A touch of Europe in Underhill
European Artists Bed and Breakfast opens doors
.By Phyl Newbeck For The Essex Reporter
Laure Torkler knows what she likes. The former diplomat was working as a flight attendant for United Airlines with plans to open a B&B in Europe. A native of France, she had lived in several European countries and had only considered that continent for her business. But a layover in Burlington two and a half years ago changed those plans.
“I really liked the region,” she said. “I loved the nature and the sports which can be enjoyed for free and the seasons and the peoples’ attitudes. I loved the way people moved in a relaxed way and engaged in old-fashioned trading. It was like the way I was raised in the country outside Paris.”
Torkler’s first real estate agent didn’t seem to understand her desires, but the second one found her a house in Underhill with 12 acres of land, which included woods, space for a garden and a view of the mountains. In August of 2012 she signed a contract, and the following May she had the original house demolished and a new structure built on the foundation, although she admits she occasionally butted heads with the architect and contractor along the way.
“I wanted something extremely contemporary but not sterile” she said. “I wanted colors. I even have different colors on the roof.”
The new house was completed last December, and Torkler opened the European Artists B&B in June. The external structure is modern, but the rooms include many old-fashioned touches like a claw foot bathtub.
“I married antiques with modern design, which go very well together,” Torkler said. “It also makes people happy because they are surprised by what they find.”
The B&B has a breakfast room and patio and three guest rooms named after the artists whose works decorate the walls: Egon Schiele, Pablo Picasso and Vassily Kandinsky. Schiele was chosen in part for educational reasons. Torkler believes most Americans are unfamiliar with the Austrian artist who died at the age of 28. Picasso was selected because of his bold use of colors, and the Russian painter Kandinsky was picked because of his vivid strokes and a style that was considered avant garde at the time.
Thanks to a website designed by her husband’s son, Torkler has already had customers from Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Quebec with several more guests expected later this month and in September. Although she prefers face-to-face interaction, the site now has the capacity for on-line reservations and payment. There is also a link to Trip Advisor where three of her customers have rated the B&B as excellent and one as very good. Initially Torkler didn’t plan on serving food, but when her New Jersey visitors complained about the local restaurants she cooked them a French meal served by candlelight on the balcony and now offers a dinner and breakfast package to her guests.
In addition to the B&B, Torkler runs a business called Breads and More. She has been selling her wares at several local farmers’ markets and will soon be supplying Sweet Clover Market in Essex, the Jericho Center Country Store and the Underhill Country Store. On her first day as a guest vendor at the Jericho Farmers’ Market she sold out in under two hours and customers subsequently (and successfully) peppered the market director with phone calls, asking that she be given permanent vendor status.
Torkler’s husband, Jean-Marie Rabot, just received his green card and intends to start his own business called French Way Bakery. Rabot was a business manager in France when he met Torkler three years ago. Impressed by how much she enjoyed working in the kitchen, he quit his job and went to school to become a baker. Having just received his green card, he can now start his own bakery to complement Torkler’s, which will feature mostly German baked goods.
Torkler thoroughly enjoys her new life as an innkeeper. Her first guests were in the area to buy a tractor and had never stayed in a bed and breakfast before. They liked the experience so much that they extended their stay and then invited Torkler to visit them in Massachusetts.
“It’s been more than rewarding,” Torkler said. “I did not create the B&B to become rich. We like people, especially when they smile.”
Information on the European Artists Bed and Breakfast and Breads and More can be found at http://theeuropeanartists.com/