Boutique country hotel in the Catskills, New York State, USA

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Boutique country hotel in the Catskills, New York State, USA

Environment

• We are honored to be the next set of stewards on this special property.
• We have renovated the main building and will be renovating additional historic buildings to the highest renovation standards, and are in the process of getting the entire property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This property has both local and national historic relevance. We are paying special attention to the unique oil murals on interior walls and are working with world class conservators to ensure they are cleaned and restored properly. We have filled the building with antique furniture and have worked very hard not to eliminate as much plastic as we can.
• We are managing the woodlands and meadows on the property to best protect and support native species, including trees, understory,and wildflowers. We are working to restore native Hemlock groves, eradicate invasives like garlic mustard, and protect some spectacular collections of triliium and dutchmans breeches.
• We are protecting three springs and the pond on the property, working to ensure that they stay clean and wildlife is supported by them.
• We have a healthy wildlife population on the property, including deer, bear, fox, skunk, pileated woodpeckers, and a wide array of small animal and other bird life. They are all protected from hunting on the property, and our land management is being done to ensure their populations stay healthy and balanced.
• We work to reuse and recycle everything that we can in food waste, either by providing leftovers to a local food bank, composting, or providing it to area small scale farmers to feed chickens and pigs. We run as close to paperless business as possible, using digital communication when we can. We recycle all glass, aluminum, and paper that we can. Instead of throwing away tons of old furniture when we purchased the property, we donated it to two area nonprofit organizations.
• We employ green hotel practices with water use, and only change linens when soiled, explaining to our guests our philosophies and practices. Our bathroom toilets are historic and ironically far more efficient with water use than many standard new ones. We invite guests to fill up their canteens from our well water rather than purchase plastic bottled water, and are purchasing metal water canteens for their use. We also only use green cleaning materials.
• While we currently heat with propane, we are working with area leaders in alternative energy sources to see how we can replace propane with biomass. (The village we are located in is designing a community wide biomass system that we hope to connect into eventually.) We heat our hot water in our hot water boilers for our heating system, so we are meeting two energy needs at once, and the hot water radiators are far more efficient than modern forced air. We keep the heat down in the house as low as we can and still keep guests comfortable, and spot heat when we need to.
• We work extremely hard to buy local whenever we can. We buy as much produce and other food products from local farmers and value added producers as we can and feature them at our events, as well as local and regional beers, craft ciders, and spirits. We always look first to local and independently owned businesses. We bank at two local banks.

Community

• This property was built by the Fleischmann Yeast family, who gave a park to the village, causing the community to be renamed in their honor. It was part of a much larger colony of buildings built by the family, and is the only one standing. We have discovered over this last year, as we have been restoring it, that it holds a unique piece of the soul of the community. Many people have known about this house and loved it, had some relationship with it, and were terribly worried that it would end up disintegrating as it sat empty for 20 years. This region was hit hard by the economic downturn and then the village was badly flooded several years ago. We are one of only a handful of new businesses in the area, and by bringing this building back to life, are investing in a community that has been on the edge of not making it. There is extraordinary community response to this, and we are being told that others are looking at the community differently as a place to invest because we chose to buy here rather than in one of the other villages in the area that wasn't hit as hard financially. This was, incidentally, one of our goals in selecting a location -- we wanted to go where we could make a real difference in a community.
• We began the project by cleaning out an enormous amount of furnishings and other items and donated them to various nonprofits, including the small community organization that supports the village, the local community radio station, and another regional nonprofit that provides materials to people in extreme financial need.
• We happily host a multitude of community events and fundraisers for area nonprofit organizations (from community foundations like the MARK Project to cultural organizations like the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice), and offer gift certificates as fundraising tools for area nonprofits on a regular basis.
• We buy and bank locally, and offer local suggestions to all of our visitors for ideas about where to explore, where to shop, etc.
• Our social media campaigns work hard to support the local community in a variety of ways -- we are excited to spread the word about all of the interesting opportunities in the area, and view everyone as a full ecosystem, rather than competitors.
• Leigh sits on the advisory board of a Transitions Movement organization as it is coming to life, and we are planning a programming series with them on sustainability. This group is also exploring alternative energy transportation initiatives, and Leigh is pushing hard to try to build a collective to do some small scale community transportation in and out of New York City. (Right now the area is only served by limited bus service and train service that is about an hour away. She sees bettering this as an economic driver as well as an environmental issue.)
• Leigh also has sat on local Chamber of Commerce boards, founded a community group that successfully banned fracking in her village and now is working to develop sustainable economic constructs for the community, has volunteered on a number of environmental and cultural efforts, and teaches free business development classes to women in the region including marketing and business strategic planning.
• We are constantly talking with area artists, business owners, nonprofits, guides, etc. about how we can incorporate them into our programming, and envision the entire region as our programming palette.
• Leigh is co-hosting a radio show called 'Localore' on WIOX (wiox.org) regional community radio, talking with guests about specific local efforts as well as larger issues about place, sustainability, what local means and why it matters, etc.
• We are a small operation so far, but are offering the folks working for us higher hourly compensation than most places. We also are committed to teaching and training, and are speaking with the local university about an internship/training program in hospitality in our kitchen. We believe that we all work and learn together, and that everyone has a particular set of gifts to bring to the organization. One of our greatest successes so far is a wonderful young man who has been doing some pick up work for us -- he went to apply for a job at the ski resort near us, and when the person hiring saw Spillian on his resumι, hired him on the spot. We're pretty proud of that!
• Ultimately, we want our guests to see and feel and be touched by the magic of the Catsklll mountains as much as we are. We work very hard to concierge their experience here and to invite them to see what is so special here, what is fragile and needs support, and what is worthy of being imagined elsewhere. One of the remarkable things about this area is that it has, so far, resisted the urge to homogenize and fill itself with big box stores, etc. By bringing guests here and inviting them to explore how different life is when you go to a place that is working hard to celebrate its own uniqueness, we hope to help them fight for that uniqueness in their own home towns.

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