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.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Isn't this a nice mural of The National Hotel? It's in the Rat! And, it's still in very good condition.

Frenchtown's weekend-long RiverFest kicks off today. It looks like it's going to be a great day for the town. All the businesses are gearing up for the "people" traffic that will arrive today and they have musicians and puppet shows setting up to entertain the visitors.

The National Hotel proudly displays the banner for the weekend celebrations, off the 2nd floor porch. We're happy to have been able to contribute in this small way to the weekend's festivities, giving it more visibility as people enter Frenchtown from Route 12.

And talking about visibility, we were also pleasantly surprised to read a terrific story on our venture, that took up a tremendous amount of "real estate"/space in the Star Ledger this week. Veronica Slaght had interviewed us and had come with David Gard, a photographer for the Star Ledger, but we never imagined the number of photos and the depth of the article that was published. We are truly grateful. Here is the link:

Friday, September 4, 2009

My mom arrived this week. It's so nice to have the support and help of our family. Our daughters are truly enjoying having her with us and it's a pleasure to know that while we are busy working, they are in good hands.

Unbelievable, but true: September has arrived. Cooler evenings and shorter days. After long hours and hot days, we took advantage of the evening's cool breeze this week, to take a breather for a few minutes
and sit on our back porch for a bit and later on relax with a glass of wine on our 2nd floor porch overlooking Race Street. What a beautiful night in which to enjoy the evening's cool temperatures.
And then back to the grind. The bar is looking amazing! It took some doing, but all the grime is off, the polish is now on and we're well on our way.

Now, in order to meet our opening goal date of mid-September, we are making definitive choices on many levels. With our manager's arrival this week, we can truly make progress. We will be interviewing for many staffing positions on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. - 8 p.m.), so we are sure to be busy, since we are fortunate to have had a lot of individuals already "self-identify" themselves as being interested in working at The National Hotel. It's going to be a busy afternoon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Here comes Marlon Aranha, our restaurant manager extraordinaire! He & Pete go back a long way, and he has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry for the last 25 years, managing restaurants all over the world, as well as owning his own. Now, he'll be a key partner in helping us to run the restaurant and make sure that every customer is treated as a friend & neighbor. Pete & I want to make The National Hotel a place where our Frenchtown neighbors, Hunterdon County and Bucks County residents, as well as out-of-state guests, can come and enjoy a quality and well-priced meal, complemented by signature drinks and a comfortable atmosphere.

It's wonderful to have Marlon finally in Frenchtown!

And to add to yesterday's excitement, Kristine Marinelli spent the entire afternoon going room by room, and helping us plan on a unifying color theme, additional personal touches that will make The National Hotel a holistic experience from the Rathskeller to the restaurant & bar, to the hotel suites & rooms. She has exquisite taste and we are very fortunate to have had her expert eye to help us fine-tune the nuances that can make this grand old building even warmer, cozier and visually memorable.

We can't wait to open our doors & share the excitement & joy we feel with the rest of our community!