The Olde Rhinebeck Inn Offers a Two-for-One Innkeeper Deal
by: Rural Intelligence
“I’ve known since age seven that I wanted to be an innkeeper,” she says.
There aren’t many kids who dream of a career at such a tender age — and then go on to fulfill that dream. But Paolella did, by establishing the Olde Rhinebeck Inn in Dutchess County. At the time, she was the youngest innkeeper in America.
That motivation didn’t come out of thin air. Her mother had turned their home in Park Slope (Brooklyn) into a bed and breakfast. Paolella’s favorite book, which included bits about historic lodgings in the Hudson Valley, led her to Rhinebeck 18 years ago, when she opened the bed and breakfast in a house that dates back to 1738. (You can feel its age in its unplumbed walls, listing floors and steep stairway, but the amenities are about as modern as you can get.)
Paolella clearly loves the innkeeper life. You can tell it by the conversation she keeps. Talking a mile a minute, she tells guests about the history of the house, its many additions, and changes she’s brought to it over the years, interspersed with her musings about Airbnb’s effects on the hospitality industry and which of the restaurants at the nearby CIA are the best.
And that’s a bit of a problem for Paolella, who suffers from wanderlust just about as much as many of her guests. And besides that, getting away is essential to avoid burnout in an industry where innkeepers hang on an average of 5 to 7 years. She knew what she was getting into, but she also knew that sharing the responsibilities didn’t make her seem incapable of handling the business.
Enter Cindy Curnan, who had owned The Gables in Rhinebeck, but sold it to move to Hawaii. She’s a wanderluster, too, but she was ready to return to where she grew up. She was looking to open another Hudson Valley B&B, and initial plans were to do it with Paolella backing her. But when a discussion about the financial and time commitments involved turned into a seven-hour conversation (with both of their husbands included), the result was a partnership of the Olde Rhinebeck Inn.
“I saw activity going on and just walked over to introduce myself,” says Curnan. A BFF was born.
The women have crafted out the ideal job sharing arrangement and — what do you know — a balanced life, by the sharing the duties. So now Paolella can take a lengthy vacation (or, at this point, take the time she needs to help her aging mother) and Curnan will not miss enjoying the perks of being a first-time grandmother. They can finally experience all the culture, restaurants and historic properties they prescribe for their guests. And they can spend some quality time with their husbands.
“There’s a real benefit to be had to sharing the resources and burdens of this business,” Paolella says. “I had another property, a vacation rental, and I knew it was just too much for one person. Our arrangement allows us to have a better quality of life, better marriages. The nice thing is, we have a schedule, but we have flexibility and the built-in trust that we can be away and the place won’t fall apart. And Cindy is a clone of me, so we really work well together.”
And what a welcoming destination they’ve created. Spacious rooms filled with antiques, but updated with fancy showers and flat screen tv’s so embedded in the old walls you barely even notice them. There’s an “amenity plate” of homemade cookies, fruit and chocolates to greet guests in their room, and a pond to reflect upon from the porch. A gourmet breakfast is included, of course, with organic milk and eggs (courtesy of their own hormone-free hens) and, best of all, the lively chatter between innkeepers and guests. The inn is just three-and-a-half miles from Rhinebeck’s main street and close to Hyde Park (and many other historic properties), Walkway Over the Hudson, the Dutchess County fairgrounds, and Bard and Vassar colleges.
“They say you shouldn’t go into business with your friends,” Paolella says, “and we do have a business agreement. But it works for us.”
Which brings comfort all around, to innkeepers and guests alike.
Olde Rhinebeck Inn
340 Wurtemburg Rd., Rhinebeck, NY
A Rustic Retreat in Rhinebeck
by: Hudson Valley Magazine
Best friends Jonna Paolella and Cindy Curnan run the Inn. Paolella had dreamed of being an innkeeper since the age of 7, and purchased the property when she was just 27, making her the youngest innkeeper in America. At the time, Curnan lived up the road and her grandparents had grown up in this very farmhouse. When the two met, it was an instant connection. The duo now co-operate the Inn and are truly invested in making each guest’s experience memorable: Expect a handwritten card and a small plate of assorted sweets on the bedside table, and refreshing beverages upon arrival.
Leave the kids at home — this inn predominantly caters to couples, and the bucolic landscape and peaceful surrounds make it the perfect escape. With just four rooms, availability is limited, so make sure to book in advance.
Breakfast is served family-style and the large wooden table, designed to accommodate a full house of guests, makes for a pleasurable communal dining experience. Fresh and local ingredients are of utmost importance to Paolella and Curnan. The coffee is organic and roasted in the Hudson Valley, they grow herbs and vegetables, raise chickens that provide fresh eggs, and compost all kitchen waste. The food is excellent and if you’re lucky, the baked French pear pancake — a house specialty — might be on the menu.
