Friday, December 25, 2009


It's unbelievable how quickly the days pass by. It seems like just a minute ago, we were preparing for Thanksgiving. Even Christmas has come & gone, as we now prepare for New Year's Eve. And yet, there's so much that has happened since we opened the doors to The National Hotel, that it's important for us (on a very personal level), to stop, think and take in every little thing and every big moment before we cross the threshold and start 2010. Yes, 2010!!!

So very briefly, here's my own, "focus group of one" assessment of The D'Costa family venture:

After months of seeing The National Hotel closed, shuttered--overnight it seemed--Pete and I decided that we would place a call to the real estate broker whose name appeared on a sign outside the very sad-looking building. Steve Darlington of Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors called us back right away, and explained the situation. After months of negotiations, with a period of time passing when we thought we were completely "out of the running," we received a follow-up call from Steve, who asked if we were still interested. Of course we were! And as quickly as it took to have that last phone call, it seems that the days passed just as fast during the early summer months, and on
July 31st, we were given the keys to The National Hotel.

Then came the grunt work--often in the dark, as we had no electricity for some time after New Jersey was pounded by severe storms that caused power outages throughout the area. JCP&L needed to restore service to existing clients before they would activate new accounts. That was an interesting, challenging, and most demanding time! Renovating in the dark (& with no water to boot, as that's a whole other story with getting that turned on), definitely delayed our opening day.

But opening day did happen, and on November 3rd, Election Day, we very quietly opened our doors and let our Frenchtown neighbors who were passing by, driving by, some going places, some going to vote, stop by to find out that yes, finally, The National Hotel was open for business.

The joy, the warmth, the absolute and unconditional support that the Frenchtown community had extended to us in the months while we renovated and prepared the building to be a business of which Frenchtown could be proud, made it all worthwhile. This new and wonderful extension of our family to the community, has permeated every aspect of our lives. From our two wonderful and very independent daughters who have weathered the highs and the lows of opening such an ambitious undertaking, and who have been our finest ambassadors in the community--they would leave us to continue to make progress on the building, while they walked throughout the town, visited the local shops, bought gifts, treats, etc., and just thoroughly enjoyed their afternoons in Frenchtown--to our friends who have given us of their time, their energy, their help on so many levels, to our own families, who have pitched in and raised their shirt sleeves to help in numerous ways...we have so much for which to be thankful.

And now it's not just Frenchtown, but all of the surrounding areas, whose residents frequent our establishment. There are customers from Clinton, Pittstown, Franklin Township, Flemington, Milford, Lambertville, and on and on. Our hotel guests have come from nearby towns, to New York City and the Washington DC area, to as far as California.

The latter is just one of the many reasons why this last Christmas will forever be in our minds as one of the most special holidays that we have had. The D'Costa family started a new tradition: Christmas Eve at The National Hotel. Pete and I were able to work, while my mom visited and spent time with our girls.
Isn't it glorious to be able to have the support of one's family? And what could be better than a grandmother to cater to your every need?! Last night we had a customer, Herb, who very astutely pointed out that a parent's responsibility is to say "no" to children, while a grandparent's privilege is to say "yes." He said it much better than I'm recounting, but he was so right!

And here we are now, approaching New Year's Eve. The preparations are well underway. We even have a special menu that Ron Rittenhouse, our executive chef, has been developing for weeks now, and which we are sure will be a hit. How exciting, just to think about the New Year coming and all the possibilities it brings.

May all of you who are reading this, have an absolutely fabulous New Year's. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2010.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


We had an unbelievable Sunday a week and a half ago, enjoying the music of The Jericho Mountain Grass musical ensemble, which blended traditional ballads with new-grass tunes. The Grass consists of Carl Klinger on madoline, Toby Hoffman on banjo, Peter Kane on fiddle, John Stetson on bass and John Gehman on guitar.

It was standing room only at one point in the afternoon! We had all the seats filled, the tables spilling over with food and drinks, and people still kept coming in. Luckily, we featured The Grass in our downstairs Rathskeller Pub (The Rat) lounge, which allowed people to have more freedom of movement to enjoy the live musical performance, while having food and drinks--and those who came to The Rat to watch the football game were still able to do so in the bar area, since the music was in a separate space.

