By Liz DiMarco Weinmann
The professionals who run our romantic country inns, family-friendly motels, cozy coffee shops, creative restaurants, unique boutiques, state-of-the-art recreational facilities, and striking jewel-box arts venues are excited to welcome guests again, so this is a friendly nudge for all of us to show our appreciation.
Although a recent Wall Street Journal article asserts that polite adults shouldn’t need a reminder to say “please” and “thank-you,” we’ve all exhibited rude behavior on occasion, myself included. Whether it’s to a restaurant server, motel housekeeper, ski lift attendant, or any other hospitality professional doing their best to make us feel welcome and comfortable, rudeness is never excusable.
According to the Vermont Department of Economic Development, the state attracts more than 13 million annual visitors every year who spend an estimated $3 billion on lodging, food and drink, and other goods and services. And, Vermont traditionally attracts more tourism-related economic activity during winter than other New England states.
All that being the case, following are several examples of lodging, dining, retail, and arts institutions around the Killington-Rutland region that are committed to delivering extraordinary levels of hospitality.
To be clear, this list reflects my perspectives as a fourth-decade Vermonter who consults with nonprofits and other charitable organizations. It’s also an affectionate view of the type of places immortalized by the beloved 1990s sitcom “Cheers” and its theme song:
“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name, And they’re always glad you came.”
An ideal place for families to get away is the charming Best Western Inn & Suites, in Mendon. Its genial proprietor David Correll seems to espouse the immortal line of the social commentator, Will Rogers, who said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” That perfectly sums up Correll’s approach to hospitality.
“For the most part our guests have been appreciative and understanding about some of the challenges we have faced due to staff shortages and vendor supplies,” Correll wrote in an email. But now guests’ patience is waning, [so] employees are working longer hours and doing more.”
Correll is especially attentive to guest feedback. “Every guest survey, positive or negative, receives a response from me,” he said. “If positive, we post them internally and recognize the employee; if not, the posts are learning tools. Many times, guests thank us for responding, regardless of their stay.”
The Killington-Rutland region’s restaurants are also thriving again. All the more reason to support establishments that are excelling at service as well as delicious food. (The ones cited below are gracious to solo diners as well.)
During Rutland’s famed Halloween parade, my husband and I were thrilled to land a table at the chef-owned Table 24, in its windowed sunroom, with an unobstructed view of the Wales Street route. We were in no rush to order, and around us, patrons were hopping out of their seats to gawk outside — meanwhile toppling wineglasses and almost colliding with costumed servers working mightily to keep plates from flying.
The attentive servers seemed not to be fazed at all. The next day, we expressed our appreciation to chef-owner Steve Sawyer directly and posted on the restaurant’s social media.
Roots the Restaurant is justifiably popular for its farm-to-fork cuisine, but longtime owner Donald Billings also has an uncanny ability to retain an exceedingly courteous service staff for whom no request seems unreasonable.
The Rutland Country Club (no membership required) offers consistently delicious New England standards, and its longstanding team of jovial servers make it a favorite spot for golfers, large parties, couples on date night, and a busy lunch crowd.
Likewise, Southside Steakhouse, a dinner spot with a superb and eclectic menu. Although Southside looks more like a glamorous (but affordable) Manhattan venue than a typical Vermont establishment, its waitstaff is so entertaining I sometimes overtip them just for that.
As for Killington eateries, The Foundry, Still on the Mountain, Choices, and Rivershed are topnotch, hitting high notes for enthusiastic hospitality as well as food. DreamMaker Bakers, near the Skyeship Gondola base on Route 4 in Killington, is one of the most joyful places to visit for breakfast and lunch. Its Insta-worthy buttercream-slathered cakes rival anything the Food Network baking tournaments showcase.
Downtown Rutland’s Merchants’ Row is home to several other havens of hospitality, many of them family owned.
McNeil and Reedy, features a variety of menswear, including tuxedos, and is run by identical twin brothers who are experts at tailoring. The brothers have been known to special-order certain items that often cost three times as much at national retailers.
Of the downtown vintage shops, Camille’s is a favorite. The dazzling selection at the fine-jewelry store, Diamonds & More, is under the keen eye of owner Ivan Rochon, for whom no design (or affordability request) seems a challenge. Phoenix Books is a diminutive but well-stocked shop whose staff will special-order just about any book and give excellent advice!
No salute to our region’s hospitality would be complete without gratitude for the Paramount Theater. A gorgeous century-old venue, the Paramount provides a vast spectrum of entertainment, including original and cover bands from around the country; Vermont Symphony Orchestra concerts; and Encore productions from New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Paramount’s management, staff, and volunteers are always well-informed, friendly, and accommodating.
These are just a few of the Killington-Rutland establishments that excel at hospitality, made possible by the dedicated professionals who work in our travel, tourism, food, beverage, recreation, sports, and arts industries. They are the real people and authentic places the “Cheers” theme song celebrates — where our exclamations of “yes please!” and “thank you so much!” will make them feel, as well as us, always glad we came.
Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal /owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, in Rutland, serving charitable & educational institutions: lizdimarcoweinmann.com.