A New Era for Bartlett House
EVERYTHING IS TRANSFORMED
“You should never sit comfortably in business; you must always be keeping alert, keeping current.” Lev Glazman snaps closed his eyeglass case and reaches for his sunglasses. When Glazman and Alina Roytberg opened their first neighborhood shop selling beauty products in 1991, neither imagined they would go on to grow the then Boston-based apothecary business into Fresh, a global beauty brand.
Flash forward to 2013, Kennebunkport, Maine, where a friend introduced Glazman to Damien Janowicz at a party. “The world shuddered!” Janowicz laughs. This fateful meeting connected two men both ready to merge their strengths into a mutual vision of hospitality. Glazman was impressed with what Maine Magazine aptly called Janowicz’s “polished ease,” a characteristic that had graced guests during his management of the properties of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection. “We discovered that we viewed the world in the same way, and we share a desire to act on our passions.”
Now all three business partners, Glazman, Janowicz and Roytberg, are a modern trifecta bonded by a sense of curiosity and inspiration, each one contributing expertise to their concept, taking the art of hospitality to a whole new level.
Should the word “hospitality” conjure up sterile hotel management courses or marketing acumen, think again. The team started out by spending a year developing personal mission statements and core values that drive their high-level concept. Before they found a physical space for their venture, they rooted themselves, and their business, within an intentional operational structure that demonstrates integrity, accountability and spirit.
Bartlett House, a four-story utilitarian brick building built in the 1870s along Route 66 in the town of Ghent, had operated as a railroad hotel for the New York Harlem and Hudson and Boston Railroads until about 1948. After the rail line was abandoned, the crowds disappeared and the hotel fell into many years of disuse. This national historic site had sat vacant for 11 years before Glazman, Janowicz and Roytberg laid their eyes on it. The building, complete with central location and 19th-century charm, was a perfect venue to house all of the components of their vision: a bakery, a dining room, offices and an apartment for team members. “When we saw Bartlett House, we saw our dream come alive,” says Roytberg. “It’s our hub of creativity, collaboration and companionship.” Glazman’s eyes light up when he describes the experience of doing business together as a family thus far.
Under Janowicz’s genial stewardship, business decisions are made according to what guests want. This approach is working—since opening in July 2016, there has been a line out the door for the straightforward but sophisticated, well-prepared food served out of their state-of-the-art kitchen and in-house European style bakery and café. The space is exceptionally warm and inviting and walks that line between country chic and rustic opulence.
If the promise of contentment does lie in the details, not a single one was overlooked during the complete redesign-build project undertaken in 2015. No corner was cut, and no compromise made during the revitalization of the rectangular, terracotta-colored brick landmark building. While the interior was gutted and restored to original quality, a quote from Antoine Lavoisier, an 18th-century French chemist, printed on the scaffolding cover read: “Nothing is lost, everything is transformed,” assuring passersby of the good things to come.
The aesthetic of Bartlett House feels instinctive and immediate. The team has designed the new elements to feel as if they were in the building all along. The visuals knit together eclectic furniture and light fixtures in a way to re-create a landmark feel to the place. The colors of the Bartlett House exterior, brick, off-white and black, dictated the color palette for the interior, and the classic late-19thcentury American typeface lettering on the building is a recurring motif. To create the dining room wallpaper, Peter Fasano, a printmaker from Great Barrington, assembled a collection of vintage silkscreen blocks. Among them was a botanical design that was re-scaled and re-colored as the central element of the print. To deepen the texture of the environment, another wallpaper in the back of the café, this one made from recycled newsprint, adds a level of personality to the room and serves as a suitable background for an antique Dutch wall phone and the early century copper sconce. The ceramic tile used on the café counter brought a notable visual design code to life; the blossom print is utilized on in-house packaging and labels. The result is a space in which each piece of the puzzle has a rich individual tale grounded in the collective human story and history of the area. The tenor of the dining room and café is high; the quality of the materials provoke discussion and invoke travel.