We had guests who came from an hour away to enjoy a musical afternoon at The National Hotel, and to see The Grass. What a day!!! Pete and I were just bowled over by the depth of the musicians' repertoire and ability to engage with the audience. It was truly a wonderful way to launch our musical afternoons at The National Hotel.

Did any of you catch The Grass at our place? Did you like it? Should we have done anything differently? We want to keep the music running at The National Hotel and if you have suggestions, we are always open to hearing them. Thank you for your support and we hope to see you at The National Hotel when we feature another musical group in the very near future.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


We made it past the 1st month of being open!!!

Last month's photo:

I'll take some photos tomorrow to post them on the blog, so you can see the difference in how the building looks now. And this weekend, we are lucky to have The Jericho Grass featuring the “High and Lonesome” sounds of blue and new grass, playing at The Rathskeller Pub on Sunday December 6 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Jericho Grass blends traditional ballads and new-grass tunes. The Grass consists of Carl Klingler on mandolin, Toby Hoffman on banjo, Pete Kane on fiddle, John Stetson on bass and John Gehman on guitar.

The Grass is returning to Frenchtown after playing for the past four summers at the Stockton Inn. The Grass has played throughout Hunterdon and Bucks County, PA since 1980 from venues as various as the Tinicum Arts Festival and Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve to The Inn at the Hawk in Lambertville and The Bridge Café in Frenchtown.

"We're thrilled to be playing at the reopened National Hotel in Frenchtown," stated Carl Klingler, mandolinist. Please join us on December 6th downstairs in the Rathskeller Pub to welcome the Jericho Grass. Click here for more information, or call contact Toby Hoffman, at 1.215.794.7671.

We hope to see you there on Sunday! Let us know if you are interested in performing in the future. We have received a lot of inquiries and would love to add you to the list of performers with whom we may be able to work in the future. This is just the start...we can't wait for what will come!

In these short weeks, so much has happened that I'm glad I've written many of the things down on this blog, because the stories keep coming. But even the little things, such as the outside touches to the beautiful building, the Halloween decorations that have now come and gone--and the new Holiday decorations and lights we've put on the building are touches that we feel are an add-on to an already gorgeous building.

Many of you have celebrated with us, and we couldn't be happier. It's been 4 weeks of meeting people, sharing stories, celebrating milestones--from birthdays to "We met right here and now we're married"--a compilation of which would create a wonderful book of short stories about how truly interwoven the history of The National Hotel is with the townspeople of Frenchtown and the surrounding areas.

One month and two days...but who's counting?

Monday, November 23, 2009

This is a week marked with family memories, recollections of gatherings, verbal history passing from one generation to the next, and sharing of joy and warmth. For Pete and for me, Thanksgiving Day has become a week-long celebration of our desire to join our Frenchtown community in celebration of a rebirth of this beautiful Delaware River town.

If you stroll down the street, you'll find activity, you'll find energy--from the shop owners to the customers. What a diffference a year makes! Almost every store front has a business that is viable, that is anxious to participate in Frenchtown's growth, and that contributes to the economic vitality of this great nation. Somehow, Pete and I got on this express train, and we're staying on to the last stop!

I just have to brag...please forgive me...but I have to share with you the article that Chris Poh, editor of American Public House Review, has written about our establishment. Here is the pasted copy of the page, that includes a picture of an old sketch that even has the name misspelled of "Restaurant," but that incorporated the hand-drawn element that pre-dated computers. His review is so generous and truly conveys what Pete and I try to share everyday: You are welcome here...truly welcome. We want to greet everyone, meet everyone, make sure everything surpasses your expectations, and above all else, hopefully make you feel welcome and have the opportunity to see you time and again. The National Hotel has reopened for YOU, not for us, but for you. This establishment has so much history that has been here for generations prior to our arrival, that all we can do is try to be hosts who can carry forward the tradition to the next level, and try to make it a place you frequent often.

Don't come just on the "special" occasions; we want to see you time and again, because very selfishly, Pete and I truly enjoy meeting all of our old and new friends who knock on our door. Our daughters are learning valuable lessons every day, and given how splintered our lives have become, isn't it nice to have one place where we can feel like it's OK to let our guard down and share with those around us?

