Last Updated on September 22, 2020
Last Updated on September 22, 2020
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Rick Bell is one of the two owners of Engadine Inn and Cabins (near Asheville). He joined us for NC Travel Chat to talk about this wonderful place to stay for folks looking to explore Western North Carolina.
He shared the story of this property, which has seen quite a bit since it was developed in the late 19th century.
Rick Bell Interview Summary
Most of the conversation stays at Engadine but we do spend some time talking about travel around North Carolina. We even discuss our thoughts on when you should be traveling if you want to avoid crowds right now.
Local business owners like Rick are working so hard right now to keep their guests happy. During these times all the extra effort they’re putting into maintaining things right now deserves a nod on its own and even some support from us all.
If you’ve stayed at Engadine or any other locally owned B&Bs in North Carolina, we’d love to know why you love them, too! You can do that in our private Facebook group “North Carolina Travel with NC Tripping”, or on Twitter and Instagram @NCTripping.
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Until next time, we hope to stay in touch and look forward to seeing how you’re out there exploring North Carolina.
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Rick Bell Interview Transcript
Rick Bell: [00:00]
Prohibition came to North Carolina, thank you to the government, about 10 years before the 18th amendment to the constitution. So our prohibition came here early.
The wonderful story of the Hoyts didn’t end well because the state put them out of business.
Carl Hedinger: [00:19]
Every bed and breakfast has a story. And as you just heard from Rick Bell, sometimes there isn’t always a happy ending. Rick is one of the owners of Engadine Inn and Cabins, in Candler, just outside of Asheville.
He’ll share the story of this property, which has seen quite a bit since it was developed in the late 19th century. Now the original family was winemakers but were shut down by the government, as Rick explained.
Rick Bell: [00:45]
The bacon? There’s a story about that. There’s always a story at a bed and breakfast. The bacon was actually inherited from the owners that we bought the inn from.
Carl Hedinger: [00:58]
If you’ve ever spent time in a bed and breakfast like Engadine, you know, the conversation is going to eventually shift to the food that starts your day, am I right?
Rick was talking about his famous bacon that he serves up.
Rick Bell: [01:09]
I was, I was laughing with somebody this morning at breakfast. I said, you’re going to be in the hospitality business. I don’t feel very hospitable right now.
Carl Hedinger: [01:16]
Of course, 2020 being 2020. We do talk about how everyone at Engadine is adapting to what’s going on in the world right now, even the guests and also some hopeful future developments, the property, which was really interesting to hear about.
Most of the conversation does stay on the property, but we do spend some time talking about Rick’s favorite place to go in North Carolina, and some he hopes to see in the future.
We even discuss our thoughts on when you should be traveling. If you’d like to avoid crowds right now. With busy holidays around the corner, we’ll give you some ideas.
There’s a lot to unpack here.
Let’s just get into this episode of NC travel chat with Rick bell from . I’m your host, Carl Hedinger.
Rick Bell: [01:58]
We operate a five-room that in breakfast, but also on our 12-acre property. We have six cabins and we also have two event venues that we use for weddings and family reunions and group events from time to time.
So we’re part of the, the Asheville lodging community, if you will.
Carl Hedinger: [02:20]
How did you decide on Candler? Cause I know it’s about 15 or 20 minutes outside of downtown.
Rick Bell: [02:27]
About 15 minutes. Yeah. Prior to moving to North Carolina and doing this about five and a half years ago, we owned an event planning business that we had owned for about 14 years.
It was exclusively corporate events. We had just sort of grown weary of what we were doing. It was time for a change.
We were tired of living in South Florida. So we set out to buy a property and looked all throughout Western North Carolina.
We picked this one for a couple of reasons. One, because it was near Asheville. Two, because it has, because it had an acreage with it, 12 acres that we could use to develop an event destination.
We were really fortunate that we found what we did because not only do we have the Asheville amenities, but we have some really, really dramatic views from here to be as close to Asheville as we are.
I think a lot of times our guests are surprised at the views that we have. So that’s kind of how we got here and what we’ve been doing to try to change the experience here.
Carl Hedinger: [03:35]
I love the view that’s on the backside of the property, with the two chairs, right?
