The Grey Gables Inn has been one of Sutter Creek’s signature bed and breakfasts for many years. In March, owners Roger and Sue Garlick sold Grey Gables to Central Coast Hospitality in Santa Cruz, which specializes in smaller, independent inns as well as larger hotels. As you’ve driven down Hanford Street in Sutter Creek, you may have seen the new banner in front of the property that announces its new name: Inn at 161. I talked with Central Coast Hospitality co-owner Chris Ferrante about her plans for the new inn.
Ferrante has been in the hotel industry since 1988. She met her partner, Laura Waltz, in 2003 when they both worked together at the Dream Inn Hotel in Santa Cruz. Ferrante moved to southern California in 2005 to renovate and operate a 500-room Sheraton Hotel near Disneyland.
A few years later, Ferrante moved back to Santa Cruz, opened her first hotel, and joined Waltz in opening Central Coast Hospitality. The company now manages six properties and Ferrante also owns two, all in California.
The Smallest One
“I worked in four 500-room hotels for the majority of my career,” Ferrante explained, “and the Inn at 161 is very small for me.” Indeed, the Inn at 161 is the smallest property she has ever owned. But as she looked around for hotels to buy that piqued her interest last year, she ran across the Grey Gables Inn on the LoopNet real estate website.
“I saw it, and I quickly saw the property was in really good condition,” Ferrante said. “It was very well built and very well maintained by the previous owners.” During her tour of the property, she noted that though a portion of the building was built in 1897, the rest of it was built in the early 1990s.
Once Ferrante bought it, she started making changes right away. “The Garlicks are an English couple,” Ferrante said, “so it had a lot of their touches, if you will. They had the quaint English-style décor—colorful wallpaper with a lot of flowers and colorful carpet.” She’s currently working on making rooms more “user friendly,” which she said involves putting in new carpet, painting walls, changing the furnishings, and putting TVs in all the rooms.
The name change to Inn at 161 is also part of a larger repositioning from a bed and breakfast into a small inn. “There are a few other well-known bed and breakfasts in Sutter Creek already,” Ferrante explained, “and that prompted the name change, too.”
As part of the shift to an inn, the owners’ apartment is also being converted to a separate room so there will be a total of 11 rooms. Ferrante’s sister, who lives in Shingle Springs, manages the property off-site. Inn at 161 also serves a continental breakfast in the mornings instead of individual breakfasts.
After the first phase of renovations is finished, Ferrante plans to implement a second phase. “Depending on how business goes, we’ll embark on a mini-renovation because the bathrooms were done in the ’90s and those are the next things to be updated,” she said. “We want to get them up to today’s aesthetics, if you will.”
Otherwise, she added, “everything’s clean and well maintained, and so it doesn’t need anything except to stay up with the times…and make sure guests come back.”
Ferrante said since they weren’t managing Inn at 161 during the pandemic and the escrow closed in March, though activity at her other properties suggests that the pandemic is coming to an end. “In April, we really saw a big turnaround in travel,” she said. “Some of it was due to spring break and my belief is that people are tired of being locked up. They’ve gotten their vaccine (or not) and are traveling.”
In the three weeks since she’s owned Inn at 161, she already has a feel for the clientele. “The guests are 60 to 65 years old on average,” she noted, “and I haven’t seen any children come through.” What’s more, she said, “I believe the majority have been vaccinated. From a pandemic standpoint, they’re well on their way to putting the pandemic behind them…and hopefully, we won’t have another hiccup.”
Inn at 161 is so named for its address: 161 Hanford Street in Sutter Creek. You can get more information and reserve a room on their website, or you can call them at 209-267-1039.
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