Friday, November 20, 2009


OK, so it's not the newspaper reviews to which I refer...rather, it's the feedback we got last night from our new menu insert that featured our specials of the day. Our executive chef, Ron Rittenhouse, created a "specials" menu that featured deliciously balanced items that excited your palate and left you feeling incredibly satisfied and eager to try the next item on the menu.

Guest after guest who left last night, complemented us on the selection of items, the delicate treatment of the ingredients and the tasteful balance of the choices featured. Wow! Even our two daughters couldn't get enough of the Oyster Mushroom Calamari with a sweet soy wasabi sauce...and our oldest, who is just "salad-crazy," ordered two plates of the Lyonaisse Salad, that featured lola rosa frisée, pancetta crisps and a poached egg, that when mixed, tossed and blended, created an incredible culinary experience.

Anyway, that was just the beginning, because the experience upstairs flowed into the Rat and just kept getting better and better. More over the weekend, I'm sure. Let us know if you had a chance to try any of the dishes on the "specials" menu and if you'd like to see more. We really appreciate all of your feedback and commentary--it's very, very helpful.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


A couple of nights ago, Pete told me that we had the distinct pleasure of being joined by a Frenchtown resident who pulled him aside to share a little bit of inter-generational history: One of the photos we have in our upstairs Bar, features either his grandfather or his granduncle. There are two men standing in front of a Frenchtown shop that has the sign "Variety Store" and they are standing next to a smaller sign that says "Opdycke's Ice Cream Parlor Inside."

Turns out that Mr. Opdycke himself was in our building and by coincidence had started walking around our Bar to look at the different photos that we have hanging on our walls. There is just so much history here!

But that's not all: Also this week, we were hosts to the Sieps anniversary dinner. It was wonderful to see them take a few minutes to also walk around our Bar and look at all the photos--many of them reproduced from the very original photos they lent me--which feature not just the town, but also Mr. and Mrs. Sieps (father and mother) who owned this establishment from the 1930s to the 1970s. There are photos of them standing in their back yard...our parking area today! There are photos of them at the Bar, and photos of the front of the building with practically all the men in hats (as was de rigueur in those days) and horses in tow.

Last night was another busy night--NO COMPLAINTS!!! We finished closing up the upstairs Restaurant and Bar, and everyone migrated downstairs to the Rat and to the lounge area we created in the cellar. It's so nice to see people enjoying all of the different areas of the building, from the hotel, to the lounge, to the restaurant, to the Rat. And we keep seeing people starting at the Rat and then making their way upstairs, and vice-versa; exactly what we envisioned as the ideal exchange of ideas, conversation, and everything in between.

We have been joined by local Frenchtown residents, Milford residents, Kingwood residents, and even people from towns and cities that are farther away. I always ask, "How did you hear about us?" and time and again, we are pleased to learn that either they googled this area and found Frenchtown to be a destination--which led them to start looking for a place to stay and eat--or there are those who found our website (or even our blog) and then found Frenchtown to boot. It looks like the information that is easily accessible on the internet on both the town and on us, is helping to boost the people traffic Frenchtown is getting. Wonderful!

People keep coming, keep dropping by, keep making reservations, keep visiting us. We are so grateful to all of our fellow Frenchtown friends, and all of the new friends that we are making from areas near and far. Each night is more exciting, more fun, than the last. And our staff keeps going with the flow, managing this little wrinkle and that one; we'll keep tweaking things to make everything grow organically and continue to assess, improve, and develop this into a place that our friends will be proud to continue to frequent. Friendly service, quality dining, beautiful surroundings; that's The National Hotel.

We'd love to hear from you if you were at our establishment and saw a photo that reminded you of your family, or features someone you know from long ago. Photos are an important part of preserving the history of this beautiful town. But verbal historical evidence is just as important. Let's start recording these little tidbits. I bet you that the next generation will be just as intrigued by the motivations of the early residents to make this town their home, as our generation is today. Historic towns--and charming ones such as this one--preserve the very fabric of our nation's birth. They are often a microcosm of the struggles of a nation that is not even 300 years old! Look at how far we've come in just over 200 years.

