Friday, July 24, 2015

Nick's Notes 7.24.2015-Restoring the Porches at Abbington Green

Restoring the Porches at Abbington Green

I still marvel at how beautiful our home is and can only imagine how grand it looked when it was first built in 1909. What comes with purchasing a century old home, is the commitment to keep it as beautiful as it was originally. That's why restoring the porches was so important to us as owners.

Guests enjoy spending time on the porches and they are part of the character of Abbington Green. In the 1900's, porches were known as "Breathing Porches." It was believed that breathing fresh mountain air would help you live a longer healthier life. People used to die earlier than they do today. Another belief was that breathing mountain air could help cure Tuberculosis. They believed this so much that there were numerous institutions in Asheville for Tuberculosis patients. An interesting fact: George Vanderbilt built Biltmore Estate in 1895 in Asheville because his mother had Tuberculosis and was in an institution in Asheville.  

It took us time to find the right carpenter to restore our porches.  Below are the 'before' pictures showing some of the issues:

I have to commend David, our Carpenter, who worked on the porches for 3 weeks to bring them back to their grand glory. Take a look at David’s work: 

Pretty spectacular, and they look the way they originally did-down to the detail of the light blue ceiling. Do you know why in the south you paint the porch ceiling light blue? Blue ceilings are popular and have been popular in the south for centuries. It is said that a blue porch ceiling protects the house and the occupants of the house from evil.  Some people also believe the blue paint repels insects, leaving the porch bug-free and pleasant during those long summer evenings and afternoons. A theory is that insects prefer not to nest on the blue ceiling because they are "fooled" into thinking the blue paint is actually the sky.
The porches at Abbington Green are an integral part of the experience of staying at the Inn. Whether taking a moment to sit and read a book or when the group gathers during Social Hour, the porches come alive with laughter and good times. In their new beautiful state the Southern Tradition of spending time on the porch will continue for years to come at Abbington Green. See you on the porch!

All the Best, Nick

Friday, July 3, 2015

Nick's Notes 7.3.2015-It's 5 o'clock at Abbington Green!

It's 5 o'clock at Abbington Green!

Years ago I purchased this beautiful antique marble top table that I loved. It's moved around with me to several states........Illinois, Florida and now North Carolina. Movers never enjoyed moving it based on the weight and the fragile marble. Our beautiful table now has a purpose and prominent location in the living room. This is now where we set up our 5 o'clock Social Hour each day.
As Steve and I planned out purchasing an Inn, we knew we would have a social hour daily for guests to mingle together and for them to get to know us too. The tradition started Day 1 when we moved in on September 30th, 2014. We closed on the property at 9 AM and when 5 o'clock rolled around there was wine and cheese for our guests...............and the moving truck still in the driveway unloading.

Our social hour consist of local NC Cheeses from the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail, Hot Appetizers, and Wines. 
For more information about the Cheese Trail visit

Our themes change daily from Southern Foods, Italian favorites, and yes, Greek Mezedes. On Greek night, it brings back memories of when my parents entertained at our house. Fresh baked Spanakopita (Spinach Pies), Hummus and Pita Bread, and Dolmades (stuffed Grape Leaves).
Guests continue to comment on Trip Advisor how much they love our 5 o'clock Social Hour. It gives them the opportunity to share with others what they did for the day in Asheville, where they are going for dinner, and to get to know each other and us. Lady "Amber" Abbington occasionally makes a guest appearance when guests want to meet her too. She always appreciates the extra attention! One of the reason people come to a Bed and Breakfast versus a Hotel is exactly what takes place at social hour........having that interaction with other guests and the owners.

We are so fortunate to have a very large living room with two sofas and chairs for guests, with a large fireplace for the winter months. During the spring, summer and fall the porches get a lot of use during social hour. Guests love taking in the mountain view and feel the cool breezes. 

I love this part of my day and enjoy spending time with guests! They continue to enrich the wonderful memories I treasure so much!

All the best, Nick 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Nick's Notes 6.12.2015--Meet the Team at Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast Inn!

Meet the Team at Abbington Green Bed and Breakfast Inn!

