In mid-August, a pair of French tourists were charged with theft -- and supposedly face at least a year in jail -- after they attempted to exit Sardinia with roughly 90 pounds of the Mediterranean island’s famous white sand in plastic bottles. A month earlier, an Indian family was nabbed leaving its Bali hotel with everything from towels to electronics. Even gutsier … the guy who made headlines for stealing 100-plus TV sets from Indian hotel rooms a couple of years earlier.
Taking small toiletries, notepads and pens after a hotel stay … typically, no problem. But some travelers’ perception of “free souvenir” goes way beyond. Conversely, hotels report plenty of variety when it comes to the personal stuff left behind at check-out -- phone chargers and reading glasses, jewelry and laptops, sometimes even more intimate belongings, like the tighty-whities somebody left at one of this area’s newest hostelries.
“This guy arrived with no luggage … just what he had on his back,” says Drew Schultz, an innkeeper at Conshohocken’s months-old George Washington Wood Bed and Breakfast. “He stayed one night, and when (we cleaned) his room the next morning, we found a pair of men’s underpants tangled in with the bed sheets.”
Schultz and wife Nice have managed B and B’s all over the place, from Hawaii to Manhattan. The two have seen and heard “just about everything” and happily tell story after story to prove it. But according to Schultz, the underpants tale is a first.
As for pilfering at their Conshohocken digs: “Nah … not the nice people we seem to attract here” -- although, he adds, guests might be tempted to steal more than their share of the “outstanding” Scandinavian almond cake he and Nice serve at breakfast.
“That cake is so good,” Schultz says. “You wouldn’t believe the compliments we get for it. People just love it.”
The Schultzes have been hosting travelers professionally for well over a decade. He’s from Granite City, Illinois, and spent years sailing the world as a U.S. Navy navigator. She’s from Fenton, Missouri, and has a marketing degree. But the two decided to switch gears after a ten-year stint as caretakers for Nice’s elderly grandmother in Fenton.
As he tells it: “Grandma -- her name was Dulcie -- she was an ornery old lady … a little slip of a thing, but, man, she’d buried four husbands, married one of them twice, and she could stare down a Rottweiler. Grandma gave us a real run for our money, and after she died, we were just ready to get out of there and do something.”
At first, they supervised a nearby retirement facility -- “100 rooms … a place with a lot of problems.” But when Nice saw an ad for an innkeeper’s job in Maine, they decided to “go for it.” The move took them to a 200-year-old sea captain’s house in Rockland, Maine. That’s where he got the recipe for his now-signature almond cake from the father of a bride who’d rented the place for her wedding reception.
The cake won them over, but Maine’s harsh winters didn’t. So, the Schultzes opted to leave chilly New England for an innkeeping job in sunny Florida. Since then, they’ve honed their hosting chops at venues as far afield as California’s historic Hotel Temecula and a 12,000-acre ranch in Ardmore, Oklahoma (where Schultz’s “main job was killing coyotes”). But when Nice learned Conshohocken’s new George Washington Wood B and B needed help, she and her husband saw it as a possible “retirement” option. These days, comfortably-settled into private quarters on the inn’s third floor, they’re convinced the move was a good one.
“It sounded like a winner from the first conversation with (owners Carol and Joe Rutkowski),” Schultz recalls. “Then, when we got here and had the opportunity to take a look around Conshohocken, we got the same ‘Aloha’ feeling we got in Hawaii. It’s a nice town. Quiet. Friendly.
“We love meeting people, and we’ve already met so many different ones here. We’ve even had some international guests from Venezuela and Italy and as close as somebody from down the street. A lot of visiting Villanova parents. And most of our guests here have been awesome. If we do happen to run into somebody grumpy, we do our best to turn ‘em around, usually by lovin’ on ‘em cuz life’s too short to go through it miserable.”
The George Washington Wood B and B opened to guests last spring. As described in “Our Home’s History”: “Born in 1854, George Washington Wood was the son of iron and steel industrialist John ‘Squire’ Wood, who was the first burgess of Conshohocken in 1850 and a U.S. congressman from 1858 to 1860. He also served as a justice of the peace. George’s father’s rolling mill was started in 1832 as the Conshohocken Iron Works… George worked his way from a company clerk to vice president of his father’s company, where he worked for the remainder of his life. In 1869, the Wood family purchased the land from the estate of Isaac Jones, where the bed and breakfast now stands. George lived in the home until his death in 1898 at the age of 44.”
The Rutkowskis purchased the 135-year-old Queen Anne Victorian home from the Edmund Opielski estate three years ago and oversaw a top to bottom restoration. All rooms are air-conditioned and include private baths. Breakfast is on the house and always includes Schultz’s “famous” Scandinavian almond cake. Plans are in the works for an on-site public tea room.
George Washington Wood Bed and Breakfast is located at 201 E. Fifth Ave. Additional information is available at 610-234-0272 and www.georgewwoodbnb.com.