Luxury lives in Lenox — Annie Selke branches out with new upscale inn

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LENOX — "Don't call it a B&B," says Annie Selke, the well-known Berkshire textile entrepreneur, before adding it does serve "killer breakfasts, amazing breakfasts."

Selke is referring to the town's newest boutique inn, 33 Main, which she owns and recently opened.

She describes the eight-room, high-end hostelry in the center of town as a "luxury lodging experience." It also serves as a showroom of sorts for her Pittsfield-based international textile business, Pine Cone Hill, one of several design brands that make up the Annie Selke Companies. But most of all the inn reflects Selke's scrupulous attention to detail and expertise in home furnishings.

Selke invested about $1.2 million to renovate the 5,200-square foot structure, She purchased the 1830's era house for $762,500 earlier this year. It was formerly owned by the Austen Riggs Center of Stockbridge, which had used it as a group home.

"We knew what we had to do to make it to my standard," she said.

"It's a brand-immersion experience," Selke said, since the furnishings throughout the establishment can be ordered by guests.

Selke leaves nothing to chance; when an Eagle visitor arrived for a scheduled guided tour this past week, she was pointing out to her staff a problem with the lights in a guest room. "No can figure out how to turn them off; it's a complete mystery."

"I've been trying to get things to where they need to be," she said, "because you don't know until you stay in the room."

So Selke stayed overnight recently, and discovered that "I couldn't actually get the volume on the television to work, and I also couldn't get it to turn off once I got it to turn on." All the details have been taken care of, she added, with the help of an electrician.

The guest rooms carry designations like Cliffwood, Sunset and High Lawn, which are named after local streets and landmarks, and Sunnyholm, which is the original name of the house.

Reaction from the 35 or so guests hosted so far by 33 Main has been "really positive," Selke said. "They say it's distinctive, it's not like anywhere else in the Berkshires, which is lovely. It's been a combination of paying guests and people I call mavens in my life" — friends and acquaintances from her primary global business that sells a wide range of high-end home goods.

"Each room gives guests a different view of how we do what we do," she said. "We sell the chairs, the couch, the light fixtures, the rugs, the art work."

PLENTY OF REFERRALS

As for her occupancy target, especially during the "quiet season" from November to May, Selke states simply, "I believe `Build it, and they will come.' I'm not worried; we've already had referrals, there's a lot of good, high-end word of mouth."

Later this month, a group of editors from glossy magazines like Architectural Digest will spend the weekend, hang out in Lenox and its restaurants, and generate coverage, she said. "It's a lovely way to expose the inn as somewhere new to stay, and to highlight Lenox as a destination."

She is also pleased that "people have walked in off the street and said, `Wow, I want to stay here; there's nothing like this in Lenox.' "

Selke recalled one such visitor "who came in while I was vacuuming, prior to opening." The woman, who had been touring various inns around town, ended up booking 33 Main for guests to her son's bar mitzvah next August. Likewise, out-of-town parents of a student enrolled locally plan to stay for three nights each month

The guest accommodations, including two pet-friendly rooms, each offer distinctive amenities. The bathrooms feature hand-made soap, plush towels and robes.

The main-floor sitting room even offers an "honor bar" for guests to mix their own drinks — "it's kind of included" in the rates, which range from $350 to $650 a night, said Selke.

Her "pop-up" retail store, a mini-showroom for the Annie Selke Cos., has been funneling visitors to check out the inn, just as planned and store sales have increased since 33 Main opened, she said. No decision has been made on whether the 720-square-foot shop at 36 Main St. will continue when the initial lease expires at the end of November.

Meanwhile, Selke passes her new inn every day on the way to and from her nearby home on the Lenox-Stockbridge line ("the front door is in Lenox, the back door in Stockbridge, and I pay taxes to both towns"). Selke peeks in regularly to make sure there's a good supply of the chocolate-chip cookies baked on the premises as a welcome for arriving guests.

The innkeeper and house manager is Rebecca Lilley.

Reach correspondent Clarence Fanto at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.

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