In my Retail Career I learned how important a team is to the success of a store. It's no different running a successful Bed and Breakfast. I knew when we began in October the priority was to find the right staff that loved this home and serving our guests as much as I do. I am so proud of the staff and friends that help at Abbington Green. They helped us achieve our #3 Ranking on Trip Advisor out of the 40 Bed and Breakfasts in Asheville. I thought is was important for you to meet them, and hear from them what they love about being here.

To accomplish this, I gave them all a short questionnaire to fill out:
1. What do you like to do outside of work?
2. Where were you born? Where were you raised?
3. Any background information that you'd like to share with our guests/readers?
4. What is your favorite thing about working at the Inn?
5. What is your favorite thing at the Inn?

Let's start with the Lady of the House.......Lady Amber Abbington
I am Lady Amber Abbington, and I love being the lady of the house.  I like chasing squirrels and doing feline control! I was born in Boca Raton, Florida. I was found on the highway...where I ran toward a friendly face in a Lexus to get rescued. (Lucky me!) My favorite thing is meeting new people and getting scraps from breakfast to eat with my dinner! My favorite thing at the Inn is my personal dog run and fire hydrant that I get to share with all of the canine guests at the Inn.

We are very fortunate to have 3 great friends that help us in their spare time. Carey Baldwin, and Ken and Ivy Olson. Carey is our talented Social Media Manager, Ken helps in the beautiful Gardens, and Ivy is multi-talented--she helps in the garden, helps me with paperwork, and makes the delicious Ivy's Jams that we serve with breakfast. 

Carey Baldwin
I love to travel and experience new places and things. I enjoy taking road trips with my husband, and am an avid reader and gardener. I was born in Wyandotte, Michigan and grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. My husband and I are recently back, living in the States after living in Munich, Germany for 5 years for his work. I had to leave my retail career and start fresh in a new country...and that high school French didn't help me at all! I learned to speak German and loved it when friends and family came to visit. I hoped that we would stay there, but when my husband's assignment was finished, we came back. We are now ex-expats. I have started a new career in Social Media Management and am loving it. My favorite things about the Inn are getting to work with Nick again and having the opportunity to show this beautiful home to the world.  Listening to Nick introduce Abbington Green to our guests while he gives them a tour is a favorite moment of each day. I also love all of the fun and laughter that go on in the kitchen and around the house, from the team and guests alike. It is such a happy, beautiful place. My favorite thing at the Inn? The big front porch, with the fresh air and the beautiful views of the mountain ridge, how it is decorated for every holiday, how it welcomes our guests, and I love how our 5pm Social Hour naturally moves out there when the weather permits.

Ken Olson
I enjoy gardening and bowling. I was born and raised in Framingham, Massachusetts. I always wanted to be a pilot and even got that chance a several years ago. My favorite thing about working at the Inn? All the chocolate M&Ms I can eat, cookies too! My favorite thing at the Inn are the homemade cookies and brownies.

Ivy Olson
Outside of work I like reading and hanging with friends. I was born in Queens, New York. I love Architecture, and especially old and new buildings. My favorite thing about working at the Inn is seeing the smiles on all the happy guests. My favorite thing at the Inn? The owners.

The first person I hired was Bradshaw Call. 
Bradshaw is my right hand person and helps with everything from Breakfast, taking Reservations, Checking in Guests, Preparing Social Hour........he is also a great baker and makes an amazing Ginger Pear Bread we serve with breakfast. He continues to learn more of what I do and we help each other get the job done and enjoy working together. I have to admit, his calm personality is a good balance for those of you that know my fast pace.

Bradshaw Call
I love to cook and look for treasure at antique stores and thrift shops. I love to perform onstage and am very active with local theatre. I was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, and was raised in the small town of Morganton, North Carolina at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I studied theatre in college and was pursuing a career as an actor-I'm still very active, but consider it more of a hobby now. I'm very proud to call Asheville home. I love meeting new people and serving as an ambassador for Asheville. I think the best thing you can share between two people is laughter. There is so much joy and laughter here at Abbington Green, and you truly feel like you are part of something wonderful. I love the feeling of family and connection with this wonderful old home. It's grand and glorious--and yet, warm and welcoming.

Next hired was Michelle Malsbury. Michelle is part of our Housekeeping Team that keeps everything detailed and spotlessly clean. Those of you that worked for me in retail know that cleanliness is one of my primary focuses. It is even more a priority for us here at Abbington Green. I expect a lot from my Housekeeping Team and I'm very proud to say they live up to and exceed my expectations. They approach every day with a positive attitude.

