This is file # 36, cycle 3. Today’s date is May 8, 2018. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Robert Slagel and his wife Maggie Slagel about their tenure at the Interlaken Inn and their time operating the Salisbury Catering business as well as anything else they want to talk about. First we’ll start with some of the genealogical information. I am going to start with Mr. Slagel.
JM:What is your name?
JM:What is your birthdate?
RS:May 23, 1951
JM:What are your parents’ names?
RS:My father’s name was Doretheus and my mother is Elizabeth Jurofecik.
JM:Do you have siblings?
RS:I have a sister deceased Jane, and a brother Tom who lives in Morgantown, West Virginia. I am the middle child.
JM:How did you come to the area?
RS:I started in Connecticut attending the Culinary Institute of America when it was in New Haven, in the shadow of Yale, beside the Divinity School. I graduated in 1971.
JM:You came to the Interlaken twice?
RS:Twice! My first stint at the Interlaken Inn was 1975 to 1978. I was Nick Beni Sr.’s Assistant Manager. Then Maggie and I returned as Innkeepers to Interlaken in May 1, 1984.
JM:I asked Maggie and now I am going to ask you to see if you have the right answer, what is the difference between an Innkeeper and a Permittee?
RS:I was the Innkeeper and Permittee. The Permittee is simply a designation for the state that allows you to have a liquor license.
JM:I am going to ask you Maggie, how did you come to the area?
MS:I came to the area on Bob’s second trip with him as Innkeeper at the Interlaken.
JM:But you had worked in Hospitality before.
MS:Many years. I came from Arrowwood of Westchester, NY and before that I worked at the Harrison Conference Center; I have been in it most of my life.
JM:I think you said you started as a bar tender.
JM:That is really clever! Both of you came here in 1984. Who owned the inn at that time?
RS:Paul Riesman had purchased the inn from Tony Peters a couple of years prior to that. We hit it off fabulously right from the beginning.
JM:There are a couple of properties other than the inn itself. Would you tell me a little bit about Sunnyside and your redecorating?
MS:Yes, Sunnyside was actually going back almost 100 years. (It was built in 1892. Ed.) It was where the servants would stay when New Yorkers came up by train for the weekend. Bob and I loved that building because it is Victorian, we loved the ear, and we loved remnants that were still there. We tried out best to restore it.
JM:How did you do that? Did you have a professional decorator?
MS:Professional Bob and Maggie. We would go to auctions and purchase furniture for it. Tag and estate sales helped. It got decorated.
RS:Our favorite option was the Copake Country auctions.
JM:Did you enjoy doing that or was it tedious?
MS:We loved it. We loved everything about it.
JM:I am going to ask Bob about Countryside. (The Tudor style house on Route 112 was built in the 1940’s Ed.) Countryside had always been the innkeeper’s lodging; it was a beautiful English Tudor house. When we arrived in 1984, it took little less than a half a year to realize that it would be a wonderful addition to the Inn. We created 8 rooms, a conference room and a sales office in that building. Maggie and I ended up buying this house that we are sitting in now (281 Millerton Road) which is an apple barn which Tom O’Loughlin rebuilt. (See tape #48A and file #100, Tom O’Loughlin)
JM:I think you told me that Nick Beni Jr. lived in Country side?
RS:Nick Beni Senior. He was the innkeeper for I can’t tell you how many decades, but a long time working with Tony Peters. He brought the inn to the status that it had.
JM:Kathy Peters ran a gift shop ”For the Birds” in that building.
RS:That was in back of the English Tudor house, “For the Birds” yes.
JM:It was not in the house, but behind?3.
RS:It was behind the house, but attached to the house. Then she moved her shop into downtown Salisbury at a later date.
JM:The Col. Joshua Porter building I think, where Pet Pourri is now. (Corner of Main and Porter Street, Lakeville Ed.) That building has had a lot of changes.
JM:When you both came to the inn, you made some changes. How did you change the focus of the inn?
RS:There was a change in the client base. Conferences were going out favor and the conference business which Nick Beni had built for quite a few years prior to that. We needed to focus more on tourism and vacationers. While still handling conferences, we definitely needed to research and develop the tourist business.
JM:Did you build any new buildings?
MS:We planned the recreation building.
RS:You are right. They had started to construct a recreation center when we left in 1989 to buy Salisbury Catering Business.
JM:How did the dining experience change while you were there?
