The Mast Farm Inn
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Historical Traveler Reviews The Mast Farm Inn Valle Crucis
Significantly over rated
This B&B is significantly over rated at this time. It may be the new management. The rates one pays for lodging come close to a rip off, especially with sparse amenities. Magazines outdated, someone stopped their subscription in Jan 2006. Service was pleasant but it was obvious they are working on bare minimum personell, with little experience. This is not what we would have expected based on past ratings from friends and publications. The inn sits less than 20 feet from the highway, therefore, a quiet moment in one of the rocking chairs is just that as traffic is pretty steady. The staff become distracted as the dinner crowd starts around 7:00pm. If you are a guest and don't have reservations you may want to get dinner in Banner Elk before arriving. Even if you do have reservation, eat early. The wait staff are pleasant and want to please but the kitchen gets so backed up that getting your main course will take an hour to an hour and a half. The website of Mast Farm Inn is some what misleading. We were expecting a quiet pastoral setting but found everything to be very close. If you decide to stay I would recommend a room in the Grainery across the road (much less road noise). A trip to Mast General Store is a must however Valle Crusis is just a short drive from Boone, Banner Elk even Blowing Rock where they have figured it out regarding service in B&Bs. The new management needs to get their act together.
We read the two reviews entitled Significantly Over Rated and Extremely Disapointing on this site and would like to offer the following management Response
As the new owners we do appreciate the constructive criticism above and some of it is highly pertinent. In many ways we agree with some of what you have to say because these were also our concerns when we purchased the inn.
You seem to indicate that whatever slippage existed at the time of your stay was the result of new management. You may want to consider however that the problems you describe precede the new management, and on the contrary the new management has probably done an exemplary job of addressing and correcting most of those issues. Some facts for your consideration.
We recently had our yearly Select Registry Inspection and while we cannot quote directly from the report due to policies we provide below its conclusions:
a) The present innkeepers have owned the Mast Farm Inn for 9 months.
b) They highlighted how admirable it was to measure the progress that has been made by the new owners since the last Select Registry evaluation which was in November of 2005 (Note to reader: The previous report prepared 3 months before we purchased the inn, in which the inn failed the Select Registry inspection, under the previous management, is a report which we never received).
3) They found even more remarkable the fact that those changes they had requested were made without the new innkeepers having received their previous report.
4) They noted that the enthusiasm, drive, ideas and resolve to make The Mast Farm Inn a special place is very evident in those things already accomplished, those currently underway, and those planned as described by the innkeepers...
We indeed passed the inspection this year and the report was quite positive, not to say highly flattering.
We agree that The Mast Farm Inn was in need of restoration and revitalization when we purchased the inn. That is not to say the previous owners did not do a wonderful job they did, but everything slips from time to time, especially at the end of a stewardship. Having taken over management at the start of the 2006 season we were obliged to wait till the flow of visitors diminished after summer in order to address many of the corrections you discussed because we could not simply annul reservations already made to renovate. In the last few months we have invested close to 150,000 to restore, renovate, refurbish and landscape the inn, as well as a monumental amount of man hours devoted to the "Tender Loving Care" of the institution and its facilities.
Just in the last week we changed all of the furnishings in the parlor after a vigorous scrub down and renovation, the same for the two downstairs dining rooms, as well as replaced the framed prints on the walls with close to 15,000 worth of art by local artists on the first floor of the main house alone.
Aunt Josie's across from the parlor was renovated a few months back in the same way, and the art on the walls is also from a renown local artist.
We are in the process as we speak of ordering all new sheets, pillowcases, comforters, towels, pillows, lamps and rugs for the rooms.
We have a training program in place to enhance the restaurant staff's skills. To do so we have hired a specialist to help us improve primarily in the restaurant, because frankly we have very few complaints about the inn's service. Previous to retirement, the specialist in question was the owner-manager for 20 years of a restaurant whose husband-chef was decorated in his major country in Europe by its President as being a national treasure and one of its top world-renown chefs.
Today we had our 3rd quarterly inspection from the health department since becoming owners 10 months ago:
Our score for the restaurant went from 92.5 when we purchased, to 94, then to 96, then to 97 today
Our score for the lodging went from 94 when we purchased, to 95, then 97, then to 98 today
So while we may be in perfect agreement that the inn had slipped a bit, most definitely prior to our arrival, we do not believe this is the case today, as attests the many letters of thanks and testimonials we are currently receiving, including the inspection report from Select Registry, and the health department, and the praise from local residents and visitors who applaud our renovations and investments in this key local institution.