Can you tell we love history and historical nuggets of information? This is going to keep getting better.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Three days after we opened our doors, we are still pinching ourselves. Friday night was a fantastic night--I don't even know what time we put our heads down, but it was well past 2:00 a.m.--full of stories, and memories recounted; it's a night that Pete and I will remember for a long time.

Amazing how much history is in this town; how many individuals recall the different generations of previous owners of The National Hotel, and the many famous people who frequented this establishment. For instance, I learned last night that Jimmy Stewart--yes, the Hollywood Jimmy Stewart--used to be a client, because he had a relative who lived in this area. This was told to me by someone who has been in the area for decades, Alan Runfeldt, owner of, and who tells me that if I dig hard enough, I'll find verbal historical evidence on other "greats" who've stopped by. Chris Poh, editor-in-chief of American Public House Review, and one of our very first guests at The National Hotel on Tuesday, shared that
Annie Oakley was one such guest, because she had a relative in Pennsylvania, and Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show crew would also stop in...can you imagine?!

I also met someone a couple of nights ago, who shared that when Claiborne Cary owned this establisment in the 1970s, it was frequented by the likes of Mike Douglas, (the talk show host), Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper, and of course, Claiborne's sister, the actress Cloris Leachman.

These Broadway and media stars would arrive from NYC and set up musical evenings that would wow the clients, while creating an atmosphere of warmth and comfort for Claiborne's guests. I did find actual evidence of some of this in the New York Times--I had to research it!

So many other stories...and all told with enthusiasm, a verbal legacy to be left to the next generation at The National Hotel. It's such a privilege to be able to hear these stories, to find evidence of the truth and the folklore, and to hopefully continue to share these wonderful stories with all of you.

Three days later, and we're into the weekend...we're so lucky to be a part of this town. Thank you to those of you who dropped by just to say "hi," to those of you who joined us for a drink, to those of you who shared a meal with us, and to those of you who made the time to book a night or two with us already. And thank you to our dear friends who have greeted us with flowers, with warm wishes, and with beautiful cards. Among them, our fabulous interior designer, Kristine Marinelli, Gary Walia, co-owner of the critically-acclaimed NYC restaurant, Tamarind, and Jim & Kathy Mathews. Their flowers now decorate The National Hotel Bar, our lobby area, and even our private breakfast room. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thank you to all of you for helping us make The National Hotel, your place.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What an unbelievable night! We had our official, unofficial, quiet (yet loud according to our local Frenchtown friends) opening tonight. And boy did our staff "run" to make everything work!

Wow. We are just finishing up and are just so exhilarated, so fantastically overjoyed by the warmth, the encouraging words, the "I'll back for sure" statements, that we just can't wait until tomorrow. And, our place was PACKED! From top to bottom--from just checking-in a guest into
our guest suites--we have been blessed with meeting new people, old friends, future contacts, and a brand new circle of acquaintances.

My biggest accomplishment: Seeing that our clients enjoyed the upstairs Restaurant and Bar, and the downstairs Rathskeller Pub. You have no idea how much it means to us to know that our establishment is a place that can make you feel welcome, at ease, comfortable, and yet catered to, whether you are enjoying a beer at "The Rat" while watching a game on the flat screen TV, or enjoying the quieter ambiance of the main floor Bar.

We had guests upstairs, then taking their drink downstairs to chat with some friends, and then back again to continue their conversation with other guests. OK, here goes my favorite word for 2009: AMAZING. We asked everyone who joined us tonight to be absolutely brutally honest about any glitches they may have seen, any items that weren't "quite right," and without exception, we apparently hit the mark. We are so happy that our friends, neighbors, friends-to-be, have come out to support our establishment and to make The National Hotel their new hang-out.

You should have been at The Rat! It was literally a kissing-fest down at The Rat, with one guest seeing another friend or neighbor and reaching out to him/her to give a big hug and a welcome cheer. What a night.

Let's have more. If you joined us tonight and would like to share your comments of the night, please do so and post your feedback. We are so happy to be a part of the Frenchtown community.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So Halloween is over...but the festivities continue.

We had an amazing night yesterday, tasting the wonderful, flavorful, often exotic dishes that our executive chef, Ron Rittenhouse, created. We were joined by our family and a few friends who heard whisperings of the tasting--not one person walked away with even 1 criticism. The whole idea, was to get those who knew us best to give us their honest opinions. We asked them to be absolutely brutal. But either they love us so much that they just saw through any hiccups we may have had, or in fact, more likely, they truly and honestly had an amazing evening.