Michelle Malsbury
I like to hike, bike, raft/canoe/kayak, spend time with my dog, work in the garden, and read/write. I was born and raised in Champaign, IL. I hold a Master's degree in Business Management with a concentration in Business Efficiency Analysis and three and a half years PhD work in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies concentration in Business Leadership. I am a four-time published author of fiction with over 4.5k articles penned on various topics. I am a top 500 reviewer for and transplant to Asheville, NC.
Favorite thing about working at the Inn? Walking Lady Amber Abbington and spending time with my co-workers who make working at the Inn so much more fun!  My favorite thing at the Inn is the lovely gardens that attract butterflies, squirrels, an array of birds, and the neighborhood kitties who just want a belly rub. 

Also part of the Housekeeping Team is Tina Foor and Greg Austin. Tina is the one with the eye for detail...........maybe that's part of being a Mom. Greg has his own Pet Sitting Business that many guests staying here at the Inn use for their dogs during their stay. Besides being part of the Housekeeping Staff he also helps in the kitchen with breakfast and checks in guests when needed.

Tina Foor
Outside of work? Dancing, hiking, camping, singing, water sports; anything outside or with a beat! I was born in Olympia, WA but raised and stayed here in Asheville NC. I've lived all over these mountains and valleys! I live with three my awesome daughters, ages 15, 14, and 11, my hubby of 16 years, 3 dogs, 3 cats and several fish. They keep me busy and feeling loved. I've been teaching several disciplines of dance for almost 20 years and often choreograph for local musical theater. If you visit Asheville, be sure to check out the theater scene!  Favorite thing about working at the Inn? No question. Hands down. The people I work with. We are a team. We zip around at crunch time, everyone filling gaps to help each other. Then, at lulls, you might hear us laughing or even singing! Guests can expect a greeting and genuine smile every time they walk in the door. It's something I enjoy in the morning :)  Favorite things at the Inn? The warmth and welcoming feel, the gardens (Go Steve!), the guests and hearing them laugh and connect over breakfast, eavesdropping on Nick raving about the region I love, and singing in the kitchen with Bradshaw.

Greg Austin
Outside of work, my time is consumed with my favorite things, animals.  When not pet sitting, I love to create crafts with wood.  Small to large pieces.  Let's Pawty Pet Sitting and Woodlife by Greg Austin are my websites. I was born and raised in Radford, VA where most of my family still reside.  Many years in Tampa, Florida in the Entertainment Industry led me to my husband Dennis, who after 17 years, I married in October.  A move to Asheville for a "Life Change" led us to Asheville, and Abbington Green, where we are "at home".   My favorite moment working is each morning coming in the door and everyone greeting each other, preparing for the day.  Such a warm feeling every day. My favorite thing is saying "Good Morning" and "I love and miss you" as I come and go and pass the Crepe Myrtle in the front yard dedicated to my sister.  Abbington Green is family.

Every old house has a lot of maintenance issues. We were very lucky to find a handyman, Dennis DiPalma, that can help us maintain this beautiful home. His latest project was installing the 90 new lights that highlight the beautiful gardens at Abbington Green. I try to fix things myself at times and I am getting pretty good at unclogging sinks............but I know Dennis is there to help with all the upkeep of the Historic Abbington Green. I know he loves the history and architecture of this home.

Dennis DiPalma
I enjoy biking, hiking, working in the yard.  I appreciate being outside and enjoying the mountain air.  I have always been inclined to fixing things around the house and making improvements.  This led me to hotel management, property management and now providing handyman services and remodeling. I was born and raised in Belrose, NY.  At the age of 14 our family moved to Spring Hill, FL, just an hour north of Tampa. After 17 years of loving the most wonderful person I have ever met, I was finally able to marry him. I appreciate being able to be part of maintaining the beauty, romance and glory of such a wonderful part of Asheville history. One of my favorite things about the Inn is the skill and craftsmanship of the people who created it.  Another favorite thing would be the people who have passed through the doors as owners, service people and guests. And now with Nick at the helm, his passion and attention to detail, will take her to the top and will be part of her history.

