Significantly over rated A review of The Mast Farm Inn
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 Magazines outdated, someone stopped their subscription in Jan 2006.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.