Entrepreneurs / Small Business  September 8, 2023

Inn of Glen Haven’s new owners preserve a flood of memories

GLEN HAVEN – Just like Dorothy and Toto, Chris and Emma Richmond aren’t in Kansas anymore. And as new owners at the historic Inn of Glen Haven, they’re loving it.

The Richmonds had absolutely no experience running a bed-and-breakfast, much less a fine-dining restaurant, when they bought the inn in the tiny Larimer County mountain town that was still recovering from the ravages of the 2013 deluge and flood.

They both had spent more than three decades in desk jobs in Wichita — Tom at Pioneer Balloon Co., where he started as a customer-service assistant in 1992 and rose to senior operations financial analyst, and Emma as manager of production administration at independent oil and gas exploration and production company Berexco LLC, where she had been employed since 1990.

“We’d both been at our companies for around 30 years, and we needed a lifestyle change,” Chris Richmond said.

That’s an understatement.

The couple always had a feeling they’d eventually end up in Colorado, and when they finally started a serious search for a place to live, “this came up as a home,” he said of the inn. “It sparked a little interest, but it took us over a year to decide to make a move on it.”

They finally did, purchasing the inn in November 2021 from Tom and Sheila Sellers, who had owned it for 32 years, and reopening it on June 2, 2022 – once their daughter had graduated from high school back in Wichita.

“It had been a little open in 2017 after four years of recovery from the flood damage,” he said. “They had it running until 2019, and then in the season for 2020, COVID hit and it pretty much shut down.”

What made the Richmonds’ abrupt career transition a success? “Two key aspects,” Chris Richmond said.

“First, the chef continued on from when Tom and Sheila owned it. Tim Hutton has been a fantastic chef,” he said. “And then Tom and Sheila agreed to stick around for a month to show us the ropes and get us going.”

And now? “We do everything,” he said.

“Emma’s specialty is, she took over all the dessert making. Sheila taught her,” Chris Richmond said. “I took over the bartending. I’m not even that big a drinker. I had to learn everything. Tom taught me.”

Hutton and a sous chef manage the kitchen for dinners, which are open to the public, not just guests in the six Victorian-themed bedrooms. 

“It’s basically the same menu. It’s been tweaked a little, but it’s basically the same,” Chris Richmond said. “We didn’t want to change anything that’s not broken. Most people are very pleased with the menu here.”

From the menu, guests can pick appetizers such as escargot, mushrooms stuffed with crab and brie, a shrimp cocktail or melted brie with fresh fruit, baguette and crackers. Entrees include steak Escoffier – a tribute to the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder – as well as filet mignon with brandy peppercorn sauce, blackened elk loin topped with roquefort butter, pork tenderloin, duck a l’orange, pan-seared chicken over creamed spinach, trout, salmon filet en croute, fettuccine Alfredo, a vegetarian dish or simply soup and salad.

The inn also offers a special multi-course menu for groups.

Generally, the restaurant operates on Friday and Saturday evenings during the winter, Friday to Sunday in June, Wednesday to Sunday nights in July and August, and Thursday to Sunday nights in September and October. The restaurant closes in November, then reopens in December for special holiday dinners.

From January through April, “we do a casual buffet-type dinner,” Chris Richmond said. “We don’t do the fine dining during that time.”

For overnight guests at the inn, “we cook the breakfasts, or Emma does,” he said. “She makes things like croissants, omelets, quiches, sausage casseroles. We keep it varied.”

They’ve tried to preserve the old English feeling, both in the inn’s food and its accommodations.

The building started in 1919 as a general store, then served as a post office before becoming a lodging facility in 1935. It was purchased in 1965 by Bill Wells, then the priest at St. Francis of Assisi Anglican Church in Estes Park, who added some of his own stained-glass artistry, which is still displayed in one of the dining rooms. Bill and Doris Wells eventually sold the inn to Ted and Karen Haines, who then sold it to Fritz Sterling, who “tried to make a drug and alcohol rehab center out of it but never succeeded,” Tom Sellers told BizWest in 2017. The business had been closed for about a year and a half when the Sellers couple bought it in April 1989. As with the Richmonds decades later, Tom Sellers had “wanted a change” as well; he had worked in the auto-body trade.

Bill Wells “really brought the bed-and-breakfast idea and fine dining to the inn,” Tom Sellers said, “and we just carried on the tradition from him” including a Twelve Days of Christmas celebration Wells started and that continued until the 2013 deluge – 16 inches of rain in 48 hours – closed the inn and postponed for another eight years Tom and Sheila Sellers’ plans to retire.

Unlike many homes and other buildings in Glen Haven, the inn wasn’t entirely swept away, Sellers said, but “we had a lot of downstairs damage. It busted windows. It busted all the exterior doors off. We had water as high as five feet in some areas.”

Neighbors and friends in the close-knit village rallied to help, however — including Marsha Hobert, who, along with husband Ken, owned guest cabins in Glen Haven. The Hoberts had spent their honeymoon at the inn in 1979. With help from the county, church groups and the crowdfunding page Marsha Hobert started, by 2017 the inn looked fresh and inviting again.

Chris Richmond is grateful for all the work that was done to restore the inn and provide a new chapter for the couple from Kansas.

The Richmonds own the property across the street as well, where they’d like to add a flea market or a farm-and-art market, and bring in some live music.

“Overall we enjoy it and we’re happy with it,” Chris Richmond said. “We enjoy meeting the people the best, and the location too.”

He said many customers who come for dinner or to stay overnight have been there before and are eager to share their special memories of the place.

“We’ve had a few people married here,” he said, “but it had to be a small wedding.”