Our newest member of the Abbington Green Team is Rebecca MacIntosh. I
looked very hard to find the right person to add to the Kitchen Team to
help serve breakfast and clean up in the kitchen. Rebecca recently graduated from University and will soon be working on her Masters. She is wonderful with guests and a great addition to the team.

Rebecca MacIntosh
I like hiking, music shows, and of course, local Craft Beer. I was born in Asheville, raised in Black Mountain. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Disorders. My favorite thing about working at the Inn is the staff and all of the fun dishware and crystal. My favorite thing at the Inn is the gardens.

Then, there is Steve and I..........I dare not begin to track the number of hours we work. Owning Abbington Green is a part of our life and it is not about the hours. It is what we do and really enjoy doing. The priority is and will always be on the guest. Steve supported me in living my dream and I am very thankful for this. I could not ask for a better partner in this than Steve. His meticulousness in the Garden, matches my meticulousness in the House. We make a great team to provide the best to our guests and our staff inside and outside. 

Steve Donahue
Gardening now takes up most of my available time! I also enjoy golf, bowling and hiking. I was born in LaSalle, Illinois, where I lived for 19 years. I moved to South Florida and lived there until we bought the Inn last year. I am currently employed by the US Postal Service and have been a Letter Carrier for the past 15 years. Besides getting to do the gardening at the Inn, at the top of my list of favorite things about working at the Inn is getting to know our guests. Living in a historic home and sharing it with Nick and our guests is my favorite thing about Abbington Green.

Nick Poulos
I enjoy cooking and entertaining, kayaking, hiking, bowling...I am a dog lover and I love to spend time with Amber. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio...and graduated from the University of Akron. I wanted to be a Veterinarian and often wish that I continued on that path. I am currently living my dream of owning a Bed & Breakfast, as my 35 year career in Retail has allowed me to afford my dream. My favorite thing about working at the Inn is meeting the guests. It's like making new friends every day. I love checking a guest in and sharing the history of this beautiful home with them! My favorite thing at the Inn? The "History, Style and Romance" of Abbington Green. Every time I pull in the drive or walk up the front walk, I say to myself..."I can't believe how beautiful our home is"!

In closing, I know that I can count on my team for anything that needs to be done. We may all have our individual roles at the Inn, but when something needs to be done, everyone pitches in to complete the task.  We work well together and it feels like a family here that genuinely cares and respects each other. I am very thankful for our team and appreciate what we are accomplishing at Abbington Green together! 

PS: Thank you to Tom Roselli, Brian Donahue, Kathleen Donahue, Wendy Langley, Don and Ginger Marsh, Maryann Fitzgibbon, and Carey Baldwin.  All of these friends and family came to Abbington Green in October and November 2014 to help before the Abbington Green Staff was hired. We had a very successful October and November and we could not have done it without you. Thank you for being a part of my dream!!

All the Best, Nick

Friday, May 29, 2015

Nick's Notes 5.29.2015--This Old House

This Old House

I've always loved watching shows like "This Old House" and "If Walls Could Talk." Now we are living in one of those century-old homes with an amazing history that I've shared with you in the past. This is the third old home I've lived in. 

My first house I purchased was in Newport News, VA and was built in the 1920's. It was an old stucco duplex with a slate roof. The house was originally built as housing for the Newport News Shipyard. We renovated the house from top to bottom, and had a lot of fun in the process. 

Fast forward to the 1990s when we purchased a 1920 Spanish Revival house in Chicago, IL. Again, a stucco home with a clay barrel tiled roof. What is a Spanish-style house doing in Chicago? It had to do with an architect who went to the World's Fair in California and fell in love with the Spanish style architecture. There were two streets in Park Ridge, IL that had these lovely Spanish Revival
homes. Once again, we spent the time restoring this home with a 20 foot barrel vaulted ceiling and gray slate floors in the living room, and amazing details throughout the home.

Fast forward again to September 2014 when we purchased Abbington Green,
built in 1909 with Richard Sharp Smith as the Architect, one of the Architects from Biltmore Estate. The original charm of this home has been updated with all the modern conveniences you would expect in a AAA 4 Diamond Property. Twenty two years ago is when the major renovations took place to enlarge bedrooms and bathrooms. 

It has been an amazing seven months for us where we have spent time with our staff painting and updating each room and adding special touches to add to the beauty of our home. It starts with a great Nick's Notes will actually be about each of the staff members backgrounds and thoughts.