Rick Bell: [03:41]
Yeah. There’s actually more than that. People enjoy going back to that fire pit to watch the sunset. It’s pretty spectacular.
Carl Hedinger: [03:50]
And in the morning, even if you’re staying in the cabins, uh, love, you know, stepping outside of it front porch and it’s gorgeous.
Rick Bell: [03:59]
True. Yeah. That’s the other view that we have. Like I said, we’re really fortunate in that regard.
Carl Hedinger: [04:07]
Can you take us through a stay at Engadine? What can somebody expect?
Rick Bell: [04:12]
Sure. Well, um, there’s really sort of two experiences here. The first is a traditional bed and breakfast. The house itself was built in 1885.
It was built by a family that operated it as a vineyard. This was a 107-acre winery basically, and it operated until prohibition came along.
So the house itself is the bed and breakfast part of the experience here. And it’s a traditional B&B.
You stay in a Victorian home, with a lot of antiques and traditional lodging amenities that you would see. It also includes breakfast.
We serve a two-course breakfast each morning and the dining room to guests of the Inn. It’s a little more social experience
You do encounter other people. We’re sort of limiting that a little bit right now, but it is a traditional bed breakfast.
So then the other, part of the property is the cabins. They’re a little more private. They all have their own kitchens.
They don’t participate in the breakfast that we serve in the end. They’re really out there for people to kind of create their own experiences.
And it’s kind of interesting. Since we live in the inn, we periodically will see guests of the end come and go.
But the cabin guests, we never see them after they check in until they check out. They’re just sort of doing their own thing so we can offer.
Both kinds of experiences.
And sometimes return guests, they’ll stay in the end one time. The next time they might stay in a cabin.
So it really kinda offers two different experiences here.
Carl Hedinger: [06:04]
You mentioned how things might be different now of course. How are you adapting to that right now?
Rick Bell: [06:12]
Well, it starts with check-in. Well, actually it starts before check-in where we, along with all the licensed lodging facilities in North Carolina are using the CDC guidelines for cleaning protocols in doing everything we can to protect guests and employees.
So it starts prior to people getting here, getting the rooms cleaned when possible.
We’re trying to leave a room or a cabin vacant for at least 24 hours before we even go in to clean it after someone is stayed in it. We’re doing what we can upfront to get ready for guests so that they can feel safe when they get here.
Then when it comes to check in…
I was laughing with somebody this morning at breakfast. I said, “You know to be in the hospitality business. I don’t feel very hospitable right now.”
Primarily because we’re not seeing people.
We’ve created a self-check-in process, whether you’re staying in the Inn or the cabin so that you can check yourself in. Basically, we leave a packet at the front door of the inn for each room or cabin with the guest’s name on it.
The packet contains some paperwork that they can fill out and return during your stay or check checkout. It’ll include instructions for how to get to their room or cabin.
If they’re staying in a cabin, it also has a map in it so that they can see where the cabin is on the property. And then, of course, a key (or keys) and that way, guests can check themselves in.
And then as far as the inn is concerned, that’s really weird, because we are still serving the breakfast that we’re famous for.
It’s a two-course breakfast, but we’re serving it, not as two courses where we ask guests to stay out of the dining room until everything is on the table.
So we’re putting both courses on the table. Coffee, juice, water, you know, every, everything that goes with breakfast is on the table before anyone comes into the dining room
We’re doing assigned seating. And once we give the word, people can sit down. And that way, we don’t have to serve coffee or juice.
They have everything on the table.
And it’s kind of, you know, it’s kind of self-service actually. But that way, it limits our contact with them. We’re also not filling the inn right now.
We have five rooms so that we can keep people social distance, including in the dining room. And that’s why we’re doing the assigned seating to make sure that everybody stays away from other people.
Carl Hedinger: [08:56]
And that must be tough for you to not be able to talk to people.
Rick Bell: [09:00]
That’s what’s cool about a bed and breakfast, you know, it’s not like a hotel where you don’t really get to know the people who you’re staying with. You know, a bed and breakfast by its very nature is a social experience.
And part of the joy of being in the, in the business or for those people who liked staying in bed and breakfast, it’s all about the interaction, about telling the stories about, about the house, about the winery, you know, being able to talk to them about.
