48: The Inncrowd

48: The Inncrowd

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

The Inncrowd

Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.

~H. Jackson Brown

I work with an incredible group of women at two beautiful seaside bed and breakfast hotels called the Channel Road Inn and the Inn at Playa del Rey. Though we all started as strangers and mere coworkers, we have become great friends and help each other overcome challenging situations both at work and in our personal lives. I call us collectively “The Inncrowd.”

Like any family, “The Inncrowd” has developed an internal dynamic, utilizing each individual’s characteristics and strengths.

Liz is “The Leader.” She’s the General Manager of the Inn at Playa del Rey and has nerves of steel; the worse the situation is, the calmer Liz gets. Liz is a leader both at the Inn and within our community. In the past six months alone she’s attended the Kentucky Derby, Michelle Obama’s First Lady Luncheon, has hosted a “Toast for a Cure” fundraiser for breast cancer research and was recently installed on the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce. Earlier this week I had lunch with Liz because I’ve been feeling stagnant and stuck in a rut. By the end of lunch I was so rejuvenated, I found myself vowing to find a volunteer opportunity that would stimulate me. When I need assurance the world holds wonderful possibilities, I turn to Liz.

Heather is “The Sensible One.” She’s the General Manger of the Channel Road Inn. Heather reminds me it’s okay to have boundaries and encourages me to stay centered even when faced with uncomfortable situations. I remember calling Heather one night because a guest was distraught her room was decorated with red accents. All the other guests loved their rooms; however, when I showed this guest to her room she stopped in the doorway and said, “I hate the color red and cannot possibly sleep in a room that has any red in it.” The Inn was sold out so I had no other room to offer. I did what I could, removing the red chair and the red throw cushions, but the guest said she was still “highly uncomfortable.” I called Heather and she suggested the obvious — give her a cookie and turn off the light! Whenever I find myself facing an unreasonable situation in my personal life, I think of Heather and try to channel her solid sense of self.

Nicole is “The Enforcer.” Originally from Chicago, Nicole is the friendliest, most vivacious girl I know — but there’s a “don’t mess with me and don’t mess with my friends” undercurrent. I remember one night, a repeat corporate guest came downstairs and asked why there were “naked people” in his bathtub. I thought he was joking but as our front desk phone rang, I heard Nicole say, “Why are you in his bathtub?” and then, “I’m coming upstairs.” Turns out, some guests who’d booked a standard room snuck into the suite and were using the Jacuzzi bathtub when our corporate guest checked in. Thanks to Nicole, our guest now has a funny story he loves to tell and the unruly guests were quickly back in their standard room and had paid an additional $100 cleaning fee for the inconvenience. Nicole and I often go on “pizza-walk-and-talks” together. First we eat pizza, then we walk it off while sifting through the events of the day. I enjoy recapping with Nicole because she is so supportive. Even when I’ve clearly made a mistake, Nicole finds a way to twist the story so I end up feeling like the hero.

Dominique is “The Artist.” She spent most of her life as a professional ballerina and carries herself with grace. Dominique is introspective and reflective. Her presentation in terms of personal style and the baked goods she creates is unsurpassed. She says both in her dancing and when she creates new recipes for the Inns she “searches for harmony, light and balance.” Dominique adds a soft, graceful element to “The Inncrowd” and reminds me that it’s okay, and actually quite beautiful, to be vulnerable. She takes risks both in her life (and in her recipes) and accepts the fact that most things she tries will work out, but some won’t. When I stumble, I turn to Dominique to remind me that success and failure are simply two sides of the same coin and the only way to grow and create is to keep trying new things.

Rachel is “The Free Spirit.” Not only does she not stay within the box — I don’t think Rachel even realizes there is a box! She doesn’t think twice about altering a recipe that’s been made the same way for twenty years or about plating food in creative, unconventional ways. Rachel brings a breath of fresh air to the “The Inncrowd” and reminds me there are new ways to approach innkeeping — and life!

Carmen is “The Angel.” When I first started working at the Inns, our owner Susan said, “You’ll enjoy meeting our head housekeeper, Carmen. I’m not particularly religious — but I think she might actually be an angel.” Carmen is the most loved and respected member of the “The Inncrowd.” She is steady, sympathetic, unflappable and possesses a wise, otherworldly spirit. I remember the morning that a guest stood over me in the kitchen reading a list of complaints as I prepared breakfast. This was highly unusual because most of our guests are completely charmed by the Inns. At first the guest didn’t notice Carmen — then she paused and glanced at Carmen, who was washing dishes. Carmen dried her hands and asked the guest if there was anything she could do to help. The woman suddenly began to tear up and said, “I’m sorry I’m being difficult. It’s not the room or the food or anything else — I’m just stressed my daughter is getting married this weekend and I’m acting like a basket case.” As the woman left the kitchen, Carmen gave me a small smile. I turn to Carmen for wisdom and assurance that whether it’s a good day or a difficult day, it’s possible to stay peaceful inside.

As the owner of the Inns, Susan is “The Innspiration.” Like most of us, she came from humble beginnings but through incredibly hard work, she’s become one of the most successful female entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. Susan empowers each and every member of “The Inncrowd” by tasking us with duties that make us stretch and grow. She expects all of us to act like business owners as we negotiate rates, make sales calls, and handle guest service needs. Whenever I’ve mumbled the words “can’t”, “try” or “but”, Susan looks at me blankly. Both in my professional and personal life, I turn to Susan for inspiration. When I stand beside her I feel anything is possible. Susan is fair. She is creative. She is generous. She is fearless and she is the heart and soul of the Inns.

Liz, Heather, Nicole, Dominique, Rachel, Carmen, Susan and I are not the only members of “The Inncrowd.” There are those who have come and gone before us and there are those who will follow in our footsteps. For anyone lucky enough to join this sisterhood, they will have the privilege of knowing what it’s like to work side-by-side with talented, smart, resourceful women and I guarantee you it’s an experience they’ll never forget!

~Rebecca Hill

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