Linda, owner of The Astor House, talks about the inspiration for opening a B&B, and how her and her husband Tom, fell in love with cooking. She also shares the reasons they decided to become a 5 Star Partner with Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee, owned by actor and entrepreneur, Scott Patterson, best known as diner owner, Luke Danes in Gilmore Girls.
Lauren – Travel and Write Today: What inspired you to open The Astor House? Why a B&B?
Linda: Tom and I always loved going to B&Bs. Every time we visited one, and regarding the Innkeepers, we would think “What a fascinating and wonderful thing to do!”. We always loved hosting our friends, as well as our kids’ friends, when they lived at home. (Tom is an amazing stepdad to my two adult kids).
Sharing space and food with others is a natural extension of the way we lived our lives before purchasing the Astor House.
TWT: Did you and Tom always enjoy cooking? What are some of your favorite meals that you prepare and serve at the inn?
Linda: I have been around the culinary world all my life. My father was a top-notch chef long before the Food Network made it a “cool” thing to do. I was always, always very proud of his profession. He learned the old-fashioned way from his aunt, who was born in Green Bay and moved to Mercer to run a very popular bar/restaurant called The New North back in the 50’s through the 70’s. Mercer was a popular vacation place in the summer for folks who loved boating and fishing. My Great-Aunt Irene’s place was beautiful and impeccably run. My dad learned all he knew from his Aunt Irene.
He worked in or managed restaurants that specialized in many kinds of cuisine. He eventually managed a supper-club about 40 miles north of Green Bay along with my mom. Our whole family worked there. I watched my folks closely and learned a lot about cooking and customer service.
Tom worked for several years at a popular Country Club in Menominee Michigan as a Prep Cook and Line Cook.
We both volunteered at our local parish for weekly breakfasts, where we worked with a group who served about 40 people. We also volunteered at a local homeless shelter to prepare dinner for the families there.
Before the Inn, we hosted a yearly event at our home called “The Parade of Pies,” where I would bake all of my creations, I was considering entering in the local county fair. Friends and family would vote on their favorites and I would enter my goods according to what fared well at our little event. That little event grew over the years as my baking skills got better and better. It grew to the point where we had 50 or so guests in attendance one year. For this event, we hired a musician to entertain, and caterers to help serve!
At the fair, I have won so many first-place awards, Best of Show and Champion, over the years (I have lost count on how many!)
We both love being in the kitchen, planning and preparing meals and providing an exemplary guest experience. Everything we present to guests is home-cooked, made right in our own kitchen by me and Tom. Guests have said ” After eating your breakfast, everything else will be a disappointment” and “This is the best breakfast I have ever eaten!”. We are very grateful because that’s what we’re aiming for.
We get rave reviews from guests with special requests, such as guests on gluten-free or plant-based diets. I love researching recipes and coming up with amazing breakfasts that honor guests who have allergies, sensitivities, or special requests. I have a gluten-free/dairy-free Coconut Scone that is delicious!
Some of our favorites are the French Toast Brûlée, our Astor House Signature Potatoes, our Huevos Rancheros Tostada with Chipotle Lime Adobo Sour Cream Sauce, and our amazing variety of Quiches. We also serve Buttermilk Pancakes with Smashed Berries and Citrus Creme.
TWT: You know that Buttermilk Pancakes are my favorite!
Some of the favorite treats are my Award-Winning Donut Muffins, Award-Winning Cinnamon Buns with Coffee Maple Glaze and my Orange Almond Scone Pudding with Citrus Whipped Cream. We even serve my Award-Winning Key Lime Pie in mini versions. Dessert after breakfast is a must around here.
TWT: Have you always lived in Wisconsin? What are some of your favorite local spots to visit?
Linda: I was born outside of Chicago, but I moved to Wisconsin with my family when I was 9, and I have been here ever since. My father’s roots go deep in Green Bay. His great-uncle played for the Packers in the mid-1930’s. (Wayland Becker- #32)
Tom was born in Michigan and moved to Wisconsin in 2002.
We love, love, love the Green Bay area. We have many local places we enjoy, including Bay Beach and the Wildlife Sanctuary, Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve (there is a commemorative bench there in honor of my late parent’s 50th wedding anniversary) We love Door County, and we travel there as often as we can. We enjoy the Botanical Gardens, The NEW Zoo, the National RR Museum (and of course anything to do with our beloved Packers).
TWT: What did you think when you first tried Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee?
Linda: If I had been looking to fall in love and I’d met that coffee, I would have known my search was over. I hope that explains it. We had been searching for the perfect coffee to serve at the Astor House. We had not found it in the first six months of running the Inn. My daughter hired Scott Patterson to do a Cameo video, and afterwards, Elaine, Head of Marketing, reached out asking if we were interested in trying Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee. Of course, we said “Yes!” From the first sip we were 100% convinced we’d never serve any other coffee with our breakfasts.
I have been telling everyone about it, inside and outside the Inn. In fact, I am now an official “Independent Contractor” for Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee. I am helping to get the word out as an official part of the Scotty P Family. Although I would have happily continued doing it on an unofficial basis.
TWT: I know many business owners are considering becoming 5 Star Partners — how did you decide to become a partner?