What there is to see and do in Asheville or what great restaurants there are in town or where the nearest waterfalls are or where to take it, kids to go swimming, you know, those, those kinds of personal connections that make the bed and breakfast experience so unique to have.
Right. Yeah. I mean, we’re still doing it, but you know, with, you know, even when I’m around people, it’s just strange.
You’ve got a mask on and they have a mask on, they can’t really see you. So it’s very different.
It’s very, very different. They will see them be enjoying it. It’s funny. We had somebody check out yesterday.
I mean, this morning, who said, “I just had to get out. I just had to get out of my house.”
And he said, “I’ve never stayed in a bed and breakfast before he said, this was the perfect experience for what we wanted to do.”
So, you know, people still enjoy it. They’re still looking for ways to get away and reasons to get away, but it’s just very different.
Carl Hedinger: [10:36]
And I don’t think there are many places that are like Engadine, because, you know, you could stay in one of the nice cabins which we did.
You could stay in the inn and it’s more of like a closer experience to you and to all the other people who are staying there.
And I think one of the great things, you mentioned about giving people tips for things to do and getting around. It’s gotta be hard to probably not be able to do that as much.
Rick Bell: [11:07]
Yeah. A lot of that’s built on here’s a map and you turn on this road and let me draw it for you. You know, it’s kind of a see here on the map. From six feet way, it’s kinda tough, you know?
So far, we haven’t had any, really, any bad experiences with anybody just melting down because of what’s happening,
Everybody kinda does their best to go with the flow. And so we’re trying to do the same thing.
Carl Hedinger: [11:39]
So let’s talk about some happier things, the breakfast for one, you know, that was one thing that really blew me away when we were there. Is the bacon something you’re still doing?
Rick Bell: [11:46]
Oh yeah. I just answered an email this morning for a reservation that we have coming up. This lady wrote me this whole long thing about coming back to Engadine and she stayed with us last year at Christmas, I think.
But anyway, she was by herself. She was bringing her husband this time and she just went on about the bacon and I said, okay, we’ll make sure we serve the bacon.
I mean, we are, you know, it’s funny. We, neither, one of us is a chef or certainly not trained. But we, and we’ve always enjoyed cooking. And, um, I think over the years we’ve learned to do that pretty well.
My girth, if you could see it, would be good evidence of that. But when we came here, we thought we really wanted to create this unique breakfast experience.
So we really take the time. It’s not just about the food, but it’s also about how the food looks, what the plates look like when they go out of the kitchen.
So that people really feel like it’s an unusual dining experience, and then it’s equal to at least equal to some of the other really great dining experiences that you can have in a place like Asheville, where there’s so many good and famous restaurants
The bacon? There’s a story about that. There’s always a story about a bed and breakfast. The bacon was actually inherited from the owners that we bought the inn from.
Two ladies owned the inn and one of them primarily did the cooking. Sadly, she passed away sometime after we bought the inn.
But this bacon recipe was hers.
It’s Applewood-smoked back that’s thick cut. We sprinkle it with brown sugar and chopped pecans. It’s very simple, but it’s baked. It’s not fried.
And we basically slow-bake it in the oven and, it’s perfect. If I do say so myself, it’s pretty good.
But it’s Gretchen’s recipe and we call it that. That’s one of the things that, you know, that creates conversation is what we serve for breakfast.
And in particular, the bacon is famous.
Carl Hedinger: [13:57]
You do change it up though. I remember that, right?
Rick Bell: [14:01]
Yeah, we do. We do two courses every day. There’s a fruit course of some kind and then a hot entre course and we mix it up.
We try to do one day as a “savory” day and the next day is a “sweet” day. We’ve had guests stay with us for a week or 10 days.
We try to not serve the same thing twice. So every day that you sit down to breakfast, it’s supposed to be different each day.
Sometimes, especially for a 10-day stay, that gets kind of hard because you have to first remember or research and then you have to come up with something.
But it’s part of what we try to create here. You know, it’s almost like, I think some guests kind of think, “Okay, let’s see what these guys are going to come up with today.”
Surely they’ve got to serve something again, but we’ve been able to pull it off.
Carl Hedinger: [14:57]
I remember you mentioning something because, uh, a little bit ago you mentioned the history of the property and how it was used to grow grapes for wine.
