|By Rory Hassler, Lancaster New Era, Pa.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 9, 2004 - The former Historic Strasburg Inn is getting a makeover and now its patrons can too.
Three Dutch hoteliers, who saw an abundance of untapped potential in the resort, bought the 17-acre property last August for $2.21 million and renamed it the Netherlands Inn & Spa.
A mainstay of Lancaster County tourism since 1973, the Historic Strasburg Inn had experienced declining business in the years leading up to the sale, said Michael Levie, chief operating officer of the Netherlands Inn & Spa.
The new owners used the winter months to make significant headway on a $1.1 million renovation plan, highlighted by the June opening of a full-service day spa.
Spending half of the purchase price on changes might seem a bit steep, but it's crucial to the partnership's strategy of attracting a broader clientele to the Route 896 property.
"The Historic Strasburg Inn was a very nice country inn with a restaurant and meeting place, but a lot of the guests were leaving the property for recreation," Levie said.
"This property had so many promising elements, but they weren't accentuated," he said. "What we are trying to do is ... have a broader offering of services for our guests."
Expanding the number of guest services was not the only goal of the new ownership. The Dutchmen have also overhauled the resort's aesthetics, giving it a contemporary look that Levie calls "country cool."
To landscape the property, they have planted thousands of orange tulips on the grounds. The tulip is the national Dutch flower and orange symbolizes the color of the Netherlands.
Inside, paintings of Dutch flowers, landscapes and Holstein cows adorn the walls, repainted with muted colors to provide a fresh country atmosphere, Levie said.
Other major additions include: Spa Orange: Replacing the gift shop, the spa offers a variety of services, including massages, manicures, pedicures, facial therapies, wraps and waxing. Its hydrotherapy room includes a stress-relieving hydro tub, a hydro-kinetic Swiss shower and a steam room.
Prices range from $4 for nail repairs to $100 for a "Spa Orange Age Defying Facial" or a "Spa Orange Signature Treatment," which includes a 60-minute massage and 20 minutes in the hydro tub.
Room renovations: The inn's 102 rooms are getting a facelift to create a contemporary country style, featuring new wallpaper, bedding, furniture and televisions. Rooms are being upgraded in intervals over a two-year period.
The Bistro restaurant and lounge: Replacing the dining room and tavern, the Bistro features American cuisine, plus some French dishes.
Billiard room: Replacing a meeting room, it features two pool tables, dartboards, a card table and two televisions.
The resort continues to feature several meeting rooms, bike rentals, a playground, a 7,500-square-foot ballroom, an exercise room with a sauna, a Jacuzzi and an indoor and outdoor pool.
"The property was in good shape but was very dated in its decor," Levie said. "It's now a local hotel with the contemporary conveniences corporate travelers are looking for.
"The spa is definitely the cat's meow. We have steadily built a base of local clientele in the short time it's been open."
Spa Orange is a great addition to the Lancaster County tourism industry, said Janet Wall, vice president of communications for the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Just in the last week I read an article that indicated spa getaways are on the increase, so we are especially excited about being able to sell this as part of the Lancaster County product," Wall said.
Beyond completing the renovation of guest rooms, the partnership also plans to convert a log cabin at the rear of the complex into a pottery studio and candy shop within the next year. An expansion of the popular outdoor deck could also be in the works, Levie said.
Despite the partnership's hefty investment in the property, Levie said customers are not footing the bill. Under the new ownership, room rates remain at $89 to $159 a night.
"We pride ourselves in providing a great value for a very competitive price," Levie said.
Purchasing hotels and renovating them is nothing new for Levie and his associates -- it's the focus of their business.
In 2002, Levie, 44, partnered with Elmer Coppoolse, 47, and Tom Bas, 50, to form Team Netherlands Realty LLC. Combined, the men have more than 75 years of experience in hotel management.
In addition to the Netherlands Inn & Spa, the trio owns and operates two other hotels, the Glade Springs Resort and Conference Center in Beckley, W. Va., and Hotel Newport in the Netherlands, close to Amsterdam.
They also are working to get another resort off the ground in Antwerp, Belgium, and are trying to acquire several more properties on the East Coast.
Levie said the partnership attempts to fine-tune each resort to meet the needs of the community rather than instituting corporate-wide standards.
"It's not about a chain name with us. It's about reflecting the locale," he said.
So how does the new name reflect Lancaster County?
"It was a combination of the hotel being located in Pennsylvania Dutch country and the ownership being Dutch in heritage," Levie said. "But what's in a name? It's about who we are and what we stand for that makes the difference."
What they stand for, he said, is attracting out-of-town tourists and businesses while simultaneously catering to the local community.
Relying on the knowledge of the hotel's approximately 85 employees is an essential element of appealing to the local community, Levie said.
Another way of accomplishing that is to network with businesses, he said.
So in the fall, the resort plans to launch a weekly cocktail hour for local companies in the lounge of the billiard room, making the chef's cooking available for sample.
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