Ashland’s iconic Henry Clay Inn has re-opened its kitchen to serve visitors and town residents. The Henry Clay Inn’s managers Rick Bernstein and Paige Larson are working to offer breakfast and brunch options not only to the inn’s guests, but also to the public.
After the inn’s kitchen closed under previous ownership about nine years ago, the inn offered “cold continental” breakfast options to guests, such as bagels and cereal. With the re-opened kitchen up and running, the inn is now offering hot breakfast meals including omelets, pancakes and waffles. Larson and Bernstein work in the kitchen alongside assistant innkeeper Travis Clark and cook Cedric Randolph.
“We want to upgrade the experience for the guests,” Larson said. “It’s good to have some variety.”
Bernstein and Larson moved to Ashland from Colorado last fall, after owner Beth Mason asked the couple to manage the inn. The couple has previous hospitality and management experience. “Sometimes, when you’re acting, you also have other jobs when you aren’t auditioning,” Larson said.
Larson earned her graduate degree from Virginia Commonwealth University’s theater program in 1997 before returning to her home in Colorado. Theater brought the two together, and the couple even met while Bernstein was directing a production that Larson was a part of.
The Henry Clay Inn was originally built in 1858 on a location slightly north of where it sits today. The original inn, named the Ashland Hotel, served transient guests who passed through Ashland on the train. The hotel burned in 1905, and was rebuilt on the same location shortly after its destruction.
The reconstructed hotel was successful for several years before burning down once again in 1946. The Henry Clay Inn, a replica of the Ashland Hotel, opened at its new location in 1992.
The inn is working to be getting its ABC license in upcoming months to expand its menu to include local beers, wine and mimosas at brunch.
The dining area can seat about 40 guests, and the managers are hoping to open a patio area outside. The Henry Clay Inn also has a banquet space which holds a little less than 50 people for meetings and special events.
“We’re trying to really foster exposure of Ashland,” Bernstein said.
Though they currently have their kitchen open for breakfast and brunch, the managers are considering opening the menu up for lunch and dinner, depending on public interest in seeing longer dining hours.
“We’re just taking small steps, just one step at a time,” Larson said.
Natalie Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org