You mentioned to me that you were going to maybe start doing that again because you had one of the original vines there.
Rick Bell: [15:13]
Yeah. There is one vine that is left and it happens to be on the driveway. And when we came here, we knew it was there.
But you couldn’t see it.
I mean, the property was so massively overgrown when we bought it, that you couldn’t see the place from the road.
And there were a lot of people who never knew this house was up here. When we came here, we cut down 21 dying or dead trees out front.
We really opened it up so that you can see it. And in the process of doing that, we gingerly uncovered this grapevine that we knew was underneath it.
And we made this split-rail fence kind of trellis thing. And it came back. It’s 130 something years old. Our housekeeper makes jelly out of it that we sell to people.
It’s a very sweet grape. It was part of the history of the place but I’m not really interested in getting into the wine business.
I heard somebody one time in California say that the quickest way to turn a large fortune into a small fortune is to start a winery. But we’d have talked about if we’re able to develop the property along the lines that we’d like to develop it, we would like to take cuttings from that existing grapevine and sort of create a tribute to the family.
And to create a tribute to Captain and Mary Hoyt (the original owners) for what they came here to do and 1885. So it’s so kind of out there along with the plan to develop the property and hopefully, we’ll be able to do it one because it is such a cool story.
Carl Hedinger: [17:04]
How did you know the vine was still there?
Rick Bell: [17:09]
The previous owners had told us about it and the neighbors knew about it. Believe it or not, a lot of the people around us know the history of this place and what it was.
They told us when they knew that we were going to clear it so that you could see the house.
They warned us to be careful because they said that’s where the grapevine is. We were very aware of it when they were out there working.
And today, the guys who come to cut the grass, they know to stay away from that grapevine.
Carl Hedinger: [17:45]
That would be bad thing. If one of them had one of their weed eaters out and you know…
Rick Bell: [17:48]
That’d be bad. It’s pretty big actually
But still, if you, if you nick grapevines or cut them improperly, they’ve got a lot of water inside, and they bleed if you’re not careful around them. So you have to be really careful.
It’s hung on all these years.
Carl Hedinger: [18:12]
Do you still grow tomatoes and other things?
Rick Bell: [18:15]
Uh, we do. We have a vegetable garden and a, an urban garden that we use and we cook from, it’s kinda weird though. This year I had trouble with okra. And I heard other people say the same thing and my tomato plants, I don’t know.
I’ve got, I’ve got tons of tomatoes, but they’re only like this big they’re beginning to turn red. I don’t know.
And the same with the herb garden and my squash. I don’t know. Maybe, mother nature kinda got word that the world is all out of whack right now.
And mother nature is out of whack because my gardens aren’t well.
Carl Hedinger: [18:59]
So do you and Tom do y’all split things at the inn? Like how does, how does that work?
Rick Bell: [19:06]
We owned a business before in Florida. And we’re very fortunate that we both have sort of different skillsets that compliment each other.
And when we came here, we sort of picked up where we left off when we left Florida. But we were able to take advantage of the fact that we had worked together in a business for 14 years. And we lived together all this time and not killed the other.
We just sort of fell into our roles here.
Yeah. And, um, um, you know, it’s sort of divide and conquer and list as you know, a day when, when your job is everything, you know, when we’ve got a big turnover or something like that, and it’s all hands on deck. So he kind of, he takes care of the administrative parts of things and more of the chef sometimes.
Uh, but mostly he’s the one serving breakfast, so it’s, it kind of works. You know what I mean? We’re fortunate in that regard.
Carl Hedinger: [20:10]
It’s always good to know, to know who can do what.
Rick Bell: [20:14]
I mean, you still have to, you still have to both know how to ride the bike. Because sometimes, if I can’t get on the bike this morning, for whatever reason, he needs to get on it.
So, you know, now that we’ve been here for five and a half years, we just kind of figured that out.
Carl Hedinger: [20:32]
And before you owned it, you said there was another person who owned it. Were they from what? Back in the 80s or the 90s?
Rick Bell: [20:40]
The house was the history of the house. It was it’s out. It’s almost always been occupied.
That’s why the it’s in such good shape. It was well taken care of and primarily lived in by families. The Hoyts lived here until the early 1900s.