I met Ron's mother and his wife. Both are just lovely--intellectually stimulating conversation, & attractive to boot! Today, after a long day of visiting with vendors and accounts in NYC, I had the pleasant surprise of finding a thank you note from Ron's wife:

I'm blown away. I know, I know, you're probably saying, "That's your executive chef's wife; how can she not like it?" Truth be told, after meeting her, I just know that she has integrity. She is the kind of person who wouldn't pay you a compliment just to make you "feel good." And honestly, I can say the same about my mother.

My mom has what we call in Spanish "No tiene pelos en la lengua" which translated literally means "She has no hairs on her tongue." The actual meaning is that she doesn't mince words; she's very honest and direct. I love that about her. And having gone through numerous restaurant, bar and nightclub openings of our family with her, I know my mom will tell it "like it is." She left me a beautiful message this morning on my voicemail confirming how much she had enjoyed the night. She not only complimented Ron, but also the decorating we'd done--thanks Kristine Marinelli (a.k.a. KM Interior Design)--and the upbeat, exuberant staff we had hired. Each and every one of our staff who has joined The National Hotel has shown us how committed they are to rejuvenating the business, to making sure Frenchtown is "front and center," and to maintaining a high-level of quality that will surely be enjoyed by our guests.

Hey, that's not to say that we won't make mistakes along the way...but honestly, you have ALL shown us that you love this building, the history behind this building, so much, that any little bumps along the way, are well worth having as long as we reach our destination.

So let's lift our glasses to this grand old building, its history, its secrets, its quirks. Let's be a part of the next lines that need to be written and recorded as it now breathes and welcomes the new and the old back on its premises. Cheers!

And don't forget, that if you have a story to share, you are always welcome to post a comment. I hope to meet each and every one of you who have taken the time to read this blog. Can't wait until's 12:45 a.m...already tomorrow...where are you?

Saturday, October 31, 2009


It looks like it'll be just a few more days...literally...we plan on opening our doors on Tuesday, November 3rd. Odd day of the week to open, right? Friday or Saturday would make more sense, but in fact, we've been waiting so long for this day, and we have so many people who really want to see the building ablaze with lights, flavorful scents permeating the Restaurant, and good conversation emanating from the gathering rooms, that we decided to open early in the week.

The good news is that we will open the ENTIRE building, from guest suites, to Restaurant, to Bar, to the Rathskeller Pub (a.k.a. The Rat). No Phase 2, no more waiting.

Let us know if you'd like to drop by and share in
this "soft" opening. You can reach us at 908.996.3200. Our website should be up by next Tuesday to match the brick-and-mortar opening with a virtual opening: Visit it on Tuesday...

Monday, October 26, 2009


Another day, another story. But this one is not a story about being brought down by the day's workload or about having a bad day at work. It's a typical day at The National Hotel. Often, it starts after we wind down for dinner.

I had just finished putting my girls to bed a little bit ago, and as I went through my emails, pending files, and numerous lists of "things-to-do," I came across an email that made me realize that I had to stop and blog.

It was a long Monday. Really. Pete worked tirelessly to get the building looking its best today.

We ripped up the carpeting on the stairs and put down new carpeting--check out the pumpkin pine floors and the beautiful new carpeting we put down, matching the building's overall theme--

finished some last-minute touches, had the rooms cleaned (again),
and so on and so on...

Then I got an email from a musician who is interested in showcasing his work on our premises--thanks to the email he received from a friend who had stopped by The National Hotel over the weekend, and to whom I had had the pleasure of showing the property. She said to me that she would spread the word and keep our name out in the artist community in case anyone was interested in performing here, but the truth is, that so many people are well-intentioned, but short on time (come on now, you know you've run out of time at least once to respond to an email or a request for information in a timely manner...), and I only met her and her companion on this one occasion, that I am just floored, just absolutely amazed at how many genuine, wonderful, and helpful people I've met since Pete and I purchased The National Hotel. I keep using the word "amazing," but truly, I'm running out of adjectives to describe the awe I feel each night I put my head down on my pillow.

