Fifteen years after buying Old Parkdale Inn Bed and Breakfast, Steve and Mary Pellegrini revel in seasonal variety
By Stu Watson
Benjamin Franklin is credited with observing, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”
Most of Mary and Steve Pellegrini’s guests leave after one night. But unlike many, who have a limited tolerance for the invasive species houseguestus interruptus, the Pellegrinis gladly throw open their doors to new visitors.
At their Old Parkdale Inn Bed and Breakfast, after all, it’s business. The enterprise, now celebrating its 15th anniversary, came entirely by choice.
Born, raised and resident their entire lives in Cloverdale, California, the Pellegrinis have a pretty steady—albeit somewhat unconventional—life. That was, until the day they saw the youngest of their two daughters finish college, and were able to pursue other dreams.
“It had always been something I wanted to do—to be an innkeeper,” Mary says. “I like being at home, cooking, decorating, so I convinced my reluctant husband to let us do this.”
Steve had steady work as a pipeline welder, which required travel and long periods away. He could base himself anywhere, which turned out to be Parkdale. They bought a house from Heidi McIsaac, who had converted the family home from apartment use to a bed and breakfast in 1998. The new layout provided three bedrooms with en suite baths. Five years later, the Pellegrinis took over the host’s quarters, downstairs and north of the kitchen, dining and sitting areas.
They moved in to the house in April 2003.
“I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by boxes, and had that moment where I thought, ‘What the heck did we do?’” Mary says.
She recalls a brief burst of tears, then got to work.
“Ninety percent of the time, it was exactly what I thought it would be,” she says.
Mary harbors no pressing desire to shut it down. She says the tenure of the average innkeeper is seven years, so reaching 15 is validation.
“It’s been crazy at times, but it’s been great,” she says. Mary says the community has been welcoming and supportive, and talks of close relationships that have developed throughout the years. She worked closely with Paul and Diane Romans before they retired from their Mt. Hood Hamlet B&B.
Successfully running a B&B requires more than blankets and biscuits. The Pellegrinis love working with other merchants to help guests explore and enjoy the broader area. A rack of informational brochures sits inside the front door.
For readers who share the fantasy of owning a B&B, however, Mary is quick to inject a dose of reality.
“It is a lot of fun, but when people leave, you’re looking at piles of laundry, cleaning, shopping for groceries,” she says. “By the time you hit October, you may not want to put your smiley face on.”
Mary is happy to have her husband home and helping out with yard work, window cleaning—stuff that previously required hired help.
“I was basically gone the first 10 years,” Steve says.
“He was home two or three months a year,” Mary says. “People thought I was making him up.”
Now retired, Steve has become the resident fixer-upper.
“It was time to retire,” he says. “I was driving across the Bay Bridge and thought, ‘Bay Bridge? Or Parkdale?’ Easy choice.”
Nothing else is easy.
“We work our tails off from Memorial weekend through October, seven days a week,” Mary says.
When things slow down, the couple can travel to visit their two daughters, son and grandchildren.
The Pellegrinis love the chance to meet, greet and get to know guests. Some have become lifelong friends, including the mother of a bride from a wedding 10 years ago. She lives in Missouri.
“She’s like my soul sister,” Mary says.
Not every guest is welcome back, such as the male wedding guest who returned to his room and became violently ill from the balcony above Steve and Mary’s room. Or the two parties who showed up with a cat allergy, despite reminders on every piece of communication that the house is home to a dog and three cats.
“It took me three years to come to the realization that I can’t make everybody happy,” Mary says.
But she tries. She recalls a night late in the season when she had no reservations. She thought it would be a welcome night of rest. She turned off the lights and, shortly thereafter, heard a knock at the door.
“It was an older couple, and they said they just needed a room but didn’t expect breakfast,” Mary says. “Well, they spent the night, and I couldn’t just let them go without food, so I made some scones, and we sat and talked and had a lovely two hours.”
Stories like that explain why, when their accountant recently asked how much longer they would run the inn, they said, “As long as we can keep climbing the stairs, we might continue doing this. Maybe five more years. And then? Maybe five more.”
Old Parkdale Inn B&B is at 4932 Baseline Drive in Parkdale. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (541) 352-5551 or go to hoodriverlodging.com.