February 7, 2010 E-MAIL PRINT

Phineas Swann Bed & Breakfast Inn

by Nick A. Zaino III/

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It may seem at first glance that there are too many words in the name — Phineas Swann Bed & Breakfast Inn. It’s either a B&B or an inn, right?

As it happens, the Phineas Swann is both an inn and a bed & breakfast. That’s part of the philosophy of the venue and innkeepers John Perkins and Jay Kerch. They treat the Phineas Swann as a hybrid of a country inn and a bed & breakfast, providing what Perkins calls a “guest-centric” approach.

“A lot of bed & breakfasts, you have quarters which are shared between the owners and the guests,” Perkins said. “We do not have that here. Everything you see on the website is exclusively for guests. So if you see our fireplace room or our music room or our dining room, that’s for guest use only. Our owners quarters are totally separate.”

The Swann, located in Montgomery Center, Vt., provides meals on request and reservation, and Perkins makes the breakfasts himself, but the Swann isn’t open to public dining like many inns, which makes it more like a bed & breakfast. The owners live on the premises, but guests have they’re own common rooms separate from the owners quarters, more like an inn.

The biggest advantage the Phineas Swann has, according to Perkins, is that he and Kerch are there to help every guest find what they need to enjoy their stay. The pair have compiled a 270-page guest book detailing things to do in the area, along with a bit of history about Vermont, Montgomery Center, and the Phineas Swann building itself, which dates back to the 1880s. Plus, Perkins and Kerch are happy to have a detailed discussion with their guests to help them arrange things.

“Not everybody necessarily wants to go downhill skiing,” Perkins said. “Perhaps they would like to go snowshoeing or perhaps they would like to go dogsledding. Or perhaps they would like to go ice climbing. Or perhaps you have a situation where you have a couple and one is going to ski and the other would like to stay in the inn and maybe watch movies or sit around and have hot chocolate. Or maybe go antiquing. So what we’ll do is, we will sit down and discuss with the guests exactly what they’d like to do.”

Perkins and Kerch originally bought the Phineas Swann in 2002. Perkins was burned out working as a vice president at American Express, and his partner, Kerch, once an interior designer and antique shop owner, quickly tired of his new job as a theater critic. The events of 9/11 were the last straw. They did their homework, looking for an inn somewhere away from the hustle and hassle of a big city, and were pleased to find the Phineas Swann, which they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate, opening in 2003.

The Phineas Swann is a retirement career for both Perkins and Kerch, which allows them to approach it from a more relaxed angle than many other businesses. “Neither I nor my partner are looking to put our kids through college with this,” he said. “We do this for the fun of it. As long as we don’t lose money, then we’re happy.”

Perkins also was surprised to find that there was no other business that matched the vision he and Kerch had for their perfect inn in the Montgomery Center area, an underdeveloped, beautiful bit of country Perkins suspected would be popular with tourists. “There were absolutely no upscale establishments, zero,” he said. “I knew there was a marketing opportunity. I knew we could create something unique that would appeal to folks who really wanted to go into the area and would feel very comfortable with what we were providing.

The catchphrase on the inn’s website is, “New England’s Most Romantic Pet-Friendly Inn.” Along with the inn/B&B philosophy, the inn stands out for its catering to couples looking for a romantic getaway, and for people traveling with their dogs (Phineas, the mascot on the sign, is a bulldog).

“We have our cute little Westies that we like to travel with, and we could never really find really nice places,” Perkins said. “When we say pet-friendly, these are really luxury suites where people can come with their pets.”

Four of the seven units at the Swann are luxury units, which include all of the features of the main units — free phone service, flat-screen TVs with the full complement of Comcast cable channels, and Internet access — but also fireplaces and Jacuzzis. The suites are pet-friendly, kept away from the main areas so as not to affect people with allergies.

The Phineas Swann can host about 22 people at capacity, which has made it popular for smaller wedding parties, including gay marriages, which are legal in Vermont. It’s a cozy place for a wedding or a romantic vacation.

“We really look for couples,” Perkins said. “That’s really who would be most pleased by coming here. And couples who are traveling with their pets.”

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