Thank you to my old friends, and thank you to all my new friends. You are AMAZING!

If you happen to know anyone who is interested in performing here, or are yourself an artist, please comment here so that I may reach out to you in the near future. Thanks in advance!


Another week and each day I say to myself: "I need to share this or that on our blog." There's always one thing that stands out each day, from an issue that we are struggling with --and often, its very simple solution--to major challenges that require brainstorming and strategic approaches. Thank goodness for our friends, our Frenchtown neighbors, and our families, who always turn up at all the right moments with words of encouragement, sage advice, and plain old sweat equity. The Rat is just about ready!

I had the most amazing day yesterday, being visited by a new friend who found me after reading about us after reading a press story about the removal of the wooden boards off the front of the building at the beginning of our journey with The National Hotel. She made the time to travel to Frenchtown to meet us!!!

She brought her daughter and as we gave her a tour of The National Hotel, she said that following this blog had given her a glimpse of how we were bringing back the beauty of this historic building, and that seeing it in person gave her confirmation of what she already envisioned.

We're meeting such incredible people, who make the time out of their busy lives to just stop in to say, "Keep up the good're almost there!" and "Terrific. We can't wait for you to open. Glad you're taking the time to do it right." Wow.

It's so easy to stay focused on the little things, the little problems and issues that one grapples with daily, but to hear people whom you've never met before say things like that, just pulls you right out of the micro and into the larger picture, the fact that this old historic building really means something to so many people. It holds memories, it holds tangible moments in time that people treasure.

And what about our friendly business neighbors? They have far exceeded anything I could have imagined. They stop by and encourage us nearly every day. Without exception, every single business owner who has seen us and had the opportunity to speak with us, has welcomed us, has given us words of encouragement, sage advice, and a warmth that is inexplicable. Just last week, the owner of Designs for Tranquility, Russel, came in to bring over some customers and friends of his, so that they could meet us and join our email list to get news of when we'll open. How very kind of him. Can you imagine? He left his shop around the corner, just to walk over his clients and friends to our establishment? Unbelievable!!! Wait until you meet his beautiful wife, Jill--beautiful from the inside out!

Pete and I can only hope to be able to provide our friends, neighbors, and out-of-town guests, with as much warmth, comfort and hospitality as they have experienced, and more. Every time a new person stops by, far from being an interruption from the daily grind, we find it absolutely exhilarating to be able to have an opportunity to chat, to share, to show them around the building. We feel incredibly connected. We feel incredibly blessed.

Do let us know if you'd like to come and see our beautiful building by posting a comment--or just stop by when you're in Frenchtown.

Friday, October 9, 2009


It's been days since I've had a chance to send an update on our progress with the renovations being made to The National Hotel. The transformation has been immense. Little by little, every day there is yet another area that has become a shining visible example of the sweat equity being put into this project.

Amazingly, from ripping up the carpets, painting, refinishing the floors, adding furniture, accessories, etc., slowly but surely, Pete and I feel as though our vision is becoming a reality. And through what sometimes feel like small steps, when you take them all into account, you can truly see some tremendous improvements. Kristine Gryl Marinelli, as usual, flies in and magically moves one thing here, adds some festive accessory and/or decoration there, and voila: visible change and immediate improvement!

We are so grateful for all the help and support we continue to get...I recently received a beautiful card from someone who used to frequent The National Hotel:

Dear D'Costa's,
Yea, yea, yea! I can't tell you how happy I am that you are going to reopen one of my favorite restaurants resulting in super memories.
Yes, my husband and I had many a fine dinner but the best times were with two other gals. On a Sunday we would dutifully take a very strenuous hike and almost count all the calories we had lost. We would then immediately proceed to The National Hotel, sit at the bar, have a couple of Margarita's...Lots of laughs and good times.
Good luck and hope to see you soon.

We can only hope that we will be able to exceed her expectations...and we can't wait to meet her!

If anyone else would like to share any of their past memories of times spent at The National Hotel, do share your comments.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


OK, so we suspected, but really didn't know...yes, there are beautiful pumpkin pine floors underneath The National Hotel lobby carpeting. We've had them removed this week--and the dining room area wall-to-wall carpeting too, in order to expose the gorgeous floors.

