New owners of Cornwall Inn adapt to pandemic

7 min read2,334 views and 258 shares Posted September 11, 2020

Despite feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cornwall Inn’s new owners have found ways to keep it going.

Faith and Dan Brandt have owned the Cornwall Inn, a lodging facility and wedding and events venue, since September of last year.

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The Inn and outbuildings on the property were built by Robert Coleman sometime in the late 18th century. The site’s history is evident in the architecture and design of these buildings, almost all of which is the same as when it was first built.

All photos by LebTown reporter Emily Bixler, unless otherwise noted.

The back side of the Inn.
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This stairwell leads to the upstairs suites.

“It’s nice to get people to experience this place,” said Dan. “There’s just so much history and Cornwall is steeped in history itself. 

“People shouldn’t just have to drive by and wonder what this place is, they should to be able to – at least for a little bit – come in and check it out.”

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When the Brandts bought the property from Andy and Rochelle Arnold, who own the Bluebird Inn, it was full of genuine furniture from the 18- and 1900’s.

Some of the original furniture.

They have also added a few pieces of furniture that match the atmosphere of the Inn.

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The Brandts built this coffee table to match this room.

“They fit in so well that you would think that they came with the building itself,” said Faith.

Since buying the property, the Brandts have built an ice cream parlor inside the building. They had initially planned on opening it to the public at the beginning of this summer, but they needed to delay the opening to next summer to accommodate the weddings that needed to be postponed.

Dan and Faith Brandt clean up inside the ice cream parlor. Dan and his father built this counter themselves.
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“You know, you don’t want to be closed on the weekends when people want to go have ice cream, so we were just like ‘next year we’ll be able to open,’” said Faith.

While this strays from their initial plans, they will now have more time to prepare for the opening.

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”You know, we see that as a blessing too, because we just bought it last September we did weddings until around the end of December,” said Faith. “We were just busy trying to figure things [out] and now we have plenty of time to figure out what to put on the menu and everything we want to do as far as that and modifying the hours.”

When they open the shop, they will serve ice cream from Kreider’s, which is based in Manheim. They also plan on sourcing most of their ingredients from local farms and businesses.

In addition to adding the ice cream parlor, the Brandts have added more flowers and landscaping to the premises.

There are hundreds of flowers and plants distributed throughout the property

The Cornwall Inn’s largest source of revenue was large events, so not being able to have those for most of the year has hurt it financially. However, the Brandts have found a few ways to adapt.

They started to host “date nights,” where couples could have dinner in one of the Inn’s three suites. If they wanted to stay at the Inn, they were given the option of a discounted overnight stay.

For many people, this seemed like a safer option to dining at a restaurant because they had a separate room and bathroom from other guests.

The Coleman Suite is one of the options couples can choose from for their date night.

“We just wanted to have some extra things thrown out there [to] fill in some holes for people [who] may want to go out to eat but they don’t feel comfortable going where they might [come in contact with others]” said Faith.

They received a positive response and have already had quite a few couples take advantage of that offering.

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Many of the weddings scheduled at the Inn for this year were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, but the Brandts have recently started hosting weddings again, now that government restrictions on large events have been lessened.

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However, these weddings need to occur in a socially distant manner, which looks much different than the weddings people may be used to.

All guests are required to wear masks, and the Brandts have signs posted to remind people to keep their masks on.

The Brandts have posted several signs like this one around the property. Some people also post their own signs at their wedding.

Many of the wedding hosts have adapted their entrance tables for safety, such as including sections for people to list their phone numbers and where they will be in two weeks in the guest book. Some have even given out hand sanitizer or colorful masks as wedding favors.

“For the most part, people have been really nice,” said Faith. “Everyone’s trying to work through this to see how we can move forward and still keep everyone safe and all that type of stuff.

“They know how hard it is for us and we know how hard it is for them, so it’s just been everyone working together.”

During a wedding ceremony at the Inn, the bride and groom will typically say their vows under this structure.

These weddings are also smaller than previously planned. Most were originally scheduled to have around 140 people but ended up having between 70 and 120 people on average.

One couple decided to reduce their number of wedding guests to 30 people and have a larger reception next year when restrictions will (hopefully) have been lifted.

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The Brandts have also tried to reduce outside contact at weddings and events by doing the catering themselves rather than having a catering company come in. Dan has a background working in restaurants and catering, so he has the skills to cater events.

Typically, after a wedding, newlyweds will either head home or leave for their honeymoon. However, they have been staying overnight at the Inn more often recently, because of travel restrictions.

The Iron Baron suite is another suite at the Inn. This is also where the groom and groomsmen prepare for the wedding.

“Most people aren’t jetting off somewhere right now,” said Dan. “They’re staying more local after the wedding, so it’s kind of nice to just come right up to your suite. 

“It’s also more relaxing because you don’t have to drive, you don’t have to worry about anything.”

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Although these weddings are different from most, the Brandts still enjoy hosting them at the Inn.

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“It’s great to still have weddings right now,” said Dan. “Whether they have to have [their wedding] now because of the financial aspect or they really just want to be married to the person they love, it’s great to be able to help them through that.”

One positive aspect of having socially distant weddings, according to the Brandts, is that the wedding guests are spreading out and using the grounds more, rather than just huddling together in the large tent, like they often did in pre-COVID times.

In terms of outdoor seating, which is essential for socially distant gatherings, there are plenty of benches, tables and chairs distributed throughout the premises.

There are many benches and chairs around the barn (left) and the carriage house (right).

“There are a few parties we would normally have inside, but we’re going to actually set them up in [the carriage house] and out on this [outdoor seating] area because they’re not quite big enough for the tent but this would be a good size space,” said Faith.

The carriage house sits on the back end of the property.

Typically, they do Art the Inn, a community art event, every few months. They had one scheduled for April, but they needed to move it to August 15.

At this event, they had various local businesses selling art and other products. All of the vendors’ tables and tents were spaced at least six feet apart and attendees and vendors alike were required to wear masks.

Visitors of Art the Inn walk around the grounds, looking at the vendors’ tables. (Alexis Steele)

In addition to the art vendors, there was a coffee cart selling iced coffee and teas, a brewery selling different craft beers and the Brandts were selling food.

Overall, while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some challenges, the adaptability of the Brandts and the Cornwall Inn itself has prevented them from receiving much harm.

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“All [the pandemic] did was kind of slow us down,” said Dan. “If we can survive just buying it in (last) September, barely having any income and then having this happen, we could probably get through anything with this business.”

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