As for the pictures on the site and the cropping. The site has been pretty much the same for the last 5 years because people tell us they find it very effective. The previous owners had indeed done a masterful job of accurately describing the inn. If you read the descriptions on our site and visit the inn you will find they are extremely accurate and explain very clearly the differences between each room, cabin, and cottage, and the layout. In fact Select Registry gave us a perfect score on accuracy of the website. Then again they have read the whole website and inspected the whole property. Some people are more more visual than description oriented, and have no reason to read the whole site, so we will look into acquiring an areal photo or designing a bird's eye view map to enhance the site's and first-time visitor understanding of the layout of the property, and will highlight even more on the site the variety of lodging available. The fact is the Mast Farm Inn was built from 1810 to now and as a result each room, cabin and cottage is quite different and offers different things for different people at different times. It is not a cookie-cutter, sheet-rock box, kind of place. That is due to the historical nature of the property and is in fact a great part of its authentic historical value, as well a a primary reason people love our place. It was not built to resemble a historical setting. It is a historical setting, a sort of living museum. We will also however try to develop a page dedicated to how to choose your room, cottage, cabin, which highlights even more the features, benefits and trade-offs for each. Some visitors never realize how big the property is because they stay in the main house and may improperly assume that is the property. There again a good reason for a map. Although we had already intended to do that, you comments have highlighted how useful it would be to do that sooner than we had intended.
In relation to traffic, there are effectively two times of the year when the street is hyper-active: July and October, and this for obvious seasonal reasons, beyond that the street is quite calm and as a person who spends a great deal of the time outside doing work on the property I can attest to the fact that I sometimes spend 15 minutes to half an hour without seeing a car pass. Between 9PM and 6AM as little as 10 cars may pass. On the upside many visitors enjoy watching the July and October traffic from the porch and enjoy the restaurant guests in the evenings. Several cabins and cottages are secluded in the woods and anyone requesting more seclusion, even after check-in, is immediately offered a move, if available, even if it means a free upgrade, to the more isolated parts of the property in the woods. Several of our cottages and cabins are tucked in 5 acres of pine forest, and effectively the Granary, near the Barn, is a particularly peaceful setting.
As far as service at the restaurant I have to say it has effectively been irregular, sometimes downright excellent, sometimes downright awful. The food itself is always outstanding. The basis of that problem is as follows. We found the inn had employed in the past many college students part-time. That is admirable, and many are outstanding young people, but that creates difficulties when they graduate or are not as reliable as one would hope, and that is being addressed.
It is funny you mention the magazines because it was done on purpose. In much the same way we have no TV we decided to introduce books and vintage rather than the magazines one finds everywhere. We find magazines are often much like what the reader finds at home, doctor's and dentist offices, waiting rooms everywhere. We hope to create a more vintage bucolic "step back in time" atmosphere. That is why we there are currently over 500 leather bound books of the classics for the guests in the newly redecorated and refurnished parlor, and why we are in the process of creating a unique vintage magazine and film collection to make available to guests. We think vintage books, vintage magazines, and vintage films are more in keeping with the experience we would like to offer our guests. In effect we prefer Walt Whitman to Truman Capote, and Andy Griffith to The Terminator, at The Mast Farm Inn at least.
We thank you for giving us this opportunity to learn what more we can do. Please be assured we are addressing the issues you raised and in fact many if not all of the things you mention are old news in the sense that they have been resolved. Beyond those we have moved forward on many fronts that were already outstanding at The Mast Farm Inn.
We believe your underlying premise: "the inn has problems because of new management" unfounded, and not based on facts or the evidence. Your posting based on incomplete information would tend to make a reader think that the place is headed downhill. Rather than the new management letting things slip, the new management is in fact pointed very much in the right direction, and well on the way to assuring the Mast Farm Inn remains the Grand Lady of The Western North Carolina High Country.
In the life of any institution there are times it moves forward and times it moves back. It had moved back a bit before we got here. We are moving forward very nicely and that is the simple plain objective truth.
My wife and I arrived late afternoon and were immediately greeted by all of the owners. They let us pick our room and even upgraded us to a cabin in the woods. (Raspberry Hill) The cabin was very niceand CLEAN we will stay there again. The food at the Inn was Excellant, we had two brekfasts and dinner one night. The staff was always friendly and would go out of their way. This is the third B & B in the area we have stayed in. The Mast Inn would be our 1st choice.KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE
My wife and I were extremely disappointed with our stay at the Mast Farm Inn. The photos on the website have either been cropped or extremely carefully angled so as not to show the busy road fifteen feet in front of the inn. All the cabins are closely crowded around the main house, not interspersed throughout the countryside as the photos imply. The inn is now under new management, and unfortunately the staff is simply not up to par. Not accomodating and uninformed at best, simply indifferent at worst. In the evenings the house is overrun with non-lodging visitors of the restaurant. Unfortunately, our room looked out over the road on one side and the outdoor dining area on the other, so we had to keep all the drapes pulled. We typically stay in upscale hotels and B&Bs; we would rate the Mast Farm Inn as well below average in this category. On a positive note, the food was above average.
