Sunday, April 6, 2008

Brewster Out

My wife and I just returned from another weekend in one of our very favorite places on earth -- Cazenovia, New York. It's a picturesque, historic village on Route 20, just west of Syracuse.We've been visiting there a few times a year for most of our nearly 30-year marriage; long weekends to refresh ourselves and enjoy the small-town charm.

From the very beginning, our Cazenovia destination was the beautiful and hospitable Brewster Inn, standing stately on the shores of Cazenovia Lake and just a short walk from the village's restaurants, shops and churches.

Not that we left the grounds of the Brewster all that often. We quite literally fell in love with the Inn and it certainly didn't hurt that it can boast one of the very best high-end restaurants in the Northeast.

So, when our youngest son, Tim, came home from a college fair at Schenectady High School three years ago and said he was interested in Cazenovia College, we were encouraging. Very encouraging. Visions of frequent Brewster visits for "Parents Weekends," spring baseball (Tim's a pitcher for the Wildcats these days) and other school functions immediately came to mind. Sure, Cazenovia College's academic reputation, financial package and impressive faculty-to-student ratio were factors in choosing a Caz education but the prospect of more time at the Brewster Inn was what sold us!

Tim's probably a bit sick of his parents popping in and finding excuses, as we've taken full advantage of the locale. Two hours away and we were in our upstate heaven. Oh yeah, we got to visit our son too.

We always make sure to see our son play baseball as often as possible and, as soon as the Cazenovia College schedule is out, we make plans and book accomodations whenever and wherever it makes sense. Of course, if the Brewster had a room available, that was our first choice.

But, unfortunately, that's past tense. The Caz games for an early-spring weekend were snowed out last March (upstate New York baseball seasons are notoriously short, as you might expect). I reluctantly called the Brewster to cancel my reservations. It was a Tuesday. We were supposed to arrive on a Saturday. "Can't do it," the friendly young desk clerk said. Brewster Inn policy requires a one-week cancellation notice, otherwise there's a penalty of one's night's stay -- in this case, more than $200.

OK. May I speak to the manager/owner, who always pleasantly acknowledged our stay either as we checked in or as we waited for our table in the restaurant? I was told he'd call. He didn't.

I wrote a letter to the owner, suggesting that as a long-time customer -- someone who had, over the years, brought along guests and who had recommended the Brewster Inn and restaurant to dozens of friends and colleagues -- the penalty might be forgiven. After all, we were being victimized by the weather; we would be back soon and often, I promised, but that particular weekend no longer worked.

Still, no response. Well, except for the Visa bill that arrived several weeks later displaying the charge for the room that we never used.

Clearly, a policy is a policy and it's every business owner's right to impose a policy that works best for him or her. And the money's not the issue, though it's a tall price to pay not to rent a room, even at a place as nice as the Brewster. My problem is the complete disregard and disrespect for good and loyal customers. Good business and common courtesy would have warranted a polite call or letter explaining that the Inn's policy could not be changed ... not for anyone.

"But we do hope you and your wife will continue to enjoy the Brewster Inn." Or: "Please let me buy you dessert the next time you're here."

Those would have been totally appropriate and welcome responses.

Instead, nothing. And our days as guests and diners at the Brewster Inn have come to a close. Fortunately, there are other fine establishments in Cazenovia -- the Brae Loch Inn is our new favorite -- and we still enjoy our trips to the village.

But there will always be a cloud of disappointment over those visits. A cloud that could have been vanquished with a call or letter.

Really, pretty easy. And really, pretty sad.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your disappointing experience with the Brewster Inn. The Brae Lock is a unique family-owned establishment with wonderful food. I hope it becomes your new favorite!
How is your son liking Cazenovia College? Our daughter will be a freshman there this fall.

Anonymous said...

Frank I can relate to finding a place over the years that hold special meanings. Although not with a spouse I grew up visiting a special Inn with my parents each summer for a week stay.

It is sad to see the owner of this Inn is not a good business person. I will remember if in that area to not stop in. I like small time places that folks are down home friendly.

Frank said...

I didn't make clear but I should have: My son -- in fact, the entire family -- has loved the Cazenovia College experience. It's a beautiful, small campus, creating a friendly environment, and top-notch academics. It's been great! Good luck to your daughter. There are several Schenectady-area students who will be freshmen at Caz next year. It will be our final year.

gosu78 said...

I too am disappointed to hear about your Brewster experience. I have always found the place to be absolutely fabulous and so accommodating. I believe I went to high school with the manager, so I'll have to pass on your comments.

Also, just FYI, Caz is east of Syracuse, not west. It made me laugh when I read your blog -- but I guess to folks in the Capitol District, everything is west, huh?

Frank said...

Of course, Cazenovia is east of Syracuse. I've been making that drive for year; you'd think I'd know! But, then again, I get lost in the shower. Directions are not my strong suit. Thanks for the correction.