Around 1908, prohibition came to North Carolina. Thank you to the government. This was about 10 years before the 18th amendment of the constitution.
Our prohibition came here early. So the, the, the wonderful story of the hoists didn’t end well, because the state put them out of business, but then through the years, it was always occupied by families.
One family owned it by the name of Howell. They owned it from the 1940s through the 1980s. And in the late 80s, they sold it to someone who turned it into a bed and breakfast back then.
It’s turned over ownership a few times in the years since then. Everybody’s sort of done different things to it, but it’s been a B&B for about, about 30 years.
Probably our hope our plan was, or is the most ambitious of, of the, of the plans that I’m at least aware of for the 30 years that it’s been at hand, uh, because our hope is to really develop the property it has with these spectacular views that we have in our proximity to Asheville and its amenities.
It just is.
It’s a waste that there’s not more happening here. And interestingly, we wrote the business plans to create this new place, struggled over the pants, 12 years to try to find a developer or an investor to help us do it because it’s a huge project. Um, but yeah, nobody’s been interested in doing that.
They’ve been really more interested in investing in. You know, another high rise hotel in downtown Nashville and you know, there’s a lot of it now. And we were trying to say, Hey, we’re not here. You know, getting this really cool piece of property and you could, it was to build cabinets and turn this really more into the cabin oriented lodging facility.
And, but nobody really wanted to talk to us. Now, everybody’s sort of going, “Wow this one was such a bad idea after all.”
And we’ve at least had some begun to have some conversations that could wind up being productive. We might actually be able to pull off one way or another.
I mean, there are some strange ideas out there, but we might actually be able to pull it off now.
Carl Hedinger: [23:28]
Is that because they would be viewed more as short term rentals?
Rick Bell: [23:33]
Well, they could be. I’m glad you actually brought that up because short term or vacation rental properties right now are really in a really having strong, strong bookings right now.
And the reason is that you can go away with your family.
Everybody can stay in one house or one cabin and you don’t have to walk through a lobby with strangers. You don’t have to get in an elevator and push buttons and be enclosed in an elevator hallway with strangers or anything like that.
Companies like VRBO and Airbnb are seeing a real demand for individual houses or cabins cottages.
That kind of thing. And I think that’s why our cabins have been so popular this summer. It’s crazy. How, how, how much interest there has been in our cabins of summer.
And I think that’s really what people are, given a preference, if there’s a way to still travel and vacation, and be socially distant, that’s why cabins or cottages are real popular right now.
It’s the same thing with RVs. People are looking for alternative ways to travel and yet still feel safe and isolated from one another.
Carl Hedinger: [25:01]
Yeah. I’ve seen that at campgrounds, a lot of RVs.
Rick Bell: [25:06]
Campgrounds are killing it right now. Yeah. So that’s why I think there is interest in a property like this. T
Take it in and do something different. It’s certainly the kind of different product that we had in mind when we bought it five years ago.
So time will tell, you know.
I hope it does go forward because it’d be such a great place and
if we had more cabins, we could sell more cabins. That’s for sure. There’s no question about it right now.
Carl Hedinger: [25:49]
Yeah. I hope that gets, going. You mentioned going in an RV somewhere. So if you’re not, if you’re not at Engadine, is there somewhere particular in North Carolina that you like going?
Rick Bell: [25:57]
I’m glad we have the RV. We don’t get to use it as much as we’d like to. We bought it before we left Florida. Had we known we were going to do this,we probably wouldn’t have bought it, but we bought it.
We had a boat in Florida. I used to take the boat to The Bahamas and the keys. We thought, “Okay, we’re done with boating.”
And we sold it and bought an RV. But when we came here, we learned pretty quickly that, there are times of the year, especially after a holiday weekend, when things really slow down for about a week.
Um, the major holiday weekends that, that next week, and oftentimes the weekend afterwards. Or just dead. So we’ll close the end couple of times a year and get in it. And, but we’ve only done trips around here. Um, you know, eventually we’ve never been to the, to the coast of North Carolina. Um, you know, I’d love to go and visit, um, other parts of North Carolina and especially the coast, especially the, the outer banks, but we just.