RS:I believe that the dining service was controlled by the masters of the area: John Harney Sr. (See file #5, cycle 2, Elyse Harney) and Nick Beni SR. and Rolf Schenkel (See file #6, cycle 2, Rolf & Renee Schenkel) and Tony Moore at the Old Mill. (South Egremont, MA) It was wonderful dining. You could go to any one of those and be greeted and treated royally. They all left the dining scene pretty much at the same time; they retired or went on to other ventures. We needed to create or get on board with the new cuisine which was slightly smaller portions and more creative, farm to table. We did that; we hired a fellow from the Carlyle, a chef who had beautiful French menu. We were happy to be part of that changing scene.
JM:Who came first Kevin Bousquet or Dan Bolognani?
MS:Kevin came first.
JM:What was he hired as?
RS:He was hired as Assistant General Manager.
JM:Do you remember how many staff you had at the inn at the time that you and Maggie were there?
RS:I don’t remember. I would imagine the staffing was pretty much always stayed around 100.
JM:When did Dan Bolognani come in? (See file #28, cycle 3, Dan Bolognani)
MS:He did not come under our regime, he came after we left.
JM:He was Marketing and Sales.
JM:Maggie, I know you were always a helpmate, was there anything specific that you over saw?
MS:I wore a lot of hats. Bob and I both did. I oversaw the Sales Office, helped out where I could with the Accounting Office. I went through all the contracts and everyday life at the inn. Go to the laundry, do a walk around. We both saw to everything. I would fill in wherever needed.
JM:You left the Interlaken Inn to buy Salisbury Catering. Was it called Salisbury Catering then or was it Salisbury Fare?
RS:It belonged to ARA for one year, then before that it was Salisbury Fare (And before that it was Guardian Catering Ed.) It was run by Toni Haynes, John Harney Sr. and George Ernst, Tom O’Loughlin and a couple of other people.
JM:Tom O’Loughlin did talk about Salisbury Fare, but I did not know he rebuilt this house John Hicks talked about Guardian Catering at the White Hart. (See file #67, cycle 2, John C. Hicks) What kind of events did you cater?
RS:Salisbury Catering: we were the main concessionaire here for the track (Lime Rock Race Track). We handled all their corporate catering.
MS:All of Skip Barber Racing School (See file #84, Skip Barber).
RS:That was probably 60% of our business: 40% was off premises catering-weddings, anniversaries, birthdays. We would just go into people’s homes and cater all of it.
JM:I think you said you left the kitchens cleaner than you found them sometimes.
RS:We certainly tried. We like to think we did.
RS:By the end of our 15 years, I always felt that there was hardly a house in the area that I did not know the kitchen intimately. You can drive down the street and reflect what party you did at each particular house.
JM:You had a wonderful story about John Harney and the track with cookies.
RS:When we were working in Rotary selling tickets as a fund raiser and admitting people, John was riding around in his big box truck delivering food because he was with Salisbury Fare and they were doing all the catering for the major events. We would signal him through and he would be handing out cookies to all the Rotarians. He was a wonderful Rotarian.
JM:You were at the track from 1989 to 2003
.MS:January 1, 1989, until December 31, 2003.
JM:What did you like best?
MS:I think the off premise catering. They were happy events like weddings. That was fun.
JM:Bob, what did you like best?
RS:I liked the last day, the last hour of every major event because it was always such a marathon to get through it, a Memorial Day, a July 4th weekend, and the NASCAR events. When you are dealing with so many thousands of people, it is fun to see them arrive, but it is even more fun to see them go away.
JM:It is like having houseguests! Now you Bob work at the Silver Lake Conference Center, don’t you?
RS:I have worked at Silver Lake for 12 years. I am retired now.
JM:Sort of! What do you do?
RS:I dabble. I try to work at my church a lot. I do some maintenance there and some cooking there. I just take care of whatever needs doing to keep the home fires burning.
JM:You have trained a lot of people in cooking, I am sure.
RS:The 15 years that we had Salisbury Catering, my staff was always Culinary Institute of America students. We would send busses to pick them up at the beginning of the weekend and deliver them back to their dorms at the end of the weekend. It was a good experience because the enthusiasm from 150 to 200 students just was contagious. At Silver Lake all my staff was high school or college students. I tried to promote a culinary program there that would perpetuate itself with the students; a number of them have gone on to Culinary Institute or Johnsons and Wales University in Rhode Island, or Connecticut Culinary Institute. Johnson & Wales specializes in baking.
