Spring is in full bloom and summer is on its way, yet the typically vibrant seasons we’ve all been looking forward to are going to look a lot different this year, especially when it comes to vacation plans.
Since the global pandemic began and travel restrictions were put in place, hotels throughout the country have been forced to close their doors to eager travelers. And according to March data from the Pew Research Center, employees of the hotel industry are among the most at-risk of losing their jobs and facing great economic distress due to COVID-19.
Here in Virginia, local vacation destinations are feeling the impacts too, including Sperryville-based The Inn at Mount Vernon, a historic 1827 farmhouse located in the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
On March 15, the luxury bed and breakfast (with just six rooms) closed its doors for the safety of its guests and staff. Since then, innkeeper Cindy Hall has been tasked with ensuring the site remains running for the day that the charming building and its surrounding farm get to welcome back recurring and new guests alike.
Before then, we chatted with Hall about daily changes to the inn, impacts on the farm and what she’s looking forward to for the future. Highlights from our conversation below.
How has the global pandemic impacted the day-to-day operations of your job?
Well, things have slowed immensely because we are closed at the moment. We were able to keep the staff working for the first week getting some deep cleaning and maintenance done. Now, my focus has been more on the behind-the-scenes tasks that make an inn run smoothly and getting some outside maintenance projects completed.
How has life at the inn changed?
There is no wonderful smell of bacon sizzling on the griddle and freshly sliced apples frying in the pan, nor the scent of freshly baked cookies and scones. Lillian [the chef] kept our kitchen humming. I don’t hear the voices of our guests meeting new friends or telling us about their daily adventure or the fabulous dinner they had the night before. The Inn is too still.
How have you handled cancellations of big events for the spring and summer?
We had three weddings scheduled for May, and all of the couples decided to postpone to either this fall or next spring. We were fortunate to be able to accommodate everyone.
I understand you have farmlands on the property with various animals. Has the virus had any impact on your ability to care for both the land and the animals that inhibit it?
One nice thing about an 850-acre farm is that there is lots of room to social distance! Our farm is in transition. The owner retired from cattle farming and now the focus is turning the land into a natural preserve. We currently have several hiking trails where guests can hike 2.5, 3 or 5 miles if they’d like and the trout club continues to fish in the river. We are excited to see what new wildlife and changes will come to the land that our guests can enjoy in the future.
What has been the most challenging aspect of adapting to this new reality?
The most challenging part has been trying to figure out the best way to keep our communal and friendly atmosphere while still maintaining social distancing. We will be emailing our former guests and posting on our social media outlets to keep everyone connected. Come Saturday, May 9, we are hoping to reopen to guests, but our next event is scheduled for September.
What are you most looking forward to doing when this pandemic finally ends?
Welcoming guests back without wearing a face mask! Sitting on the porch chatting while they enjoy a glass of wine. Our guests are the life of the inn.
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