Linda: The decision was easy for us. We had everything to gain and nothing at all to lose. We serve coffee to guests. We tried Scott’s coffee. It is my favorite coffee of my life (Tom’s too). Why would we serve anything else? And then to offer it as one of our retail items has helped create an extra avenue of revenue support for the Inn. Plus, Scott and Elaine (and the Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee Team) have continued to generously promote us through their website and social media platforms, and our social media presence/interactions has grown so much as a result of this partnership. Local folks have discovered us because they follow Scott Patterson. They have booked rooms and/or they will just come in to buy the coffee. It has been absolutely the best decision for us. We will be wholesale partners for as long as the company is producing coffee. Which I trust will be forever.
TWT: When it is safe to travel, I would love to come visit and have a cup of coffee, and a delicious breakfast. Where are some of your favorite places to travel?
Linda: We would absolutely love to have you! We love Door County, and we love traveling to the East Coast as well. Some places we look forward to going in future include Montana, as we have family moving there this fall (we love the mountains). We also want to take a tropical vacation together sometime. We like the idea of renting a big camper and hitting the road.
TWT: We have been talking about visiting Montana, as well. It looks beautiful!
TWT: I know being an Inn owner occupies so much of your time — what do you enjoy doing when you have some down time?
Linda: I love writing songs and playing my guitar and singing. Tom is a percussionist. He was a working drummer during the 80’s and 90’s.
We worked on a year-long music project to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We finished it just before Suicide Awareness Month last year. It is an ongoing promotion to help break the stigma, and help people have real conversations. We have a website with the music ($1.00 downloads benefitting AFSP), and there is a family contract on the site to help people devise a game-plan in the event of emotional crisis. It is important to know what to do, just as we all have a game-plan in case of inclement weather or a fire, etc. The site is lostbysuicide.com, and the music is on the “Purchase Music” page. Snippets can be heard for free.
I volunteer as an administrator on an online support group for people who have lost someone to suicide. We have over 3,000 members worldwide. I volunteer for other organizations locally and online as well.
But for my own leisure, it is writing, music, baking, painting, reading. I discovered as am adult that I am skilled with acrylic painting.
Tom loves aviation. He is a skilled at flying these amazing remote-control planes. He has been an attender of The Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh for 50 years in a row. But this year, with the pandemic, is the only year he did not attend since he was three years old.
We both love walking and biking, and we typically get out for at least 30 minutes every single day.
TWT: I know this is a difficult time for business owners, particularly in the hospitality industry. How has the pandemic affected the Inn, and how can we help?
Linda: Tom and I voluntarily closed the Inn for two months during “Shelter at Home” in Wisconsin. We could have stayed open but wanted to cooperate with the objectives of the medical community in our beloved city and state. We did not want to encourage recreational travel at that time. The financial effects of closing for two months hit hard. Losing the Packer Season business is still hitting hard.
We applied for grants and loans and thankfully, due to our “We won’t’ give up” spirits, we were able to secure some assistance. In the beginning, no one knew how to process the loans for a business as small as ours. But every time we heard “sorry we can’t help you,” we kept pressing on. Eventually someone was willing to dig deep into the loan qualifications and found a path for us to get some federal help. The City of Green Bay also offered a generous loan and grant.
We have had to change the way we do things since we reopened. Our cleaning has always been impeccable, but we have added extra measures. We always wear masks in common areas, and when taking guests to their suites. We also ask guests wear face-coverings outside of mealtimes, and we are asking everyone to be mindful of distancing. If everyone wears masks as much as possible and distances, we have the best chance of success.
Additionally, we stagger breakfast times and locations to give plenty of space between tables. We used to have everyone in one room, at a big table.
The experience is still wonderful for our guests. They are happy to have somewhere to visit where they feel comfortable and pampered. It is our hope that every guest who comes into our home knows they are valued and welcomed. We hope they get a sense that they will be sufficiently spoiled so long as they are under the roof of The Astor House. As one guest put it: “The whole house hugs you from the minute you come in”.
How can people help? Spread the word about our wonderful home away from home. Follow our social media pages, like and share our posts, and visit us whenever you can!
TWT: Can you tell us about The Astor House?
Linda: We have an on-site binder that contains information from The US Department of the Interior Heritage conservation and Recreation Service, and the National Register of Historic Places. We also obtained information from the first Innkeepers, who did a great deal of research into the history of the home.
The Astor Historic District was the home of a large proportion of the financial, industrial, professional, and political leaders of Green Bay from its settlement, well into the 20th century. Many of these individuals wielded influence considerably beyond the boundaries of Green Bay. Astor residents have dominated the banking, lumber, and paper industry from its inception. It was indisputably the most prestigious residential neighborhood in the city
The Astor Historic District is made up of what was once the Town of Astor, founded in 1835 by John Jacob Astor. He owned a lot of the parcels in this area from what we were told. In 1838, the Town of Astor and the Town of Navarino merged to form what is now the City of Green Bay. I would highly recommend doing research to learn more about this family, but feel free to ask when you visit us.
Follow the Astor House via the links below:
Follow Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee and Scott Patterson on social media
Instagram:@scottgordonpatterson & @scottypsbigmugcoffee
Twitter:@ScottGPatterson & @ScottyPsBigMug
Facebook: @scottpatterson111 & @ScottyPsBigMugCoffee
Pinterest:Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee
YouTube: ScottyP’s Big Mug Coffee
Learn more about Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee, and how to become a 5 Star Business Partner: https://www.scottyp.com/
Purchase Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee: https://www.amazon.com/stores/page/953F9EBE-341B-4B34-8A27-D0EBE02FE3EC
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