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The Innkeeping Life

Old Rittenhouse Inn Among USA Today’s Top 20 B&B’s

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

As innkeepers who have been around quite a while (over 40 years now), we congratulate on their 20th year as leaders in our industry.

To commemorate this occasion, B& provided with a private tour of 20 Inns and B&Bs across the country, which in turn inspired a feature photo article: 20 great B&B’s for a holiday — or any — weekend.

Bayfield, WI lodging

Old Rittenhouse Inn is pleased to be included among our peers in the article, which features a lovely shot of the Le Chateau property at dusk taken by photographer Christian Giannelli. The accompanying text makes note of the Phillips family’s 40 years in the inn keeping business.

A second photo, also by Giannelli, depicts Room IV, one of the Old Rittenhouse Inn’s original bedrooms, and shows off the room’s antique furniture, stained glass, and period wall coverings.

Madeline Island Inns

“Room IV was always my favorite as a child, so I was happy they chose that shot,” says 2nd generation Innkeeper, Mark Phillips. “I especially love the incredible carved wood bed in that room, which was made by a waiter of ours (at the time) who was also a master carpenter.”

In fact, that’s frequently how it goes at the Inn according to Phillips, who says that often the talent and creativity it takes to run the Inn come from within.

“There have been so many innovations, improvements and other great ideas over the years that came from our employees and of course that continues today. We realized long ago that our staff is one of our best assets.”

Wisconsin B&B

Wendy and Julie Phillips

As Old Rittenhouse Inn celebrates its 40th Anniversary, Phillips reflected on what it takes to run a family business for so long. “The most obvious answer is family. We all put in a lot of hours and wear many different hats. We truly care about this place and what we do here for people. As a rule, we are “on call” at all hours. In our daily lives, we must be prepared for the unexpected to arise at any time.”

And then there’s Julie! ‘We are so fortunate to have had my Aunt, Julie Phillips, with us all these years. She can cover just about any job at the Inn. Julie is knowledgeable and personable, and guests just love her. She really is an extension of ourselves as innkeepers. We trust her with our lives,” says Mark.

The Phillips family kept their hospitality business going for over 40 years by assembling a recipe for success that includes five ingredients: unique historic properties, a destination location, a hard working staff, dedicated owner/innkeepers, and the best, most loyal customers in the world.

The owners and innkeepers, Jerry, Mary, Mark, Wendy, and Julie, thank everyone who had a hand in making Old Rittenhouse Inn one of USA Today’s Top 20 B&Bs. We will work hard to continue to be worthy of such an honor.

Romantic Getaway in Wisconsin

Celebrating 35 Years in Business

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The Old Rittenhouse Inn and Landmark Restaurant, Bayfield WisconsinAs Wendy and I begin our seventh year as Innkeepers, we are excited to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of Old Rittenhouse Inn and Landmark Restaurant. As a child, I can remember the “big move” from Madison to Bayfield (dad let me ride in the U-Haul with him) and how excited I was to live in our “northern castle.” That sense of excitement is something I still feel every day when I look at this big old red Victorian.

When I think of my parents, Jerry and Mary, leaving good jobs in their chosen fields to open a restaurant and Bed and Breakfast in the tiny town of Bayfield (which was still a ghost town in those days), I have to wonder what they were thinking. They had no money, no experience in the hospitality business, and a huge old building with all its required upkeep and astronomical fuel bills. It’s a wonder they made it at all, and yet their tenacity, and their unwavering vision of a new kind of hospitality, led them to lasting success. The early coverage they received in magazines such as Gourmet, Midwest Living, Minnesota Monthly, and Wisconsin Trails helped put struggling Bayfield back on the map as a tourist destination. As the Inn’s fortunes rose, so did Bayfield’s.

Mark and Jerry Phillips at Rittenhouse Inn Bayfield WI

Mark and Jerry Phillips on the floor in 1991

My first job here at the Inn was stemming strawberries on the front porch with my grandma. I probably ate half as many as I stemmed, as my red-stained face would’ve easily attested. Over the years I worked in the Kitchen, Wait Staff, Front Desk, Maintenance, Marketing/PR, and now as Managing Innkeeper. Wendy followed a similar trajectory, starting in Housekeeping and working her way to the top of the Wait Staff, leading the Front Desk, serving as Events Director and now Managing Innkeeper. Combined with my parents, and my dear aunt Julie, our family has well over a hundred years of innkeeping experience here at Old Rittenhouse Inn.

As we enter our 35th season, we thank all the incredible guests who have made this possible over the years. We also thank our great staff members, past and present. They act as an extension of ourselves, and our vision of hospitality, and we could not do this without them.

Rittenhouse Inn Bayfield WIThere have been many stars on our staff, but none shines brighter than my mother, Mary Phillips’s. The Rittenhouse Inn was her baby from the start, and she put every ounce of her self into creating and growing the business. For 18 years, she cooked every single meal served in our dining rooms. She knew what was going out there better than our very fine Wait Staff did, and she ruled that kitchen with an iron fist and a velvet glove. Everyone loved, respected, and confided in her. She was a great leader, and an even better listener. Though her days as a chef ended with her stroke in the early 90s, she remains a force at the Rittenhouse Inn, and these days, when something is not to her liking, we can count on her letting us know all about it in short order!

When you stay here, and when you dine with us, you are joining in something special: a tradition of warmth and hospitality that extends back to 1976. This is not a cookie cutter hotel or a quaint B&B. No two rooms are alike, and we feel that each is magnificent in it’s own way. We put great emphasis on using local products when possible. We make great efforts to be stewards of the environment, and we truly care what you, our guests, have to say. Most importantly, we are here for one reason: to serve.

Thank you for being part of our history. We look forward to your next visit.

Mark Phillips

First Impressions of Bayfield: 1969

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Rittenhouse Inn Bayfield WII’ll never forget Mary and my first sight of Bayfield. It was a sunny, warm day in June, 1969, when Mary and I drove in from the south and were mesmerized by the lake. Sparkling like a million diamonds, we were spellbound. The town was quiet, not the tourist haven it has become. There were vacant buildings and many “For Sale” signs. We drove the streets, exclaiming about historic house after house, the steep hills giving everyone a view. We stopped at the Community Lunch for a bite, visited Jim and George’s Antique Shop, the Pot Shop of Bob Eckels, the Kerr Gallery.

Rittenhouse Inn Interior, Bayfield WIThe Boutin Mansion, now called the Chateau, was for sale by Mose Theno, the nuns still living there, and we knocked on the door. A Nun was very cordial and showed us around the first floor, which was very dark…. both from the darkly stained wood as well as the layers of curtains over the windows. We were back outside almost before my eyes had adjusted to the lack of light, and I can’t say that my focus was on the visual as much as the emotional rendering of that visit.

At the time, we were engulfed in the process of renovating a Victorian home near Madison that had been beaten up during 30 years as a nursing home. The Chateau in Bayfield was a much grander home, on a magnificent site, with few of the signs of disrespect we were dealing with. Try as we might, the envy was palpable.