Gateways Inn to reopen in Lenox

Tuesday April 17, 2012

LENOX -- Holding a place of pride in the center of the town's historic village district, the century-old Gateways Inn is embarking on its new role as a high-end, luxuriously appointed home away from home for visitors, as well as a gathering place for late-evening food, drink and conversation.

The inn itself was built for $108,000 in 1912 as a summer "cottage" for Harley Procter, of Procter & Gamble fame. Harley Procter co-invented the Ivory Soap bar and was the son of co-founder William Procter.

After Procter sold it in 1925, the local landmark went through at least three ownerships as a grand private residence before it became a leading restaurant under chef Gerhard Schmidt, who still lives in Stockbridge, and later a bed and breakfast.

The Gateways has attracted famed repeat guests, including iconic Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler and even Norman Rockwell.

Now, following $250,000 in renovations, landscaping and startup costs on top of his $2,250,000 purchase price (including all inventory) from Fabirizio and Rosemary Chiariello, Israeli-American entrepreneur Eiran Gazit, 56, is ready to open his reconfigured restaurant and piano bar Thursday evening.

During an interview in the spacious living room, Gazit explained that he has slept in each of the 12 bedrooms at least once -- though he lives with his family off-premises -- and rearranged details based on putting himself in his guests' shoes.

As the Gate ways prepares for high season ahead, Gazit is counting on what he called the "special relationship" he has forged with Shak es peare & Company nearby, designed to entice guests to see shows and playgoers to consider staying at the inn next time.

"I took the idea to Tony [Sim otes, artistic director of Shak es peare & Com pany]," said Gaz it, "and Tony embraced it."

Gazit has decorated the inn's piano bar and living room walls with posters from the theater. The inn's private guest house in the back of the property has been rented for a VIP performer who will stay for two months.

"I moved to this town because of Tanglewood, and I love it," said Gazit, a seven-year resident. "But nobody has done anything for Shakespeare."

Gazit, who grew up in England near Stratford-on-Avon, the Bard's birthplace, said he has an "inherent love of Shakespeare," and employs several staffers from the theater company part-time, as well as Simotes' wife, Lucy.

"So there's a lot of synergy," he said. "We're coming out of the courtship now and into the honeymoon."

The innkeeper even renamed his dozen guest rooms after Shakespearean comedic heroines, except for the androgynous, mischievous Puck of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"We tried to keep away from the more tragic characters," Gazit said.

"We want to become the home for Shakespeare," he added, "and that's the relationship I'm looking for."

He expects the piano bar, which will serve an extensive light-fare, late-night menu, to become a popular hangout for the troupe's actors and crew, as well as for locals and visitors.

Gazit -- a member of the town's Marketing and Events Committee and former manager and consultant at two local properties -- acknowledged that the "stakes are high, and when you're the owner, you look at things from a totally different perspective."

He said revamping the landscaping was crucial to making a statement, so he went with a high-end project to enhance the beauty of the building and to make it noticeable, without splurging or "wasting money."

"It's a high-profile location, everybody who's in town sees us," Gazit said, "and you have to make a statement and also lure some people in to have a drink at the bar, have a meal at the restaurant and, hopefully, stay at the inn."

The Great Recession administered "a real slap in the face" to the town's tourist-oriented businesses, "and they didn't know how to cope with it," according to Gazit, who now finds the town more "business-friendly" -- in spite of what he called its "bad reputation" -- but needing to market itself through newly created special events that gain seed money from the town.

"That never would have happened in 2008," he said. "No one would even have listened to that idea. They would say, ‘Why should we market? People are coming anyway.'"

If you go ...

What: The Gateways Inn Restaurant and Piano Bar reopens Thursday evening.

Where: 51 Walker St., Lenox

When: Restaurant serves 4:30 to 7 p.m.; piano bar, 8 to midnight.

Menus: Restaurant offers $28 prix-fixe menu; piano bar offers lighter fare from $6 to $16.

Rates: High season, $350 a night average; 30 percent lower other times.

Information: (413) 637-2532


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