We talked to: Sugar Maple Trailside Inn

We talked to Sugar Maple Trailside Inn

We recently had a lovely chat with Craig Della Penna of Sugar Maple Trailside Inn. Check out what he had to say!

Hi, Craig! You and Kathy have owned your home--which also serves as the B&B--since for many years now. What made you choose this particular home?

We bought the house in Sept, 2001, four days before 9/11 when the world changed and we entered the 21st century at that time.

In the late 1990s, when I started working for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, I was going to communities and talking up the idea of converting their dead railroads into linear parks--rail trails. I found it strange that there was always so much opposition to the idea of a conversion to a trail. It became apparent that I’d have to be able to show that I walked the walk, not just talked the talk, which meant finding a home on a rail trail where Kathleen and I could live--and ultimately, adapt that home to become a permitted bed & breakfast and allow guests.

One night in April of 2001, after being thoroughly beaten up at a public meeting for a proposed rail trail in New Hampshire, I stopped off in Florence and drove through the neighborhoods, checking out homes for sale near the trail. I spotted this one at 11PM, and made arrangements to get in the next day to view it. It was badly run-down and overgrown, but a mere 8 feet from the trail. Kathleen and I agreed to let the seller stay for 6 months, and she loved that idea, as it gave her time to clean the place out and prepare to move. We had contractors there for 14 months, as it was a full-on roof-to-basement rebuild. Then, partway through the renovation, Kathleen and I discussed starting a bed & breakfast there as well. We figured we could do it for 2 bedrooms and add 2 private baths. We thought it would be a great opportunity to encourage folks to come see what it’s like to live close to a rail trail/bike path, particularly if they have an aversion to it. We want them to stay on a weeknight to see what it’s like in the morning, with kids walking and biking to school and folks walking their dogs or biking to work. When people see what this area has to offer and how vibrant and lively the bike path is, they often want to relocate to the Valley permanently. I actually get anywhere from 4 to 9 real estate transactions per year (in a normal year!) from having guests stay with us at the B&B.

How have things been over the past year with the pandemic? When did you shut down and when did you reopen for guests?

We, like everyone else, had to shut down around March 22nd or 23rd. We really did not have any guests till around March of this year, once people were double vaccinated and were eager to finally see family and find a place to stay. We booked up quickly after that! It’s easy to fill with just 2 rooms, and we are finicky about guests. We don’t allow for single night weekend stays because we’re not living there to flip rooms. It’s our home, and we want to offer a unique experience to our guests and form lasting relationships with them.

Is the B&B pretty booked up this summer and into the fall/winter?

We are pretty booked up from now till the end of the year, and I’m looking forward to meeting some interesting people who would like to buy houses in the area. Grandparents are very eager to move here, at least part-time, to be near grandkids. It’s important to them that they have a homebase so they can visit their families more often. After the wild year we’ve all had, it’s more important than ever for families to have a safe and convenient option--in other words, if another pandemic hits, they are nearby.

Do you have any fun plans/renovations/changes you’re working on or planning for the future?

We are going to be repainting the house, which we do every 4 to 5 years. We just had brand-new, prim and proper windows installed, and will be putting in a new first floor bathroom very soon. We had a tree fall down not long ago, and decided at that time to have a very comprehensive solar array installed. We are beefing up our electric load by putting in an electric hot water heater, and we are also considering purchasing an electric car. I will be bidding farewell to my old Triumph TR4--it’s been a wonderful ride with that old car, but it’s time to move on and gain more garage space for storage and projects!

You can also view Craig and Kathleen’s fantastic interview with HGTV from 2003 on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_ceVsdDI7M&t=12s
The site for the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn is www.Sugar-Maple-Inn.com and Craig’s Real Estate practice is www.NorthamptonRealtor.com.

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