On May 1, the College will assume ownership of the Williams Inn. The current owners and managers, Marilyn and Carl Faulkner, plan to retire at this time after 35 years overseeing the hotel.
The Faulkners publicly announced their decision to sell the inn at a news conference on April 4 after first entering into conversations with the College last year, according to Fred Puddester, the Vice President for Finance and Administration. When the College takes over in May, Main Street Hospitality Group will manage the inn.
The College purchased the inn for $3.9 million, according to Puddester. The Faulkners will additionally pay off the inn mortgage to the College. The College bought the inn because “having an inn is important for the College in terms of parents, alumni and prospective students,” Puddester said.
Puddester explained that the facility is in good shape given its age and the College currently has no official plans for renovation. “There are several things that we would have liked to have done, but have not been able to in the past few years,” Carl Faulkner said. Faulkner added that although the building is somewhat “tired” it compares very favorably to inns at similar colleges such as Amherst, Middlebury and Dartmouth.
To preserve the culture of the inn, Main Street Hospitality Group will focus on “learning the [inn’s] traditions and creating their own” and will
not make any major changes at first. Faulkner hopes the new management will “not lose track” of the historical context of the inn. Harley Proctor, a founder of Proctor and Gamble, owned the original building. Later, the inn was converted into the Kappa-Alpha fraternity. Faulkner mentioned several physical markers of historical significance including an elm tree in the back of the building planted by Proctor.
The hospitality group will spend a six-month period evaluating the state of the inn. During this period, the current staff members will stay on board. “They are hardworking and dedicated to costumer service,” Puddester said. “Many of them will stay on [after the six-month period].”
The College selected Main Street Hospitality from three possible candidates. “They know Berkshire County well, have a good relationship with local producers and practice sustainable food programs,” Puddester said. The Main Street Hospitality Group already owns the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge and the Porches Inn in North Adams. Puddester explained that because the hospitality group has already established a network of hotels in Berkshire County, the group could also potentially offer package deals to travelers.
However, the revamped Williams Inn may only be a temporary setup. In the beginning of 2013, the College hired Pinnacle, a hospitality advisory group based out of Boston, to evaluate the state of the College’s visitor accommodations. After interviewing professors and administrators and surveying the nearby land, the firm concluded that the College only needs a 60-80-room hotel.
The Williams Inn currently has 128 rooms available for guests. According to Puddester, these rooms are rarely all filled with the exception of events such as Commencement, Alumni Weekend and large-scale sports tournaments.
With Pinnacle’s suggestions in mind, administrators have discussed the possibility of building an inn at the base of Spring Street, largely because of proximity to the campus, retail and athletic facilities. In addition, the College currently owns the majority of the buildings at the end of Spring Street.
If the College implemented this plan, the Williams Inn would be closed. Formal discussions in consultation with architects will take place in the fall, according to Puddester.
“This is just the starting point,” Puddester said. “If that’s something we decide we want to do, we will go through a town approval process and consultation with the college community.”