All the reviews posted there are from guests subsequent to the new ownership taking over operations in February 1, 2006. As Trip Advisor does not allow links in management response messages,we cannot provide you here a link to that page.
But you can find our reviews page by going to the front page of our site. The graphic on the left of that page which says Feedback and Testimonials will bring you to our own reviews page, on which are posted documented and verifiable reviews by confirmed guests.
We hope you will not let these negative reviews to cloud your jusgement, without first seeing the over 100 reviews posted on our own site. Thank you for your consideration.
Great B & B
The Mast Farm Inn has a lot of personality and charm. There was a funny moment when we pulled into the parking lot and saw the "cabins." Their outsides are made of very old wood, look very weathered and frankly appear to be shacks. Since we were with my -n-laws, for whom a 4-star hotel is roughing it, I was glad they had selected the inn, not me!! But some very nice people actually invited us into one of the cottages and it was absolutely lovely on the inside - I would stay there in a heartbeat. It would be pretty funny to take a picture of the outside and tell everyone that's where you stayed.
Our room (Nell's Room) was very comfortable. The bed was quite comfortable (& I have a bad back and can be picky). I did bring my own neck pillow which was good as the pillows are down and far too soft for me, but very nice. Linens were very nice, although we did have to ask for an extra towel - I always use a seperate one for my hair and there were only 2 in the room. They happily provided it.
I agree with the other reviewer who was disappointed that there was only 1 option for breakfast. I don't really like eggs and we had quiche one morning and frittata the other so I ended up eating toast both days. Wish they had served the french toast pictured in the brochure - sure looked great!!
We did eat dinner there one night and it was very good. My FIL was disappointed that the bread pudding didn't have a sauce, but the pear & strawberry cobbler was good. FIL did rave about the fried green tomatoes. All in all very good and a lovely place to stay.
One more tip - call for directions or use the ones on the internet - my in-laws tried to use their Magellan GPS and it was not effective in the mountains - we wandered around Boone for quite awhile!
We want to thank you for the positive review although your stay preceded our purchase of the Inn by a few months.
You bring up several important points worthy of further consideration by other potential visitors:
The Mast Farm Inn effectively has a great deal of character. Many people are surprised by the uniqueness and originality of The Mast Farm Inn on first look because they expect, as they often find elsewhere, an airbrushed reproduction. We are indeed authentic and a bit of a living museum. That makes us different and not necessarily everyone's cup of tea. That is why we seek here to respond to reviews as truthfully and completely as possible so we accurately describe what for want of a better phrase is ~ The Mast Farm Experience.
Among other things, The good news, as you discovered, is that we are probably one of the most photographed private properties within a hundred miles. Not a day goes by even without 3 -15 people parking at the barn, getting out with their camera. But some people prefer to see a copy rather than an original work of art. Lest costly certainly, and obviously requiring much less care and attention. Copies are often more prim and proper having been tweaked and the dings and dents removed, but they are disposable. As in other things in life, our dings and dents are part of what we are. A timeless original such as The Mast Farm Inn, probably requires a more educated mind, people more inclined to understand the value of authenticity, history, tradition and heritage over flash. That type of perspective would be more typical of people who have traveled extensively throughout Europe. This is not a high or low end roadside motel by even the most drastic stretch of the imagination.
It is important to highlight for Trip Advisor readers of these reviews that the Mast Farm Inn is authentic, not a reproduction. While that presents many constraints and adds considerable cost of ownership, it is the primary reason we purchased the inn, because of what it has been since 1810. It is real on the outside, and real on the inside with quality and comfort added without removing the character. A bit of a balancing act. We are currently renovating all the main farm house and all its public and private rooms as we speak, and the decor will remain authentic. A few small examples but which we hope helps you better understand what you will find here:
1) rather than load the room with magazines and clutter one finds everywhere, we have gathered in the last year a considerable number of vintage magazines, vintage photos and postcards which transport the guest back to a simpler past. While quite valuable they are in the rooms for guest enjoyment. It is very much like sleeping overnight in a museum, minus the dust.
2) We have invested close to 60 thousand dollars in the past year in traditional stonework around the property, all created on the scale and in the way one would expect from those times. We do not have a grand waterfall such as one could expect at the gates of a country club, we have a modest 3 step waterfall in the natural stream at the entrance that would have been logical and appropriate to earlier times. Some would say it looks wimpy, some would say it's perfect. It does not make a racket nor seek to impress, it's what a farmer in 1810 would have done.
