Nancy Skee always dreamed of owning a bed & breakfast. When she retired from teaching – 24 years in the Manheim Township School District – she took over Mount Joy’s Olde Square Inn.
Driving into Mount Joy from the east, the inn immediately catches your eye. The Colonial Revival architecture and the various porches represent another era in time. The landscaping and window awnings add to the old-fashioned aura of the property. A nearby fountain (which is owned and maintained by the borough), and trees filled with birds provide nature’s brand of music. It all makes for a lovely way to start the day over a delicious breakfast.
Originally owned by businessman Howard Longenecker, the house was state-of-the-art when it was built in 1917. Minimal “remodeling” has allowed it to retain many of its original architectural details. As we tour the house, Nancy points to the original doors, the butler’s call station in the kitchen and old-world elements such as columns and crown moldings. Each of the bedrooms is equipped with a call button to summon servants. “Fortunately, they no longer work!” she says.
“I’m the third innkeeper,” Nancy says of assuming ownership in 2014. “I’m living the dream. How lucky am I to be able to do what I do?”
Nancy loves playing hostess to her guests who arrive from as close by as Mount Joy to as far away as the Netherlands. She credits her parents – first generation Americans who hailed from Hungary – for her genetic gift of hospitality. Over the course of 10 years, Nancy has developed a roster of regular visitors. For example, a couple from Maryland visit once a month. “We’ve become friends,” she says. They even gifted her with the Vietnam-era American flag that hangs from the front porch.
Nancy also began forging new avenues such as welcoming weddings, showers, birthday parties and other social events to her property. She launched Murder Mystery events and began offering cooking-related classes. “I even helped Girl Scout troops earn their cooking badges,” she notes.
The pandemic, of course, created challenges. “I had to close,” Nancy says. Needing to remind people that the inn would be at their service when normalcy returned, Nancy began filming weekly cooking videos and posting them online. The success of the videos prompted her to showcase other businesses in the area.
As for the food element – breakfast! – it’s obvious that Nancy’s culinary talents ensure a full house during her busy season that extends from May through October. She treated me and Jordan Bush to a three-course breakfast consisting of bananas foster, poached eggs (accompanied by pickled onions, cherry tomatoes, avocado and Hollandaise sauce and served atop an English muffin), and for dessert (yes, dessert for breakfast is a signature of the inn), coffee ice cream topped with whipped cream and served atop a chocolate-covered pizzelle. Oh, and there was coffee or tea. And the setting – the side porch – was enchanting.
Nancy’s second-favorite role as innkeeper is serving as a concierge. “The best thing about Mount Joy is that it’s in the middle of everything,” she says. “Point in any direction and you can be somewhere fun and interesting in 20 minutes. There’s so much for visitors to do, it’s no wonder they love coming to Lancaster.” Even if they prefer to simply relax, Nancy is more than happy to have guests utilize the backyard pool, the rooftop deck or the cozy living room.
“I find bed & breakfast clients like the total experience,” she observes. “They like to be pampered to a degree and then go on their way. They also appreciate the personal service an owner can provide, like recommending restaurants and helping them establish an itinerary for the day.”
One event Nancy takes pride in “caters” to locals. Two years ago, she began inviting students waiting at the bus stop across from the house in for breakfast. “From the beginning, it was designed to have Police Chief Rob Goshen, as well as other officers, meet with students over breakfast,” Nancy says of the “Breakfast with a Cop” endeavor. “The objective was for members of the police force to get to know the kids, build relationships with them and let them know we were looking out for them.”
Held on the second Thursday of each month during the school year, two shifts of students stop in for a bite to eat at 7:30 a.m. and again at 8:30 a.m.
Nancy is also touched by the fact that when Mount Joy residents and business owners learned of the project, they began assisting her with monetary donations and products. “I have businesses calling me and asking, ‘What do you need?’” she marvels.
For more information, visit oldesquareinn.com.