I haven’t gotten that far yet. Um, as it is right now, we have a favorite little campground out near the old Balsall man called moonshine Creek. It’s a, it’s an old school family, kind of it’s owned by been owned by the same people for 20 or 25 years. It’s just a beautiful. Kind of old school campground, great amenities.
They’ve invested in the property to make it really, um, popular with a very loyal following. And it has this wonderful Creek that flows right through the middle of it. And that’s kind of been our go to place, but hopefully if, uh, you know, as we get closer, um, So the end of the summer we’ll have some time and maybe one of these days we’ll make it out to the coast.
Carl Hedinger: [27:47]
Your point about after a holiday is right on, cause uh, I was talking to somebody in a previous episode about that, uh, where I went to Stone Mountain State Park up in Alleghany and Wilkes counties.
And it was the day after the 4th of July. And there was sort of a forecast of rain which never happened was there, it was empty and it’s a really popular park.
Rick Bell: [28:11]
Well, we’ve always even long before we, a couple of lifetimes ago, we lived in Atlanta. We both used to work for Coca Cola and, um, we, uh, we were part of the big layoff in 2000, which is what got us to Florida and started to go down there and starting a business.
But anyway, we had a, when we were living in Atlanta, We would always wait until the end of the summer.
Um, we, there was a lady that worked at Coke. She and her family had a, this really cool house and a little place called Seagrove floor right next to seaside.
And we would wait until after labor day weekend, and we would go down there and we’d be the only people on the beach if you were there labor day weekend, you know, and he’d crawl in with me.
And we just learned that. You know, you can, the crowds, aren’t what creates the experience, you know, to go and to have a place to yourself, I think would be a really cool thing to do.
So we sort of learned that early on. And when we discovered here, How things would just stop almost after holiday weekend for about a week or 10 days, we thought, wow, this is the opportunity to jump in the RV and go see something.
And so that’s what we’re going to do.
Carl Hedinger: [29:32]
Yeah. This year we were at Atlantic Beach, which is on the called the Bogue Banks. And, uh, it’s where Emerald Isle is. And the week after Memorial day and you know, we’re on the beach and it’s just chill.
It was wonderful.
Rick Bell: [29:49]
Yeah. Everybody thinks, and the prices are usually better to cause because the demand drops off and you can get on a restaurant, you know?
I mean all for all the things, you know, the crowds aren’t there and supply and demand.
Carl Hedinger: [30:05]
Yeah. So I hope you can hope you find a cool spot on the coast eventually.
Well, uh, Rick, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. One last thing I’d just like to ask, where can people find you online and find out more about Engadine.
Rick Bell: [30:21]
probably the best place that’s going to have the most information, including availability and the best rates.
Would be at our website, which is EngadineInnAndCabins.com. Believe it or not, but that’s the historic name of the property. Captain Hoyt, when he built this place, thought the terrain around this part of North Carolina, looked like the Engadine Valley in Switzerland.
So that’s why he called it we gave it its historic name back when we bought it.
We’re also on Facebook and Instagram. We do participate in some of the online travel sites, but of course, rates are higher. The best thing to do is to come directly to us or any lodging facility for that matter.
Absolutely get the best, most complete, most accurate information and to get the best rates. Uh, there, there are on all of those platforms are a lot of pictures of the property, including, um, including the views, which are always important.
We encourage people to check, check us out and of course, if they have questions after that, they can always call us and talk to us.
Carl Hedinger: [31:45]
Yeah. And I do always urge people to book direct because for me, in my personal experience, um, if something happens and you need to make a change, it’s much easier.
I think to call you and say, “Hey, I booked through your website.”
Rick Bell: [32:07]
Yeah, it really is. You know, this happens a lot.
If we’re working directly with somebody you’re not just booking a room or a cabin, if we have, um, especially as we get close to like this coming weekend.
As we get further into the week. If we have something that’s available, that’s not, not already sold. And we have an opportunity to upgrade somebody, to a larger cabin or a better view, or, you know, something like that.
You can do that by working directly with the property. It’s in your best interest to try to book direct.
Carl Hedinger: [32:41]
Rick Bell: [32:42]
It’s good for us too.
Carl Hedinger: [32:44]
I really thank you for talking with me. Hopefully we can get back to whatever, whatever that normal was before this. I hope we can get. Closer to that.
Rick Bell: [32:55]