Wayside Inn back on the market

George and Becky Reeves relax inside a dining room at the Wayside Inn in Middletown on Thursday. The couple purchased the inn in October 2013 and have listed the property for sale. Rich Cooley/Daily

MIDDLETOWN – At the ripe old age of 218, Wayside Inn is in need of prospective owners once more after almost two years of rejuvenation and care.

Current owners George and Becky Reeves bought the inn via auction in October 2013 for $806,250. Since then, Becky Reeves said they’ve spent around $200,000 on mostly utilitarian repairs.

After three weeks in the building, she said the initial awe wore off and they began to spot issues that would need to be fixed, including roofing and heat pump repairs. Since opening in December 2013, the repair work and upkeep has been a tax on them financially and personally.

“I think it was very hard on us because of us being older,” Becky Reeves said. “I just thought that we’d probably be able to do more than we did.”

John Hotaling, the Reeves’ real estate agent, said the 22-room inn with its multiple amenities is listed for sale at $1.1 million.

“It’s s a wonderful opportunity for the right couple,” he said. “It would take someone with some energy, though.”

Other unrealized opportunities at the inn include a basement that Reeves said is ripe for brewing craft beer.

A few prospective buyers have been in contact with the Reeves, including one couple with hotel and restaurant experience — which is exactly what Becky Reeves said the inn needs.

George Reeves said his second choice after a suitable individual or family buyer would be that the historic inn becomes included in the park service. Both he and his wife are prepared to ease this latest transition of ownership.

Wayside Inn originally opened in 1797 and was dilapidated by 1960 when banker and philanthropist Leo Bernstein from Washington, D.C., bought it and restored it. The Bernstein Family Foundation put the inn up for auction in 2009 following Leo Bernstein’s death in August 2008.

Jacob and Lois Charon took possession in May 2009 for $1 million and suffered employment problems and general exhaustion with business upkeep.

Reeves said the fundamental decline in business was in essence triggered by Bernstein’s death.

“The network of people that he brought from the city and points yonder just was no longer here,” she said. “I think anybody would have had a struggle.”

When the Charons publicly announced they were putting the inn up for sale in 2012, they also wished to retire and leave the inn to owners that would preserve its historical legacy.

Becky Reeves said that the closing of Wayside Theatre in 2013 was a big blow to the inn’s clientele because the two had supported each other.

She said lack of experience in restaurant service has been the biggest hurdle for her and her husband, and they’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be in commercial hospitality.

Next door to the inn at 7793 Main St., Lisa and Terry Shaffer host events and parties at Worlds Away Events. They’ve collaborated with the Reeves for some events and had plans to complement Wayside Inn with a café.

Lisa Shaffer said the building, also once owned by Bernstein and the Bernstein Foundation, had been empty since 2008 when they bought it last year. Bernstein had renovated that building for commercial purposes and repairs were less involving.

“We were just fortunate in that Leo did a good job with our particular building,” she said. “I think it was probably in better shape than the inn was.”

She also commended the Reeves’ rejuvenation efforts and said that they needed a rest.

“I would like to see George and Becky, who are friends, not have that stress on them any more,” she said.

Ongoing projects at the Wayside Inn include landscaping and leveling the bricks in the front.

The Reeves are still planning to host Spirits of the Wayside Inn with television ghost hunter guests on Oct. 3. Other planned future events like weddings are still set even if ownership shifts in the meantime.

Becky Reeves said they’ve been bolstered at the inn by their hardworking staff and the community as a whole. Middletown residents donated $600 in 2014 to help in the effort to repaint the exterior white, and plenty of locals have chosen the inn for their special events.

“They really feel an ownership in its welfare,” she said. “I think the community’s trying as hard as we are.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com