3) On Sundays we serve a traditional country lunch. While gourmet to say the least, it is what one could have expected to find at a wedding feast in the 1800s and not a manhattan brunch. We love blinies and caviar too, and bagel and lox are personal favorites, but coherence and identity are more important. The Mast Farm Inn needs to be in harmony with itself and that is what we attempt to do in things big and small.
As you mentioned, the breakfast was, also in our opinion, quite mediocre when we took over. That is the reason one of the owners now prepares breakfast, and to say she is one of the finest chefs in North Carolina is quite the understatement. It's food like Mom would have made on Christmas mornings in the 1840s. People now rave and want to thank her personally every morning because it is now also real, creatively authentic and hand-made. As in the old days. And French toast is again one of our specialties, but French Toast like prepared at a Holiday breakfast. We have come to understand that breakfast is more than the most important meal of the day. At a Country Inn, it defines most of the day. Without hyperbole we can safely say our breakfasts are second to none, anywhere, and we have been around.
We also invite readers of these reviews on Trip Advisor to visit our Mast Farm Inn website to read the reviews, feedback and testimonials listed there, in order to form a more complete opinion of the quality of our facility and services. They provide a great many more details of what people find appealing so you can see if it fits your expectations.
All the reviews posted there are from guests subsequent to the new ownership taking over operations in February 1, 2006. As Trip Advisor does not allow links in management response messages, we cannot provide you here a link to that page. But you can find our reviews page by going to the front page of our site. The graphic on the left of that page which says Feedback and Testimonials will bring you to our own reviews page, on which are posted documented, confirmed and verifiable reviews by guests of our inn.
We also hope you will not let these few negative reviews posted elsewhere here cloud your judgment, without first seeing the over 100 reviews posted on our own site which go into great and very specific detail about what visitors like. This will help you more accurately determine if we fit your criteria and if we are indeed your cup of tea. In our profession few things are as important as matching and then surpassing guest expectations. Part of that is defining in advance very clearly what you are and do, what you are not and don't do. Thank you for your constructive message and your consideration.
The Mast Farm Inn
Accommodatins were not at all comfortable. Food was average. Certainly not worth the $300 per night we paid.
Not only have we dropped prices 35-40% in the Main Farm House pending complete restoration of the rooms, now underway, but you can also view the Feedback and Testimonials page on our site which contains only postings subsequent to our purchase of the Inn.
We do not intend to price the rooms at the high levels we found on purchase. Even after restoration they will be priced at 15-25% below previous levels and represent outstanding value.
As relates to service, you will find our reviews page by going to the front page of our site and clicking on the Feedback and Testimonials graphic on the left of that page. While we regret you were disappointed, we did want you to form a more balanced picture of The Mast Farm Inn today and where we are headed, and hopefully you will give us another try in the future. Thank you for your consideration.
We just stayed at the Mast Farm Inn. The hostess was wonderful, the room delightful, and the food at the restaurant was better than any other meal on our vacation. We recommend it highly.
Love The Mast Farm Inn
Such a peaceful place to stay. The dinner was delicious, every attention to detail was evident in each room, the inn keepers were delightful ---and sitting in the rocking chairs on the porch---I can think of no other place I would rather be.
My wife and I just recently stayed in Cousin Sarah's Room at the Mast Farm Inn. Being that we both had graduated from College at ASU in Boone, we were kinda familiar with the area. We stayed there for our one year wedding anniversary. It was so neat, and very quaint. The buildings are very old, but restorations have been successful and the facilities are in great shape. It was so relaxing up there. One of the things we didn't like was the fact that there was no choice for breakfast. We got what we were served. And most of the time it was this very gourmet-style food where we didn't really know what we were eating by the description. The dinner menu is limited as well, and very high priced. None of the rooms are equipped with a TV which would have been nice for the evenings when alot of things have closed and there isn't much to do at the inn itself. No phones are provided either in the rooms (which doesn't bother me). If you need to use the phone, the innkeepers will allow you to use the one behind the checkin desk. Otherwise, we had a nice, relaxing stay. The prices were kinda high ($225 per night) since we went in October. Requirement is that you have to stay a minimum 3 nights during the month of October. That kinda stunk, but we had a gift certificate that covered some of the cost. If you are looking for a place where you want to enjoy gourmet food by a professional chef, rest, not have much to do or any interruptions, this is the place for you. One more thing, the rooms only lock from the inside. If you leave during the day, your room will remain unlocked so take anything that may have some value with you while you are out (or just leave them at home altogether).
Wonderful little inn!
Mast Farm Inn, is a wonderful place with a wonderful staff! We were made to feel like we were welcomed into their home. It was a great place and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to stay in the Boone area.
TripAdvisor Reviews The Mast Farm Inn Valle Crucis
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