ITHACA, N.Y. — After nine months on the market, the beloved William Henry Miller Inn has sold to a pair of local buyers.
Local businesswoman Amy Fuhr and Cornell professor Chris Anderson purchased the venerable bed and breakfast at 303 N. Aurora St. for $1,350,000, according to a deed filed with Tompkins County on June 18. The sale price is somewhat lower than the $1,499,000 sought when the listing first hit the real estate market last summer, but previous owner Lynnette Scofield had expressed a willingness to sell for a more modest price if it was the right buyer.
Perhaps she saw that creative yet practical spark in the new buyers. “The day the Ithaca Voice article went up, I told her jokingly that I was going to buy it, and then as it turns out, I did,” said Fuhr.
Fuhr is a known and respected member of the Tompkins business community. Since moving to Ithaca after grad school in 1986, she’s worn a few different hats in her professional career. Fuhr worked as a child protective worker and later became an owner/operator of the Holsteiner Deli in the DeWitt Mall. In 2000, she became director of finance and operations for the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, a position she held for 11 years before going to work for herself again as a bookkeeper for local businesses, including The Ithaca Voice for a time. Most recently, she was the full-time account manager for Triphammer Wines and the Ithaca Coffee Company.
Going from budgets to breakfasts might seem a bit of a jump, but Fuhr is embracing the role of innkeeper.
“I’m super happy to be totally working for myself again,” Fuhr said. “I’m the ultimate party hostess. I love to cook, to bake, sharing what I know about the area. I wanted to work for myself, and didn’t want to sit all day. This opportunity seemed like a perfect fit for me.”
The duo of Fuhr and Anderson have different roles in the operation of the William Henry Miller Inn. Fuhr is handling the day-to-day tasks of running the inn, preparing sumptuous meals and providing the high-quality, restful experience the inn has long been known for. Anderson, an esteemed Cornell Hotel School professor and researcher who moved here a little over a decade ago, is the more behind-the-scenes partner. He and Fuhr, who described Anderson as a hospitality “expert”, first met not long after the inn went up for sale.
“I have a friend with hotel experience, he was originally going to be my partner…but within a week or two, we realized it wouldn’t be possible. So then right away, a friend of mine here in Ithaca suggested Chris, and we met, and we figured it would be a good match, as he wants to buy the inn but not run it, and I want to run it.”
As for this next chapter in the life of the inn, don’t expect too many changes. Scofield is enjoying a chance to rest her tired feet, and her business partners, Katie Arthur and Dave Dier, have decided to move on with other opportunities, with Arthur pursuing a career change and Dier now working with The History Center. The inn’s four housekeepers are staying on with the new ownership, something that Fuhr calls “a complete lifesaver.”
“Business-wise, we will be pretty similar,” Fuhr said. “We might paint some walls or get different furniture, but we don’t have any big plans. Lynnette had a really great business all these years, so we’re going to keep going with that. We’ll have a new website and do more marketing, we’re not on any travel booking sites so we’re going to look into that. Chris will do analysis to see if we should be on websites. But occupancy rates have traditionally been fabulous,” said Fuhr. As part of training or the new role, Fuhr did breakfast service and check-in with Scofield on several occasions, learning the ropes of innkeeping in the weeks leading up to the sale closing.
Is it a little nerve-wracking to try and fill the shoes of a nationally-recognized “Innkeeper of the Year?” Certainly. But Fuhr said she is ready and willing to take on the challenge.
“All the things that make me most nervous, now that I’ve been here for a week, it’s not too bad, I have a lot of friends and family here, this is a turn-key business, and I’m not going to mess this up. Plus, I can’t afford to make mistakes, everything I have is in this business now.
I’ve already had a couple people come here who have stayed in the past 19 years (with Lynnette), they’ve had a great experience. I’ve asked people to tell me about their experiences. I’m sure they all miss Lynnette and the crew, but as far as a new place and a new person, they’ve all been really satisfied so far.
I’ve put a lot of thought into this, I’m in my 50s, and I’m not a thrill seeker with my money. But I knew that this was going to be something that I was good at, and I feel really good about it.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned in the coming weeks.
Correction: The article initially stated a sales price of $1,147,500. That price was for the building only – with sale of the business, the purchase price totaled $1,350,000. The Voice regrets the error.