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BerkShares Business of the Month: The Red Lion Inn

"Our business is inextricably linked not only with the cultural institutions that make the Berkshires such a rich place to live, but also to the economic development of the area and the well-being of the people that work for us." -- Sarah Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality Group

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Stockbridge — Rooted on Main Street in Stockbridge, the Red Lion Inn has been a hub in the Berkshires since 1773, says Sarah Eustis. She is a member of the third generation of the family that has been at the helm of the Red Lion since 1968. In that year, Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick bought and renovated the Inn, and moved their own fast-growing business, Country Curtains, into the ground floor. The business has been evolving and growing ever since, says Eustis, C.E.O. of the newly formed umbrella organization, Main Street Hospitality Group, which is “comprised of all the talented individuals who have been based at the Red Lion now for many years.”

Even as they have expanded their reach to manage the Porches Inn in North Adams and the Williams Inn in Williamstown, and to plan a “Hotel on North” in Pittsfield, Eustis makes it clear that the Red Lion Inn remains at the center of the Main Street Hospitality Group’s business.

“Because there’s no place like it,” she observes. “This place has resonance and incredible historical significance: revolutionaries plotted here, presidents and intellectuals have stayed here. Amazing people and energy have flowed through this hotel, and we constantly hear stories from people who say that the time they’ve spent here is extremely important to their lives.”

With these layers of history in mind, Sarah smiles. “Any changes that we do make are carefully thought out. We want to ensure that we continue to offer our customers great value and authentic Berkshire experiences.”

As the largest hospitality group in Berkshire County, Eustis explains that there’s a strong sense of responsibility to stay connected in the community and to use the Group’s purchasing power in a way that perpetuates positive economic development. “We realize,” she said, “that our business is inextricably linked not only with the cultural institutions that make the Berkshires such a rich place to live, but also to the economic development of the area and the well-being of the people that work for us.”

The Red Lion Inn takes a big-picture approach to business: “Investing in the well-being and prosperity of our place has always been an important part of our mission, and BerkShares are a big part of our unwavering commitment to buying as much locally as possible. We welcome BerkShares, and were very early adopters because we believe that using local currency is an excellent way to cultivate and nurture our region’s businesses and resources, which then makes it more attractive for people to live here and move here and work here.” She stops a second to reflect. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get more of our tourists to exchange some of their dollars for BerkShares when then come to visit?”

Red Lion Inn spends most of its BerkShares on goods and services. Brian Alberg’s kitchens are renowned for their strong connections to local farms. Seventy percent of the merchandise in the Inn’s gift shop is created by local talent. And employees also sometimes recirculate BerkShares back into the community by taking reimbursements for expenses in local currency.

Eustis recognizes that “buying local” sometimes costs more.

“Yes, we have to find a price/value balance, but we don’t usually find that it’s a huge issue” she noted. “Supporting local prosperity really is something that people feel good about, and that’s why they come to us.”

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