake Association.
“We looked into this place, and it was kind of like a big dream,” Griggs recalled for their first look at the inn with the prospect of owning it.
They gave themselves a year to plan for purchase and management of the beautiful 216-year-old, federal-style building that, true to its name, overlooks Middlebury’s town green and sits comfortably across the road from Town Hall Theater.
Chelsea spent the summer of 2018 researching inns throughout New England, speaking with owners to get a sense of the challenges and joys of the business. She liked what she heard, and eventually spoke with an official at the Vermont Economic Development Authority, which supports small business entrepreneurs.
“We had a great conversation and eventually found a way to make it happen,” she said. “We are full-on committed to welcoming guests for what will probably be at least the next 20 years of our lives.
They sold their beloved lake home to raise part of the capital to buy and renovate the Inn on the Green. Those renovations have involved building a new, long-term-stay unit into what had historically been the “innkeepers apartment” on the lower level of the inn. The new space is equipped with a kitchenette its own private entrance and is being offered to clients who like to travel with their pets.
The addition of the new long-term-stay unit brings to eight the total number of guest rooms at the main inn building. An adjacent carriage house includes another four rooms. All the inn’s rooms are named after the surrounding towns in Addison County. A fresh local breakfast is provided daily by the Middlebury Bagel Bakery and delivered to each room, according to Griggs, who confirmed the inn is also offering a hot breakfast option.
Chelsea Griggs praised past ownership for being great stewards of the property.
“The Groves did a wonderful job,” she said. “They ran a successful business for their entire duration here.”
And the Griggses said they want to build on that success by partnering with other local businesses to allow Inn on the Green guests to get a taste of the community outside of their comfy rooms.
For example, they’ve reached out to THT and Two Brothers Tavern to organize an interactive murder-mystery game with dinner.
“We’ve met with (THT Executive Director) Mark Bradley to see how we could build a stronger relationship, since we are right across the street from each other,” Griggs said.
Other collaborations in place or in the offing include brew tours with Vermont Tasting Tours, guided fly-fishing tours, guided hikes and snowshoe adventures. Inn clients can cash in on special deals for films shown at the nearby Marquis Theater, wine tasting at Lincoln Peak Winery in New Haven, THT performances, and other local products and services.
Guests receive a handout promoting local businesses and services, including Middlebury’s Dog Park off South Street.
“We want to provide a Vermont experience,” she said.
The Griggses are using the Internet to expand their marketing efforts and are reaching out to organizers of special events — such as the Gran Fondo, Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival and Sodbusters horseshoe tourneys — to make sure attendees consider the Inn on the Green as a top place to stay while they’re in town.
“The more people that we get right here, walking distance to downtown, the better off our stores and restaurants are going to be,” Griggs said.
It’s a philosophy of entrepreneurial solidarity that will be more important than ever during the next three years of at-times heavy construction on replacement of the Main Street and Merchants Row rail bridges.
The Griggses have staked a considerable financial investment in their confidence they and other downtown Middlebury businesses will endure the challenges of the massive project and that the county’s shire town will emerge better than ever when the work has been completed in 2021.
“We have a community that’s really coming together,” Griggs said. “Instead of looking at each other as competitors, we’re looking at each other as partners. That’s a great way to help each other move forward in a difficult time.”
The couple is planning an open house for April 14 at which they will showcase the inn and some of its business partnerships. In the meantime, they’re getting great on-the-job experience as innkeepers.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming new faces,” Griggs said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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