Feb 16, 2018
BENNINGTON — With decorative concrete vanities laid in semiprecious stones from Ireland, a spring-fed pond and 80 acres of woodlands surrounding the luxurious boutique hotel, River Spring Lodge sounds like something out of a fairy tale. But it’s actually right in Wyoming County’s backyard, and it’s received some superior recognition.
The property boasting fine dining, bathrooms with heated floors and resort beds covered in goose down duvets has just been named one of the nation’s “Top 10 Most Romantic Inns” by www.iLoveInns.com.
“We’re delighted to find out they chose us,” said innkeeper David Hamer. “It’s a great honor. We are brand-new — we’re sleek, we’re modern — but the merits of this reward really belong to the wonderful people we have had the honor of serving since we opened in August of 2016.”
Throughout the year, more than 10,000 inns, bed-and-breakfasts and niche boutiques pop up on the radar of www.iLoveInns.com staff. When making their prestigious selections, they look for romantic settings, exceptional decor, hospitality and amenities that offer all the makings of a perfectly charming getaway.
Staff review comments on sites like TripAdvisor, talk to hundreds of guests and contact trusted sources to compile worthy candidates. The process, according to iLoveInns.com president and 35-year bed-and-breakfast connoisseur Deborah Sakach, is a year-long investment in which the decisions do not come easily.
“These kinds of properties deeply touch the hearts of their guests,” Sakach said. “There are so many New York State B&Bs that are beautiful and have polished and authentic hospitality and have much experience in making guests happy.”
River Spring Lodge ranks among them, she said. It also happens to be New York’s only inn to make the 2018 list.
And though there were many reasons to choose the lodge as a recipient of the honor, its seclusion, newness, chef’s table and “very experienced, guest-centric innkeepers,” stood out to Sakach most, she said.
The lodge serves as “kind of a homecoming” for David Hamer and his wife, Carolyn, the lodge’s innkeepers, they said.
“I used to live here, I’m a New York native, ” Hamer said. “I actually pastored in Attica 40 years ago.”
And so the allure of wooded privacy, beautiful scenery and four changing seasons brought them — after serving the rich and famous around the country for almost 20 years — back home.
“We have a very, very beautiful property and we furnished it luxuriously,” Hamer said. “We spent about $30,000 per room so it is very, very nice and really, nothing compares in the area. I think this is part of what is setting us apart. We have a beautiful facility, but apart from that, we do our very best to invite guests to come here and we treat them as if they’re coming into our home.”
And they are, Hamer said.
“River Spring is more than a hotel, it’s a country estate,” he said.
The lodge is used as a meeting place for various ministries and humanitarian efforts during the slower, winter months and the innkeepers use their capabilities to better the community whenever possible — they once raised $10,000 for Kelly For Kids after former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly hosted a hunt at the lodge, Hamer said.
And while he could list all the amenities the lodge offers, such as smart televisions and boosted cellphone coverage, his chef’s training at the Culinary Institute of America — “Our cuisine is excellent, people just love it,” he said — along with the wine, spirits and beer; the quiet, relaxed setting; and the nearness to Buffalo and all its nightlife, he’d much rather let his guests tell the story, he said.
In more than 150 reviews on TripAdvisor, nearly 96 percent gave the lodge a five-star rating.
As for the other 4 percent? They called their experience “very good.”
“Our stay was wonderful,” one reviewer said. “The rooms and bathrooms are very spacious and modern while being inviting at the same time. Bed is one of the most comfortable we have ever slept in! Chef Dave is very talented and didn’t disappoint with breakfast or dinner!”
Another said, “From the setting to the rooms to the food to the service to the wonderful piano music, we couldn’t have picked a better location for our trip to western New York.”
And on and on the praise went.
“It’s a great honor to have been named to the list,” Hamer said. “We’re really stunned by the honor. We weren’t expecting it. I got a call a few weeks ago out of the blue, I knew nothing.”
He and his wife were told that those glowing internet reviews caught the eye of www.iLoveInns.com and that’s what got the ball rolling.
“Being recognized by industry leaders is a great honor and will help fuel our growth,” Hamer said. “If twice as many people knew we were here, we’d be full all the time, so it’s all about getting the word out.”
Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism President Scoot Gardner offered his congratulations in a press release issued Tuesday.
“It is a huge honor to be selected among the top 10 romantic inns from across the country,” Gardner said. “River Spring Lodge is a true gem offering the highest standards of hospitality and guest service. Their amenities are first-class and we are very fortunate to have them located here in Wyoming County.”