Bright Morning Bed & Breakfast in West Newton is expanding
A West Newton bed and breakfast situated along the hiking and biking trail has expanded to an adjacent house, an indication of the growing need for lodging by travelers along the Great Allegheny Passage trail that connects Pittsburgh with Washington, D.C.
“I think if we added on eight more times, it wouldn't be enough,” said Mary Lou Rendulic, who along with her husband, Robert J. Rendulic, own two beautifully remodeled late Victorian homes – the four-room Bright Morning Bed & Breakfast at 127 Jefferson Court, and the newly-opened three-room Annex Inn at 129 Jefferson Court.
The side-by-side bed and breakfast houses bring a new level of hospitality to West Newton.
“I don't think we've had anything like this ever in this town,” Mary Lou Rendulic said.
The Rendulics have spent the past several months working to make the vacant house suitable for guests, a task that took a considerable amount of time remodeling and a lot of money.
They gutted the two-story wooden-framed house, added renovated fixtures, woodwork and pocket doors and added bathrooms to bedrooms.
They painted the interior and exterior, decorating it in a Victorian country theme. They landscaped the property, finishing just in time to open for Mother's Day weekend, Rendulic said.
The ground floor features indoor and outdoor dining areas.
“We were under the gun to get it done,” said Robert Rendulic, who works as an executive chef at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio.
The Rendulics purchased the Annex Inn property from Peter Cherellia in November 2012 for $50,000. The Progress Fund, a Greensburg-based community development financial institution, provided $100,000 in financing to acquire and renovate the house and the Rendulics invested $15,000 of their own money into the project, Mary Lou Rendulic said. The project was financed in part using Pennsylvania Small Business Credit Initiative money from the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
Rendulic has been operating the Bright Morning B&B since 2002, the year she purchased the 140-year-old house.
She said she had her sights set on acquiring the house next to her property shortly after opening her business. Their business had grown so much that they had to turn away guests.
“I wanted that building from the time I moved in. It was rundown. I wanted to clean it up. It took 10 years to make the deal,” Mary Lou Rendulic said.
Both houses look out toward the west bank of the Youghiogheny River and the Great Allegheny Passage runs just across the street. The location of the houses are critical to the success of the bed and breakfast business, which Rendulic says typically runs from May through October.
She is hoping to develop a winter trade, based on cross-country skiers looking for a day of traveling along the trail. The rooms are reasonably priced for lodging, ranging from $115 to $135 a night.
With the recent completion of the final link of the Great Allegheny Passage into Pittsburgh's South Side, Mary Lou Rendulic is expecting even more traffic along the trail this summer, especially cyclists making the trip from Cumberland, Md., to Pittsburgh. West Newton is about 35 miles from Pittsburgh and is the only trail town in Westmoreland County with such extensive services – food and lodging – for trail users.
They have served hikers and bicyclers from across the country and even one runner whose goal was to run across the country.
The Rendulics also were hosts to two of the three Ohio bicyclists who stopped in West Newton two weeks ago enroute to Marietta, Ohio, Robert Rendulic said.
Two of three bicyclists, members of the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club, rode from Ipswich, Mass., to West Newton, in observance of the 225th anniversary of the route that settlers took in December 1787 from Massachusetts to present-day Marietta, at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingham rivers.
The third cyclist joined the pair near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
The men ended the land portion of the journey, just as the pioneers had done in January 1788, at West Newton. The men then got in their homemade kayaks to paddle to Marietta.
Not all of the guests at the bed and breakfast are trail travelers. The Rev. Arthur Seaman of Kittanning, stays at the Bright Morning B&B two nights a week while serving as interim pastor of the West Newton Presbyterian Church.
“I have stayed in bed and breakfasts all over the world and all over the country. This bed and breakfast is the best,” said Seaman.
Although the Rendulics initially purchased the house to serve as a home for her music studio, where Mary Lou teaches lessons in piano, classical guitar and violin, Mary Lou Rendulic said she had been in the house for less than a week when she noticed the bicycle traffic in both directions, passing in front of her house.
“It wasn't heavy, but when you see people riding with panniers (bicycle bags) and backpacks and tents, you match up a vacant room and people needing lodging. Even campers are not hard to persuade to stay over,” Rendulic said.
She started with two rooms and then converted a dining room at Bright Morning into a bedroom, thanks to a $3,000 grant from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. The Ligonier-based tourist bureau distributes the proceeds from the Westmoreland County's hotel tax to businesses and organizations that generate tourism.
Rendulic continued to operate her music studio as she operated her bed and breakfast. The music studio has been her “bread and butter for 37 years,” said Rendulic, who earned a music degree at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.
“Now that we are as busy as we are, the studio is getting squeezed” by the time needed to operate the bed and breakfast, Mary Lou Rendulic said.
To help with the cooking, Rendulic said she has hired a breakfast cook who is a culinary student at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood.
They initially offered cold breakfasts when they did not live on the site, but now make a variety of breakfast foods — fresh fruit, juices, eggs, scones and baked goods.
Robert Rendulic said they use locally grown food when possible, and offer a variety of specialties.
Her future plans for the business include operating a restaurant that would be open to the public not staying in either of her bed and breakfast lodgings, Rendulic said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-836-5252.