The community is as proud of Bartlett House as the team is. People come to the Bartlett House as a weekend ritual, bring their guests and their families and leave feeling emotionally charged by the experience. “Like a love affair!” exclaims Glazman. Supporting the social and economic growth in their immediate community is a core principle of the company and taps into something the team feels strongly about: reciprocity. In hospitality, you take care of those you need, a demanding but ultimately enriching undertaking. The journey of bringing the building back to life was met with a very strong community welcome; one woman even came in with flowers to thank them for their thoughtfulness in reviving the structure and simply for being there.
Photographs of the Bartlett House by Walker Evans, the famed mid-century photographer and photojournalist, in the 1930s depict train tracks just meters in front of the front doors, telling of the town’s earlier days as a place shaped by the railroad and the traffic it brought. Ghent is a town with a visible sense of history, but what the revival of the Bartlett House has ensured is that functional yesterdays will have a beautiful future. Certainly from the food perspective, the central stopping place is better than it’s ever been.
Bread and Butter
Sitting empty for many years was good advertising for the Bartlett House. Word spread of the revived eatery, as irresistible aromas of baking traditions, including exquisite breads, and reimagined pastries, such as the pear rosewater muffin, began wafting out onto the streets of Ghent. Bartlett House has quickly become a destination for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. With a particular focus on sourcing locally, the establishment serves skillet dishes, soups, salads and sandwiches. Coffee and tea are an essential aspect of the Bartlett House experience. Dedicated to serving the best coffee beans they could find, the team selected to work with Sightglass, a San Francisco–based company specializing in sustainable harvests that ships freshly roasted beans weekly. A selection of 18 fine organic teas brings classic Japanese tea rituals to life, and makes for dynamic, aromatic moments. Guests can also satisfy their shopping desires with an eclectic collection of Bartlett House products, housewares and specialty foods.
Behind the comforting, congenial cuisine is Amy Stonionis, who moved to Ghent from New York City, where she was corporate executive chef at Murray’s Cheese Bar. Stonionis shared the owners’ philosophy of continual research and development and toward establishing relationships with regional food producers. Her approach to the menu is simple; she treats the food with minimal alterations to honor the quality of ingredients in the Hudson Valley. Her goal, she says, is to create food evocative of memories and place, with respect to the ingredients, farmers and artisans that produce them. Rather than designing a menu and subsequently sourcing ingredients, her close collaboration with Starling Yards farm in Red Hook means that the growing season informs the Bartlett House menus weekly and seasonally. “My vision for Bartlett House is to create a culinary center and destination,” Stonionis explains, “and to mentor and grow the talented team.” Bartlett House employs an all-local staff, including many people who grew up in Ghent and who had previous connections to the building.
Bringing his experience from regaled Brooklyn bakeries SCRATCHbread and Bien Cuit, head baker Craig Escalonte joins Amy in the kitchen. “If the Bartlett House was a food, it might be a loaf of bread,” says Janowicz. “Our job is to share the simplest yet most approachable form of nourishment. Every culture mixes some kind of flour and water, it’s something common to humanity. Our opportunity is to change someone’s view of a familiar food they’ve known their whole life.”
If the bakery is the emotional ground floor center of the Bartlett House, the third floor is the creative center. There, the team, including manager Eryn Gnall, who worked with Janowicz in Maine, meets weekly, tasting, experimenting and making group decisions on what is and isn’t working to ensure that innovation, efficiency and delight prevail.
The recipe for feeling taken care of has more than one ingredient. Hospitality at the Bartlett House flourishes at the intersection of the personal, intimate characteristics of a home, and the transforming expectations of the restaurant world. Somewhere in this overlap of private and public spheres lies the potency of what sets the Bartlett House apart. The Bartlett House is not solely defined by context or terroir, or even food, but is also defined by a type of care that is placeless, or, rather, can be experienced in any place.
“I have learned that you have to keep all the possibilities in the front, all the time.” Glazman says. Always asking what they can do better, the Bartlett House staff are looking forward to offering dinner, and the addition of a wine and beer license. A newly created line of in-house products will take the Bartlett House spirit beyond Ghent.
Whatever the next iteration, no doubt the visionary team will continue to transform daily sustenance into pleasure, and nourish their guests through the experience of good taste, informed by a sense of history, community and a remarkable old building coming to life once again.
2258 Route 66, Ghent