MS:You got silver Lake to put in a garden. They then had fresh produce. It was a big garden.
RS:We did bake shop programs on a regular basis. We would have conferees to the young people that came to the camp during the summer. An age group could be as young as 6 or 7 up to 12th grade: we would design a program, a baking program for an hour or two. They could join in as they wished. We tried to relate it to Bible Scripture
MS:You had a lot of classes. I had forgotten that.6.
JM:You had a lot of influence on your young people. That is so fascinating.
RS:Baking is very exact and precise.
MS:In the culinary method they weigh everything, which is much more exact.
JM:That is the way the English cook which is why I did not do any baking in England.
RS:Starting with learning your measurements is a great place to start, translating teaspoons into tablespoons, and ounces into grams.
JM:It is good mathematics. Maggie, you also have retired, what do you do in your spare time?
MS:I am dabbling too with gardening in the spring, summer and fall and as much as I can in the winter. I am very involved at church: I am a Sunday school teacher, and just keeping out of mischief.
JM:Are you enjoying it?
MS:We are still cooking; we love to cook.
JM;Do you both love to cook?
MS:Yes. We do.
JM:Do you have a specialty?
MS:My grandmother was Italian. It was nothing to have 30 people on Sunday, I kind of lean that way. That is why all the tomato plants are in the garden.
JM:What is your specialty, Bob?
MS:He is the grill master!
RS:Sure the grill.
JM:Bob, you were involved with the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce from 1985 to 1987?
RS:That’s right. I became President of the Chamber of Commerce. It was about the same time that we were working becoming more familiar with the area and marketing the area. It was a perfect fit for being the innkeeper. The Salisbury phone was in Maggie’s office. She had to try to decide what hat to put on.
MS:In one year he was President of Rotary, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and we left the Interlaken and bought a new business.
JM:Who was the President that you succeeded in the Chamber?7.
RS:Maybe it was Jim Haynes. I don’t remember.
MS:I think it was.
JM:With the phone being in Maggie’s office, did you have Chamber of Commerce location for people who came to town looking for information?
MS:It was only my phone at the office.
RS:We created a brochure, but there wasn’t a building at that point.
JM:There was no Trade Show at that time either.
JM:Do you know anything about the Lakeville Merchant’s Association? That goes back to the 1940’s
RS:No I have never heard of it.
JM:I was doing Sandy Gomez Olive (See file # 22, cycle 3, Sandra Gomez Oliver); she said there was a suitcase of material from the Lakeville Merchants Association. I am trying to find where it has gone.
RS:She did such a wonderful job bringing the area merchants together.
JM:Who followed you as President?
RS:That might have been Sandy. I remember we were on the board together.
JM:When did you join Rotary?
RS:Forever! That was about the same time as I started as Innkeeper, give or take a year, probably 1985. I stayed in Rotary as long as I could with my new business. I believe I was in about 7 or 8 years.
MS:Rotary is tough to go every week. It is hard when you are a business person to find that time each week.
RS:It was a good experience to be a Rotarian. It was also a good year as President.
JM:Which year was that?
RS:I am going to say 1989 maybe. I am guessing. It was the same year I received the Paul Harris Award.
JM:Oh good. Well deserved. What other offices did you hold within Rotary?
RS:I am sure that I was not just made President, but I don’t remember the chain of command. Once you are serving, you just are there doing whatever needs to be done.
JM:When did women come in? (Laura Hawks Flores joined in 1987 as one of the first women. Ed.) (See File #69, Laura Flores) (See also Inge Dunham, file #81 who was President of Rotary 1991-1992)
MS:They were there because Inge Dunham was there.
RS:It must have been in the mid1980s.
JM:Do you remember any of the service projects you worked on with Rotary?
RS:Polio that was a huge project. It probably went on for 2 years. I know that they were successful in eradicating Polio in many third world countries. It was a very successful program.
JM:Before we close, I am going to ask Maggie Is there anything that you would like to add that I haven’t covered?
MS:Gee I think you have been pretty thorough.
MS:You did well. No, I don’t think so.
JM:What would you like to add, Bob?
RS:What a pleasure it is to be a part of this area, to have lived here for almost 35 years. The closeness of the community it really is wonderful to walk down the main street and actually know people. It is a great feeling. For me to go to the library and be recognized or any of the churches is just wonderful.
MS:That is pretty special. We hope we will never leave.
JM:Thank you both so very much.
MS:Thank you for doing it.