By JAMES PECK & ANN-MARIE MITROFF
Al and Trudy Mitroff owned and operated the Brandon Inn from 1961 to 1983. This past Friday evening, former employees of the Mitroffs’ gathered to share stories in the Inn’s main lounge. It was orchestrated by Ann-Marie Mitroff, Al and Trudy’s daughter, who was visiting from California and staying in one of the Inn’s third-floor suites.
Even the Inn’s new owner, Isidro “Sid” Beccar Varela, couldn’t resist sitting in to hear the nostalgic stories along with fifteen rapt attendees in person and four others on a Zoom connection. “It was a very interesting night. I was so glad to meet all these former employees and it gave me a lot of food for thought,” said Beccar Varela.
Ann-Marie herself led the retrospective off by sharing old pictures and recapping the Inn’s 137-year-old history as Brandon’s preeminent destination for travelers. Everyone learned that the Inn was originally built as the one-story Neshobe Tavern by Jacob Simonds in 1786. (The Inn’s bar is now called the Jacob Simonds Pub. His grave is in the Congregational Church Cemetery very near the Inn.)
It remained a popular tavern/inn until 1848, when it was rebuilt as the three-story Brandon House by Francis June.
In 1890, the Brandon House burned to the ground. The townspeople were devastated, but local Brandon businessmen stepped up to buy the property. build the current imposing four-story structure and name it briefly “Hotel Brandon.” That moniker didn’t last long before it became the Brandon Inn as we know it today.
In 1961, Mr. and Mrs. Mitroff bought the Inn from the Brandon Inn Company, a group of townspeople with stock ownership for the 51 years since 1910.
After Ann-Marie, former Mitroff employees – bartenders, cooks, bellhops, waitresses, desk clerks and others- took the stage and related their fond memories of working for Al and Trudy.
The first thing learned by Sid and the attendees was that no one ever addressed the owners by their first names – it was always respectfully “Mr. Mitroff” and “Mrs. Mitroff”!
The common themes of the night were employees getting hired into really great first jobs, being given an opportunity to learn how to work and enjoying a challenging but fun environment and a camaraderie amongst the staff.
There was real affection for the Inn expressed—everyone experienced more than just a job and it became part of an education they valued.
Colleen Patrick was a holiday bartender back in the 70s. She had little experience and was asked to sing to the patrons. Somehow, she pulled it off and “it was truly memorable, a great story I tell even today!”
Bill Clark told about his experience in 1981 as the head chef: “Mr. Mitroff had a very interesting personality. He was a throwback to a different era; He always wore a suit and tie. He wanted a new ‘special menu’ most days, so I had to use all my creativity.”
Clark then then read the special menu for January 4, 1982, which included New England clam chowder, radish rosettes, filet of Beef Wellington for $12.50, roast duckling for $11.00, baked Christmas ham for $8.50, green beans almondine, baked sweet potato” and on and on. It was a diner’s delight!
Chuck Clarino, a longtime award-winning sports writer for the Rutland Herald, worked as a chef and a waiter.
“Mr. Mitroff was very nice to me as was Mrs. Mitroff,” said Clarino. “They were great people and those were wonderful years.” Chuck lived on River Street and walked across the frozen Neshobe River in the winter to the Inn.
Chuck LaPorte was hired by Mr. Mitroff as a part-time bartender in 1973-74, taking over for Steve Carr who was also in attendance. Chuck related a number of stories including his encounter with CBS reporter Charles Kuralt and chatting with him for two hours after the bar closed.
Chuck LaPorte’s sister Claire Pate got her very first job at the Inn in 1972, as did many Brandon kids. Ann-Marie showed a list of employees from the 60s and 70s and the attendees recognized many names. You, dear Reader, may be on the list or know a friend or relative who was!
Claire got her first job as a “Kelly Girl” typing menus and doing whatever she was asked. “I owe my career to Mr. Mitroff, because it set me up for a long career in Wahington, D. C.”
One good story told by Chuck and Claire was the time Mr. Mitroff hired the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and had a raffle for the winner to conduct the orchestra. Their father, Phil LaPorte, won and was in his glory conducting one evening.
Ann-Marie then read several excerpts from letters she received from her mother, Mrs. Trudy Mitroff, while at college. These described the multitude of crises that had occurred, sometimes in succession– candles burning low causing the table decorations to catch on fire; a birthday party for a 90-year-old mother who had one troublemaker son physically starting a fight with his other brothers in a formal dining room; permanent residents keeping track of wasps they killed in their room (20-40-80).
Attendees laughed and nodded their heads, –showing agreement of similar experiences. Many people mentioned they loved the music of regular accordionist Danny Notte with the chef who played the classical violin and especially Mr. Mitroff with a glass of rosé singing throughout the dining room.
The evening went on over two hours and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the memories!
For those interested, Ann-Marie filmed the event so you can contact her through The Reporter if you’d like to get a copy.