Born and raised in Del Mar, California, Guy Pacurar successfully managed a small company in San Diego for twenty years before his daughter, Taylor, inspired him to fulfill a lifelong dream and purchase an inn. The ensuing twelve-month search took him to twenty-nine inns in five states before he visited California’s North Coast and found the Brewery Gulch Inn. In August of 2007, he became the second owner of this iconic Mendocino property. Not long after relocating, the stars aligned and Guy met and married Sarah Schoeneman. Convinced to sell her real estate company in Berkeley, Sarah moved to Mendocino, married this itinerant innkeeper and joined Mendo Realty. In 2012, their family expanded when Ella Mac came along.
How did you get into the industry?
I have been fortunate to have two careers, but since I was a teenager vacationing with my parents, I have always wanted to do this. Our family used to stay at a property in Palm Springs, Desert Hills, where the owners made everyone feel like part of the family. I thought that if I could ever do that, it would be my dream job. And for the past 9 years, it has been. People would tell me I had a “Bob Newhart” fantasy. But it is even better than I imagined.
Any emerging industry trends?
We are definitely starting to feel the impact of the millennials in a good way We are getting more and more travelers that place a priority on connecting with the experience. And small properties like ours have the best opportunity to create just that kind of connection. I also believe that value and personal service are more important today than ever before. I don’t mean value in the sense of piling on kitsch and knick knacks that people don’t need just to give the illusion of value, but including what people really need as part of the package. For example, when I first came to look at the Brewery Gulch Inn, I found it was located in an area with poor cell service. In order to make a call, I had to buy a prepaid phone card at the front desk. I thought that was awful for a guest. One of the first things I did after purchasing was to include local and long distance calling as part of a guest’s stay so that parents of kids at home, or kids of elderly parents, can easily check on those family members anytime without hassle. And personal service, not in an intrusive, superficial way, but service extended in a genuine manner fitted to each guest.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
Bespoke. The buzzword for this decade. The more an experience can be tailored to a client in a meaningful way, the better. Again, something that should be the hallmark of small properties.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
I travelled a lot in my previous career overseeing an international exchange program. Whenever possible, I would take my daughter with me to broaden her worldview. And inevitably, I would critique wherever we stayed and tell her how I would do things if I owned the property. As she got older, she got tired of hearing this. One day, we were in Barbuda and I was talking about the things I liked about what was then the “K Club”. She looked straight at me and as only a teenager can, said, “Oh my god, dad, quit talking and just go do it somewhere.” My vision for Brewery Gulch Inn has been to take what is a great building sited beautifully on a bluff top overlooking the Pacific, and marry it with a sense of peace and enveloping comfort that resonates with travelers jaded by impersonal properties. The most gratifying thing that I, as an innkeeper, can hear is when a guest walks through the door and tells me it is like coming home.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
Our recent recognitions in Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler has led to several inquiries from property owners asking if I would be interested in extending the Brewery Gulch feeling to their properties.
Here at home, we are continuously involved in refreshing rooms and public areas and burnishing the property. This year, we added a fire pit and conversation area on the meadow side of the inn that has turned out to be a great gathering place for guests. Future plans include adding in a massage and meditation pavilion.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
We actively seek out properties of similar character and orientation that we can incorporate into a mutual referral network. We are thinking of adding a “BGI Suggests” page to our website that will be helpful to guests as they plan their travel itineraries. We actively support a wide range of non-profits as we have found that guests who come to us through charity fundraisers frequently become long-term customers. We also made a decision several years ago to retain the services of Chalkboard Communications, with a Bay area location, but a global reach, to provide bespoke public relations for us. This has probably been the single best decision I made since purchasing the property.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Losing our backup generator in the midst of the biggest storm in the 8 years I had owned the inn was probably my most difficult moment. What made it even more frightening was that we were full. What I learned as a result of this experience was the importance of the relationships I had built in the community. Our electrician came out in her pajamas at 11:00p in a driving rain storm to help us get back on line. Another contact with a sand and gravel company supplied us with a trailered generator that allowed us to keep operating through the storm.
A very early lesson I learned moving to the small community of Mendocino from the large metropolitan area of San Diego is that in small communities, it is not the car you drive, the size of your bank account or how much influence you have that is essential. It is the hand you extend to your neighbor that people remember. It was my dentist that taught me that when a week after I bought the inn, I broke a tooth at 9:00p on a Friday. I looked through the phone book (yes, they still use phone books here) and called the number of a local dentist. I fully expected to leave a message. I was surprised that his office phone was forwarded to his home phone and he said he would meet me at his office in 30 minutes! He has been my dentist ever since.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
My goal is for a guest to feel completely at home. I know I have achieved this objective when a guest comes down to breakfast wearing one of our robes. I have been fortunate to meet my objective not just with our regular guests, but with several well-known guests who have stayed with us over the years. Seeing them come down in their robes puts the biggest smile on my face.
How do you motivate others?
Like many remote areas and small towns, we don’t have a labor pool, but a labor puddle. When we look to fill a position, personality and a sincere desire to meet the needs of a guest are more important to us than previous experience. We try to hire self-motivated problem solvers. Once trained, we try to give them the freedom to determine how best to handle their responsibilities and the support they need to become confident in their decisions. The satisfaction of a guest and recognition by management have been the most important motivators.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Be a problem solver. Keep in mind that the most important part of your job is to say yes and make it happen if at all possible. If you don’t like people, if providing the best service to someone is not your top priority, find another field. It’s funny how obvious these suggestions might seem, but I have met so many individuals in this industry that are just not “people” people and I wonder what ever made them decide to work in the service industry.