We hired a floor expert and are working daily to bring out the natural beauty of the floors. Pete got home at 11 p.m. last night, from working there, and the online work didn't stop at that hour! We both got up this morning early, looked at each other, and although tired, we knew we just have to keep going.

One thing in our lives is constant and keeps us grounded: our daughters. They are just delightful, always full of joy--sometimes mischief--but always respectful and caring of others. They have grown so much throughout this whole process; I cannot describe how independent and self-sufficient they are. Yet even with that said, when we sit down to have dinner together (Pete or I are always present during meal times), there's always a story, an event, a situation to handle...we are so fortunate to have these wonderful girls in our lives. Truly. We are blessed.

Once the floors are finished (sanded and coats of polyurethane added), I'll post those pictures too.

Question: Will anyone miss the cheetah pattern carpet that ran through the lobby? Let me know...we're about to scrap it...

Monday, September 28, 2009


I just finished working with one of the top photography studios in NYC to reproduce the photos that Nancy Blackwell was kind enough to lend us. Wouldn't you know it...there's a newspaper article from December 20, 1984 about a truck that ran into the front of the hotel and guess who's quoted? Yup, Ben Coombs.

He's quoted a couple of times--also as surviving the incident--but it does reference him as a resident of The National Hotel. OK, fact checking this whole story, we've got one item checked-off based on hard evidence from the Delaware Valley News article.

In fact, the day of the accident was the bartender's (Edward Prushinski, according to the newspaper) first day...and last day...he quit and never came back! Can you blame him?!

Here's some additional info on Ben's ashes: Apparently, the ashes were kept below eye-level. Often times the glass from the cabinet below the bar would break--get this: from the inside out--and it would be promptly replaced, only to continue to remain broken.

According to Nancy Blackwell, she reached a point where she just "left it broken."

I think we'll keep Ben's ashes "above" the cabinet and make sure he is visible to one and all--and one and all to him too. No more broken glass!

Do you think we're doing the right thing? Let us know, please.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


We had heard stories about the cremation of a former guest of The National Hotel, Ben H. Coombs (affectionately known as "Ben"), who left instructions in his will for his ashes to be sent to the building, because that was where he felt most at home. Well, in fact, we located his ashes. But that's not the whole story.

After we took possession of The National Hotel, we were told that Ben's ashes were behind the bar, and we looked for them in order to keep them safe from accidentally being discarded as we cleaned. We did NOT find them. In fact, for a while, Pete thought that one of us had inadvertently thrown them out; we both felt terrible about this. There was so much history right there.

Nevertheless, we cleared the entire bar area and continued on our cleaning schedule. Well wouldn't you know it...Pete arrived one morning to do a final inspection of the cleaning the night before, in order to finish up the bar, when right there, in one of the shelves beneath the area directly behind the bar, sat a green box with a gold seal and an envelope taped to the top from a crematorium.

There was Ben.

If the hairs on your arms are not standing up yet, I don't know what to say. Mine were...still are. We've placed Ben right next to the antique cash register, completely visible to all. He apparently lived in The National Hotel when it took in boarders, renting rooms, instead of being a "hotel" per se. He also spent every night at the bar, & after his death, other patrons would visit The National Hotel raising their glasses to Ben.

It looks to us as though Ben is a part of The National Hotel's colorful past and we want to make sure that we continue that tradition. Anyone up for raising their glass to celebrate with Ben?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Truly, we have been lucky with every move we've made from Day 1 of making the conscious decision to become the new owners of The National Hotel. From developing new friendships along the way these last few months to cementing the bond that already existed with other friends--it's friends and good neighbors that can make or break you (so cliché, but so true). And with the help of friends such as Kristine and Vito Marinelli, John and Leslie Pettenati, Heather and Ed Wolven, Carol and Mike Luling, Laura and Nick Gurreri, and let's not forget Patricia and Kingsley Hill...oh the list is long...stay tuned for more...our days are filled with challenges and hurdles that are diminished by the constant support, help, assistance, and encouragement of our friends.

Our latest challenges have been on the technology front, and fortunately, Kingsley Hill is a recognized authority in this area. What a relief!!!