Rates: Summer weekend rates start at $295/night
What to Do Nearby
Historic homes are abundant in Rhinebeck. Take a tour of the Wilderstein Historic Site and soak up the stunning grounds and views of the Hudson River. The home’s last resident, Margaret (Daisy) Suckley, was a cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and gifted him his famous black Scottish terrier Fala. Want to learn more about FDR? Just 10 miles south is the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, in Hyde Park. (330 Morton Rd, Rhinebeck; 845.876.4818)
If you want to spend more time outdoors, Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve is a 200-acre forest and one of the oldest growth forests in the Hudson Valley. Hike four miles of trails and climb the tower for amazing views. (68 Mount Rutsen Rd, Rhinebeck; 845.876.1559)
Living Rhinebeck Magazine
by: Marybeth Cale
However, for Rhinebeck HS grad Cynthia Curnan (‘80), there’s a personal connection to the Roosevelt story which makes her visits quite different: her family actually lived “on location” at Val-Kill, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt. As this year marks the 70th Anniversary of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights, a highlight of Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy, it seemed a good time to learn more about Cindy.
Born at Northern Dutchess Hospital in 1962 (the year Eleanor Roosevelt passed away), Cindy’s childhood centered around 4-H. She showed animals at the DC Fair and her mom ran the famous milkshake booth for many years. Although she doesn’t have many memories of living at Val-Kill herself, Cindy’s older sisters Patty and Tami recall meeting Mrs. Roosevelt and attending birthday and Christmas celebrations at the cottage. “I do have fond memories of visiting family that still lived at Val-Kill during my childhood, riding my bike around the circle, fishing off the bridge, and Easter egg hunts at my Uncle Charlie’s house (where the ERVK building is now located),” reflected Cynthia, acknowledging how unique her family’s history is. Many of her relatives were part of the Roosevelt staff.
She continued, “My paternal grandfather, Archibald Curnan, worked for President Roosevelt as his auto mechanic. His children – my father Pat and my uncles – worked for the Roosevelts on their farm (which covered most of Hyde Park at that time). My Uncle Charlie in later years moved to Val-Kill to be Eleanor Roosevelt’s caretaker, and my father and mother (Barbara Entrup) lived in a small cottage on the property as well. They maintained the property, houses, and farmland. My uncle “Tubby” Curnan was Eleanor’s chauffeur.”
So what’s the backstory? Well, Cindy’s maternal grandparents, Marge & Les Entrup, New Jersey natives who made their way to Hyde Park, opened up a local gathering spot named the Hideaway (where the Hyde Park Town Hall is today). Her father was a patron, and it was there that he met Cindy’s mother. “As new additions to the family, Charlie Curnan recruited my grandparents to help out and prepare for the Memorial Day celebration at Val-kill (usually they had it catered by people from the city). My grandparents pitched in, a bit nervous working for the first lady. The event was a great success, and afterwards Mrs. Roosevelt requested that they sign on as her full-time cook and houseman. They accepted. They resided in her home in what is now the gift shop and were hardworking, loyal and devoted, living and working for Mrs. Roosevelt until her death (about 7 years),” said Cindy.
The family’s longtime connection to the Roosevelts and their experience caring for historic properties certainly shaped Cindy’s life. Today, the mom of Erin, 33 and Thomas, 31 is a co-innkeeper at Olde Rhinebeck Inn, where husband Chip is the ‘on-call handyman’ and the couple enjoys working with Cindy’s best friend Jonna Paolella, who owns the Inn with her husband, Dave Kliphon. (Oddly enough, the Inn had previously been owned by none other than Cindy’s mom Barbara and stepdad Len, who had originally purchased it in 1977 and now reside in Sebastian FL).
Explained Cindy, “The home had been in the Pultz family for 12 generations; 239 years. My mom Barbara and stepdad Len lovingly restored the 1738 home and sold period antiques which attracted many weekend homeowners in the area. In 1995 it was sold to a couple from the city who had it for a few years. In 1998, a chance visit to Rhinebeck led Jonna to discover the building for sale, a vision for Olde Rhinebeck Inn was born. She purchased it, becoming the youngest innkeeper in America at age 27.”
She continued, “I lived across the street, and after seeing some signs of renovation came down to introduce myself to the new neighbor. Jonna and I became instant friends. Growing up in Rhinebeck and having the 4-H background, I had gone to college to be a veterinary assistant, and I worked with horses. Later, I had a housekeeping and property management business servicing many weekend homes in the area. I was raising Erin and Thomas, and with the ‘Inn- spiration’ and guidance of Jonna, sold our home and purchased what is known as the Gables, where I opened a B&B. With an ideal location in the historic charming village of Rhinebeck, it was a great success.”
“I loved restoring the historic home to share with others and enjoyed all aspects of innkeeping: maintaining a beautiful home, gardening, cooking delicious inventive breakfasts, and being part of a vital, interesting community. After selling the property in 2006 as a private home, and with my children in college, my husband Chip and I took a chance vacation to Kauai and landed an innkeeper position; we remained on the garden island for 7 years.”
