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Stacie DiNello is joined on the Riverwind Inn porch by Fred and Ethel, this year’s Deep river Merchants Association Scarecrow Contest third-place winners. (The Deep River historical Society’s Corn Goddess scarecrow took top honors, with the Friends of the Deep River Library’s entry taking second.) The contest is just one of the projects Stacie helps oversee as president of the merchant’s association. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Okay, want to date yourself? Then identify Fred and Ethel Mertz. If you are a certain age, that’s no problem. Fred and Ethel were Lucy and Desi’s faithful neighbors and sidekicks on the old I Love Lucy Show.
Now, Fred and Ethel are what Stacie DiNello has named the two larger-than-life size scarecrows who sit on the front steps of the Riverwind Inn in Deep River. The figures are Halloween decorations sponsored by Deep River Merchants Association. Stacie, who is the innkeeper at Riverwind along with her husband Mike, is the president of the merchants association.
Last year, the first for the scarecrows along Main Street in Deep River, there were eight. This year, there are about 13 and Stacie hopes the program will keep growing.
There was voting for the best scarecrow online, but the prize is just the satisfaction of winning.
“It’s for bragging rights only,” Stacie says.
In future years, she would like to improve on the computerized voting to break out categories like funniest and scariest.
“We’re still taking baby steps with this,” she says.
The merchants association also puts on Family Day in the fall, and at Christmas decorates Main Street with wreaths.
“The Deep River Merchants Association is not just Main Street,” Stacie points out. “We are a diverse and united group of business providing goods and services to our town and area communities. We serve as a central point of communication for new and existing businesses.”
As eager as Stacie is for the community to know the merchants better, she is equally eager for the merchants’ community to get to know each other better. To facilitate that, she has started a meet-and-greet evening at the Lace Factory, a local catering business.
“It’s great for networking,” she says.
Stacie and Mike bought Riverwind Inn just over two years ago, but it was not an impulsive move. The had been looking up and down the East Coast for a bed and breakfast to buy for a decade. In fact, they had once looked at Riverwind, but the price at that point was too high.
Mike is by profession a landscape architect. Stacie worked at a company in Shelton that provided business to business audits for publishing companies. Before Riverwind, however, they had worked for a year and a half managing vacation homes in the Virgin Islands.
Then they heard that Riverwind Inn had come back on the market at a price that was within their range. In the meantime, Elaine and Leo Klevens, who had owned the inn, had actually run an essay contest with an entry fee of $250 with the idea that the writer of the best essay would win the inn. The contest didn’t work out, and Stacy and Mike made a successful offer.
Stacie admits there were people who questioned why anyone would want the 24-hour vigilance involved in running a bed and breakfast. Friends constantly mentioned the zaniness that was a regular feature of Newhart, the 1980s sitcom that featured Bob Newhart as Vermont innkeeper, but Stacie and Mike were not discouraged.
“We had always wanted to do this and we figure that life is short,” Stacie says.
The couple was not interested in running a larger hotel nor were they interested in becoming involved with other travel rentals like AirBnB.
“We are offering a different kind of hotel experience; it’s homelike, but with amenities that are very high end,” she says.
Mike runs the front of the house—the meeting and greeting; Stacie does the business end. They both do breakfasts; Mike’s specialty is eggs benedict. Stacie’s is a soufflé with layers of gruyere cheese, spinach, and tomatoes. The practice is that one day the breakfast is savory; the next day sweet.
Stacie says she and Mike tried many breakfast dishes to come up with their menu.
“We were making breakfasts morning and night,” Stacie says. “We were eating breakfast all the time and so were our relatives.”
They made major renovations to the building, everything from a new roof to plumbing and repainting. So far, this year they have already rented 250 more rooms than last year. Among their recent innovations is an elopement package that includes, in addition to the room, champagne, chocolate, and, most important, a justice of the peace to perform the ceremony. Stacie says they have had one ceremony and three more are booked.
“We’re not a wedding venue, but this is for people who don’t want that whole big ceremony,” she says.
Most guests come from the New York or Boston area, but there have also been visitors from Norway, Germany, Ireland, France, and Japan.
Stacie finds time to walk every day, usually some three or four miles. In addition to the merchants association, she has also joined the garden club. She looks forward to working with the local businessmen.
“This is such a great area,” she says. “There is so much potential here; there is such good vibrancy in the [merchants] group and I felt like I had something to offer. I’m offering my interest.”
For more information about the Deep River Merchants Association, visit deeprivermerchants.com or call Stacie DiNello at the Riverwind Inn at 860-526-2014.
Get ready to celebrate the holidays with our helpful guide