SEAVIEW — In the beginning, reservations were written with a fountain pen under lamplight. One hundred twenty year later, patrons can charge their Teslas and secure a room from their smartphone. Since 1896, the Shelburne Inn in Seaview has seen remarkable change while remaining rooted in Pacific Northwest hospitality.
Marketing, management makeover
Owners of the inn for the past 40 years, David Campiche and Laurie Anderson, will continue while turning over management and marketing responsibilities to Dennis Keenan and Antony Barran.
“We’re very pleased to have this new team,” Campiche said, adding that the marketing has become more complex in recent years, particularly with a greater emphasis online. Keenan and Barran bring management and marketing credentials that include major international corporations and private islands, some of the most exclusive resorts worldwide. Their impact has been immediate.
“They’re great marketers,” Campiche said, “They’ve only been here a month and we’ve already seen a strong swing.”
The Shelburne has always been the short list for celebrations and special events, but making it a gathering place for any occasion has been a focus for Keenan and Barran.
“When we arrived, we looked at approachability as a big question. I think a lot of the community felt the Shelburne wasn’t approachable. It wasn’t something they related to,” Barran said. Introducing a universally loved food was one of the first changes.
“We immediately brought in pizza,” Barran said. The changes weren’t rooted in quixotic research, but instead born from asking patrons what they preferred.
“It’s about listening to the community and the public. What do they want? They want some live music, they want cheap drinks, they want to get together and socialize. They want to feel special,” said Keenan. Keenan and Barran make their rounds to each table taking time to speak to each customer.
“We take the good and the bad. What can we do better and what they want to see,” Keenan explained. Two pizzas and a bottle of wine for $30, the “picnic special,” are among the new affordable offerings. The revised menu also includes different happy hours offerings daily including $4 fish tacos $2 well drinks. Pricier plates, including the $36 rib-eye, can still be ordered.
“We’re not going to change it, just bring it up to date,” Barran said adding that they’re hopeful the lower priced offerings will attract a broader base and returning regulars. The changes are a mix of expansion and reinvention in short period.
“The bakery, the raw bar…We’re moving a million miles a minute. We’ve only been doing it six weeks or so,” Keenan explained. The small-scale bakery will produce fresh sourdough, biscotti, macaroons and cookies daily, but won’t compete with The Bakery, located in nearby Long Beach. My philosophy is “Be unique, don’t compete,” Keenan summed.
An unforgettable meal is part of the Shelburne experience.
“Everything on our menu comes fresh, we don’t do frozen foods,” Keenan said, adding that, “Nothing is packaged and nothing is processed.” Elk sausage, one of the critical ingredients atop the “Naselle Pizza,” is sourced from a local, sustainable farm. The bread is baked fresh daily and the pastrami is cured on site. Even the condiments, including ketchup, mustard and sauerkraut, are each made in-house.
While Shelburne management and marketing transitions, the cooking and housekeeping staff remains largely unchanged.
“We were blessed to arrive with a staff that David and Laurie did an excellent job recruiting,” Barran continued, “The reason for the majority of our success so far is the staff of this property.” Barran credits the staff for making property approachable.
“It’s one thing to have $2 drinks, it’s another thing to have $2 drinks in an environment where you feel really comfortable and want to come back to,” Barran said. Barran attributed bartenders and serving staff’s “contagious enthusiasm” in facilitating the transition.
Change has come fast for the Shelburne but Keenan and Barran are well aware that “blind spots,” or unforeseen shortcomings, must be kept to a minimum. Then there’s the shared hurdle all coastal businesses encounter: surviving the offseason.
“How do you deal with the cyclical nature of the commercial environment. In other words, a very busy summer and then a very slow winter,” Barran questioned.
Keenan is no stranger to the Shelburne, a place he’s frequented since he was a kid.
“I’ve been coming down here my whole life,” Keenan said, “My parents used to stay at The Shelburne all the time.” Together Keenan and Barran share a similar vision for the Shelburne.
“We formed a bond of creating a experience unparalleled to anything else around,” Keenan said, “Five weeks later we signed a contract to do it. It happened quickly.” Both Keenan and Barran come with pedigree backgrounds when it comes to posh resorts. Barran brings a background in advertising, having served as corporate director of sales in the premier hotel industry including the Semiahmoo Resort and One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico.
“He has a lot of hotel experience on a larger scale and my family owns Turtle Island,” Keenan explained. At $2,500 per night, Turtle Island is out of reach for most, but Keenan is implementing elements of exclusive experiential Fiji resort into the Shelburne, where room rates range between $149 to $199 per night.
“It’s about creating this ‘wow’ experience when they walk through the door,” Keenan said. Guided fishing, oyster gathering, clamming trips, wine sampling and bike tours are among the authentic offerings.
“More than anything it’s preserving history and getting people young and old, close and far, to come here and experience something nowhere else can offer,” Keenan summed.
Time travel isn’t possible but stepping into the Shelburne may be the next best thing. Originally built in 1896, the historic hotel has been continuous operation serving a popular retreat for generations.
In the early days travelers would ride the sternwheeler T.J. Potter up the Columbia River to Astoria. From there they ferried to Megler and travelled the Long Beach Peninsula on the Clamshell Railroad. The Shelburne Station served as one of the main stops for residents and hotel guests. Adorning the walls and rooms of the inn are figments from yesteryear. In the dining room, a Mother’s Day menu from 1944 details a day when a dinner could be had for only $1.50.
Art Nouveau stained glass windows from the 1800s wrap the dining room and pub, providing a unique ambiance for patrons. The stained glass was saved from a church in England and incorporated into the architecture, one finest added touches by David and Laurie, who have been meticulously renovating, redecorating and refurbishing since purchasing the inn in 1977. A professional potter, Campiche was able to secure the Shelburne largely on funds from a particularly lucrative fair.
“I had just done the Bellevue Fair and made about $10,000, which, in those days, was a lot of money,” Campiche explained, “The Shelburne had gone up for sale so I offered it as a down payment.” At the time, the Shelburne was “falling down,” according to Campiche who, along with his wife Laurie Anderson would invest the next 40 years building and refining rooms transforming the inn into a boutique hotel.
Interactions with writers, politicians, poets, and famous actors were commonplace. Mandy Patinkin, Priscilla Presley, writers from the Colbert Show and breakfast chats with nuclear physicists were just some of the interactions Campiche recalls over the years. But when it comes to what Campiche will miss most, it’s those he saw regularly.
“I’ll miss the customers the most,” Campiche said, “Over the 40 years, they were like family.” The Shelburne Inn is located at 4415 Pacific Way, Seaview; phone: 360-642-2442