With their skills as property managers and Chip’s restoration and construction background, they made a dynamic pair. They did some traveling and professional inn-sitting, managing a bed-and-breakfast on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state for a year and a llama farm/guesthouse on the South Island of New Zealand. It was an opportunity to “inn-sit” at the Olde Rhinebeck Inn that was the game-changer, though, in 2013.
“I felt at home there, and thoughts of owning another bed and breakfast were strong. After much evaluation, number-crunching, and input from my family and friends we decided it was not good timing. Jonna, though – being an out-of-the-box thinker – came up with a plan for us to share in the experience. This arrangement (going on our 5th season) has been successful in many ways. We both enjoy being Innkeepers, but now even in the busy season, we get breaks and days off. The partnership allows for much more balanced lives. For me, my heart is in this place; it makes sense for me to be back here caring for this special home, sharing my history and passion with others.”
Her love for that history comes through in every conversation with Cindy. As they walked us through the Inn, she and Jonna beamed as they talked. Being there is like stepping back in time without having to give up modern-day luxuries. It’s charming, inviting, and has all of the extras for guests, who have included celebrities and tourists from all over the world. And – yes – even the tie-in to the Roosevelts revealed itself as we toured.
“After a chance reunion with Eleanor and Franklin’s granddaughter, Nina, I arranged for my mother and Aunt Janet (who had lived at Val-Kill when Nina resided there also) to stay at the Olde Rhinebeck Inn so that they could really reconnect. What a gift to sit around the table and hear stories, memories, and learn more about their time together.”
Today, Cindy continues to support Eleanor’s legacy through active involvement with ERVK. She volunteers for LUNAFest (proceeds of which go to Girls’ Leadership Worldwide) and the annual ERVK medals ceremony event, which has been given annually since 1987 to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the world in the areas of social justice, human rights, education, and advocacy. The Eleanor Roosevelt Medal of Honor is awarded in person to the medalists during this event. This year, it will be held on Sunday, Oct. 14th at Mrs. Roosevelt’s home at the Val-Kill National Historic Site and will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The event (tickets priced last year at $200 each) includes a reception, luncheon, and tour of Mrs. Roosevelt’s Val-Kill cottage, the private home where she visited with so many world leaders. Past recipients include, among others: Hillary Clinton, Pete Seeger, Gloria Steinem, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, Peter & Jennifer Buffett, Pumla Gobodo-Madikezeka, Senator & Mrs. Patrick Leahy, Norman Vincent Peale, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Leymah Gbowee, James Earl Jones, Richard Holbrooke, and Bill Moyers. I have personally attended this event and it is nothing short of completely inspirational.
“Now more than ever, Eleanor’s legacy of living to serve others and showing kindness and hope to your fellow humans regardless of sex, ethnicity, or anything else is so important.” For more information or to purchase tickets, visit ervk.org.
“Breakfasts were generous, scrumptious as well as healthy. No detail is overlooked to make your stay relaxing, and accommodate your every need.”
“They have combined historical design with modern conveniences”
“Every breakfast was more than abundant! We love staying at B&Bs for the people we meet from all over the world and the lively conversations around the family style breakfasts. “
“Rhinebeck is a terrific area with rich deep history, great eateries, galleries, assorted shops, and antiques emporiums, awesome estates up and down river”
“What are some words to describe the inn? Quaint, quiet, pastoral, magical, relaxing, recharging, homey, intimate and charming.”
“Our rooms were delightful–spacious and richly appointed. Every need was addressed–a plate of fruit, baked goods and chocolate awaited us.”
“The breakfast was sumptuous and delicious–fresh cherry almond scones, goat cheese & asparagus quiche.”
“Jonna is a special host, who gets to know you immediately and then makes you feel that she is catering to you alone.”
“The Olde Rhinebeck Inn is absolutely perfect in every way. My boyfriend and I booked 3 nights here as a relaxing long weekend getaway from New York City, and our stay here exceeded our expectations.”
“Relaxation, inspiration, and renewal are guaranteed.”
“…will definitely return when the stress of life requires that we take a break to exhale.”
“One delicious course after another after another after another . . . We enjoyed talking with other guests at the big dining table and in the cozy living room.”
“Country breakfast! O boy: fantastico. The real deal: artfully and beautifully created and prepared, and served”
“I’d give it 10 stars if I could”
“The view from breakfast was amazing… a lovely pastoral setting across the road with horses, deer and geese”
“Cindy makes you feel like you are staying at an old friends house who loves to hosts guests”
“The beds were so cozy with very high quality linens.”
“Breakfast is delightful…the food delicious and company engaging.”
“Our room (Spirited Dove) was spacious and cozy at the same time, the breakfasts were better than anything you could get at an NYC restaurant”
“This is THE place to stay if you’re looking for an upscale, yet extremely authentic b&b experience”
“it is well-located if you want to tour the Hudson River Valley area, near many of the major sites”
“Guests are encouraged to linger and chat–it feels very family-like.”
“Jonna, is warm and welcoming and delighted to share her appreciation for and knowledge of the area with her guests.”
“This is THE place to stay if you’re looking for an upscale, yet extremely authentic b&b experience.”