Between Carol Luling taking some pretty terrific photos of The National Hotel when we took the boards off the facade of the building, and later on introducing us to one of the previous owners whose family resided there from the 1930s to the 1970s, to Mary Nasta helping us take our daughters to horseback riding lessons with her daughter, Maddie, so that we don't have to penalize our daughters because we're working non-stop on the business, we are the most fortunate people on this planet. Like Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer sang in The Sound of Music, "I must have done something good..."

Every day brings a new challenge, and yet, there isn't a night that I turn off the lights that I don't count my blessings. Each day I find yet another person who has gone out of his/her way to help us. Yesterday, Rocky, from Kathee's General Store in Frenchtown, brought Pete and Marlon some homemade Indian delicacies...can you just imagine how wonderful and exquisite it was for them? Just think about the time it takes to prepare a labor-intensive Indian meal, and then to have it hand-delivered to your door, just because he "knew you'd still be there working late." Absolutely amazing!

Saying "thank you" to all our beautiful friends seems so insignificant compared to everything they do for us. Can anyone help me to find different ways of expressing our gratitude? I welcome your feedback. Please comment if you have any thoughts to share.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


It's coming along! We thought we might have to open this as a Phase 2 of our project, but with everyone pitching in and helping day in and day out, we can really see progress.

Kristine Gryl Marinelli is beyond amazingly talented. She helped us make decisions on color themes, came and checked when the base coats were done, and then upon inspection, felt it needed just that little "something" else. She has young kids--both with super-active and organized after-school activities--and assists her husband in his business ventures, always dedicating herself to the interior design and upgrade of whatever project he takes on, and still, she has managed to carve out time to help us with The National Hotel.

Paint supplies in hand, she came by herself, took sea sponges to task, and transformed the walls of the Rathskeller. Progress is a good thing!

This is a photo given to us by Nancy Blackwell, a previous owner of The National Hotel in the 1980's.

The stained glass windows behind the bar look fantastic with subtle light bringing out the details of the glasswork. I'll have to take a photo of that and post it next time. In the meantime, we found out who painted the mural in the Rathskeller: Mel Allen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


In just these last few days that have passed, we finished painting the dining room, the hotel entrance, hallways, etc. We're still working on the Rathskeller, but it's definitely coming along. Our daughters are constantly on the 3rd floor, trying to see if they'll get a glimpse of the friendly spirit that apparently resides there; no fear, just curiousity and the desire to "help answer her questions to give her peace," according to our oldest daughter, Shiara.

Kristine Gryl Marinelli was back yesterday and she spent the afternoon shopping for plants, gardening material, flower beds...we love what she's done already and she's coming back again today!

These photos were taken in the middle of the night when we were closing up and getting ready to go home, so I can only imagine how different things will look in the daylight--and once the planting is complete. It really is all in the details. Sometimes the little things make all the difference in completing the feel, the tone, the image that you want to communicate. And the exterior facade of the building will set the tone for the business. We hope it will be inviting, welcoming and warm.

On to the next day!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Wow, it's already 12:25 a.m. Wednesday, September 9th!!! Just getting home from another long, but productive day at The National Hotel. Amazing how just changing the color of a room can set the tone for the entire space. Thank you Kristine Grill Marinelli!!! She truly listened to everything we had to say, and pulled it together, giving us the confidence to move forward with some strong colors with which we were cautious to explore for the room. But now, we are just so happy with the end result. Pete is still at The National Hotel painting the trim work, while I finish up some e-marketing items for our launch.

We truly are grateful to our dear friends, Ed and Heather Wolven, and numerous others, who stopped by while we were painting and gave us encouragement as well as picked up a paintbrush to help.
Truly, Ed and Heather kept us going, even when we were tired, with their sense of humor, steady hands and skilled painting experience.

Thank you Mary Nasta for watching our girls too...what would we do without the support of our friends!!! Mary picked up our girls (and Ed and Heather's daughter) and whisked them away to a playdate with her daughter, Maddie, while we kept plugging away at the cleaning, painting, and interviewing that happened these last few days.

And it goes without saying, that without our family helping us--thank you mom for everything, including and especially, spending time with our daughters, so we can keep on making progress at The National Hotel--so much of our lives would be ever more difficult. Have we counted our blessings yet? Yes, actually, every day.