Sitting at the massive dining table in the kitchen of the Inn at Orchard Heights a week before it closed, it’s not hard to imagine why so many visitors to New Paltz made return trips to stay at the 1888 Queen Anne Victorian bed-and-breakfast in the village. Co-proprietor Janet Greene, who ran the business with husband Darryl Greene for nearly 20 years, is very pleasant company to chat with, and the premises are simply beautiful, filled with period architectural details, charming antique furniture, gorgeous stained glass windows and perceptible warmth and good energy.
But paying the mortgage on such a large place and the costs of running a bed-and-breakfast — especially with the competition from Airbnb these days — is a challenging enterprise, and the Greenes have decided it’s time to move on. “It is bittersweet for us to close the doors,” says Janet. “It’s been a lot of fun. Twenty years of great people coming in and out; we’re going to miss that. We made a lot of friends… we saw people when they were first dating, then they got married and had kids, and we’ve watched the kids grow up!”
The property has been sold, slated to become office space. The Greenes will continue to live in the New Paltz area, but will turn their attention from innkeeping to new endeavors, with plans to launch a food truck business. The couple also anticipates expanding their existing lilac business.
The Greenes grew more than 80 different lilac cultivars in a greenhouse built by Darryl on the grounds of the bed-and-breakfast on Church Street. As “Lavender Lady Lilac Nursery,” they offered lilacs in all seven available colors and unique bi-colors, featuring rare varieties and companion plants and trees that go well with lilacs.
The nursery will be relocated as soon as the Greenes find the right property for it, one with enough land and the right soil and growing conditions. The food truck will be situated on-site, providing an eatery for visitors to the nursery, and can be taken off-site, of course, as well, to local events and festivals and the like.
The motivation to open a food truck business comes from their mutual interest and background in culinary pursuits. In their years of running the bed-and-breakfast, it was Janet who did the baking and Darryl who served as short-order cook for the hearty breakfasts the inn was known for, made to order with fresh, local farm ingredients.
The Inn at Orchard Heights offered five guest bedrooms and featured a formal dining room, sunny parlor, sitting areas, porches and a garden with views of the Shawangunk Mountains. In addition to the individual travelers the bed-and-breakfast hosted, there were a number of family reunions and gatherings of old school friends along the way. And two couples held Victorian-style weddings on the property, one of which found the bride using the home’s staircase to make her entrance, getting married in the parlor.
The inn was even rented out a few years ago to film “Hudson Valley Ballers,” a comedic web series created by and featuring Saturday Night Live writers Paula Pell, James Anderson, Tina Fey and Rachel Dratz. The storyline follows a couple who give up their jobs in New York City writing television comedy to open a bed-and-breakfast in the country. In one episode, Tina Fey plays a Midwestern bed-and-breakfast critic who posts withering reviews online each night of her stay. The innkeepers in the series try to placate her to no effect, until they finally decide their best strategy is to feign indifference, which turns out to be their best tactic.
In real life, it seems hard to imagine a couple better suited to run a bed-and-breakfast than the Greenes. They first met at Mohonk Mountain House years ago, where Janet was a manager in the hotel housekeeping department and Darryl was a cook. Prior to that, Janet managed a 212-room Best Western hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico and worked at a Florida resort. Darryl, whose trade outside of the Inn has been in construction all his life, had the master craftsman skills to keep the Victorian in good shape all these years. He built half-baths and bedrooms inside along with adding fencing and the dining porch on the front of the house.
But when the Greenes first bought the property, they did so with the idea to run an assisted living home there. Already having cared for several elderly local residents, they became certified as caretakers and opened the Victorian to half a dozen elders, three of whom lived out their years in the home. After the last person passed, the Greenes transitioned to becoming a bed-and-breakfast.
Janet and Darryl raised three children in the house: Alanna, 23, Nathan, 19, and Geneva, 13. Their oldest was two years old when they bought the house and the other two were born while they lived there, the youngest literally born in the house (in a bathtub on the balcony adjacent to one of the rooms). While the children were young, Janet ran a preschool there, welcoming in a handful of kids who went on to attend Mountain Laurel Waldorf School.
Former guests and friends who wish to stay in touch with the Greenes and find out when the food truck launches can check for info on the nursery Facebook page, “Lavender Lady Lilac Nursery” or visit http://www.lavenderladylilacnursery.com.