I thought I would share with you some pictures and some of the details of what we have accomplished so far. 

Our biggest project was adding central air and heat into the main house so each guest now has their own temperature control in each of their rooms. Ductwork was added into the basement in order to cool and heat the main floor, and individual Mitsubishi Split Units were added into each guest room.

They are silent, energy efficient (which supports our Green Initiatives), individual controls to cool and heat to the desired temperature, and most importantly it does not block the windows and obstruct the beautiful view and sunlight. 

After the rooms were painted. we added carpet to the main stairs with brass rods and pineapple end caps and two new crystal chandeliers at the top and the bottom of the main staircase.

At the top of the stairs is the art gallery featuring the beautiful works of 8 local artists from the River Arts District. 

Our guests really enjoy the breakfast table place settings each morning. We love to change it up each morning with different chargers, linens, crystal and china.

I can't leave out the beautiful stain glass we've added into the living room. 
Two beautiful stain glass windows and four stain glass lamps warm the
living room during Social Hour.

Last but not least, our beautiful gardens have come alive. Steve with the help of friends and staff have transformed the gardens into a work of art. So many guests have commented and compared the gardens to the gardens at the Biltmore Estate.

"If Walls Could Talk" I believe they would be saying how they love the fact that we brought the house alive with freshness and rejuvenating charm. Guests feel very much at home here, and we love seeing them enjoy themselves at Abbington Green.

All the Best, Nick

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Nick's Notes 5.15.2015--The Fountains of Abbington Green!

The Fountains of Abbington Green

The Gardens at Abbington Green are in full bloom and look amazing! 

Every guest comments on how beautiful they look. Steve is owning the project and working with two great friends, Ivy and Ken Olson, to bring back the Gardens at Abbington Green to their full beauty and potential. They are doing an amazing job. Steve even took two weeks vacation time from the post office and spent it in the garden every day. Here are a few photos to show you what I mean: 

I believe, a garden is not complete with out the magical sound of a fountain. We have 4 beautiful fountains at Abbington Green. Each of them in a separate garden and unique to the garden. They bring a peace and charm to the gardens and add to the History, Style and Romance of Abbington Green.

My favorite fountain, of the 4, is found in the front yard. We call it  Bailey's Fountain in honor of Bailey our St Bernard who passed away 4 years ago. Bailey was an amazing dog! 

We purchased her in Rockford, Illinois as a puppy. When all 7 St Bernard puppies came running to me she was the one that kept falling over and lagged behind the others.  When she finally got to me, she wanted to be hugged and we connected immediately. 

I wanted Bailey to be a show dog, and went to classes to get trained. In her first show she took 2nd place. A few months later, as Bailey kept growing, she developed a limp. Her joints in her left paw were not developing properly and we tried corrective surgery but it didn't work. She was able to move fine on her own, but would always have a limp. That didn't matter, we loved her..........unfortunately, she could not continue to be shown as a show dog. 

I started thinking about other ways Bailey and I could spend time together and do something good. I stumbled upon the Pet Therapy Program at the Broward Humane Society in Florida. I called and Bailey passed the test with flying colors and we began 10 years of Pet Therapy work together on Saturdays. 

That's what she was meant to do........She was so good with all the Cancer and Alzheimer Patients, and they loved seeing her come into their rooms. I could see how their eyes would light up and they would talk to her. Her height was perfect to the side of the bed as well as wheelchairs. 

As you all know, St Bernards drool, and I always had a  towel with me to wipe her mouth before she got close to a patient. One day one patient said to me, "It's okay honey, we drool too." When patients would get ill and some lapsed into comas, Bailey sensed it and would lay her head next to theirs and then look over at me. I would tell her, "It's okay, they know you're here to see them."

Bailey lived to be 12 years old and it was a sad day when I had to say my final Good Bye. One of the sweetest gifts I ever received was from my District Manager in New Jersey and her team of Store Managers. They purchased an actual Star that is now named Bailey's Star. I have a framed Certificate of the coordinates of the actual star that hangs in the entry way of Abbington Green. 
Even though our Bed and Breakfast is called Abbington Green, the name of our business is called Bailey's Star in honor of the best friend I ever had..............My Bailey!

All the best, Nick