Sprucing Up: Pine Crest Inn Readies to Turn 100
Even co-owner Bobby Barrett can’t help but reminisce every time he sets foot in the Pine Crest Inn.
“It was a lot different when Dad bought this place in 1961,” Barrett said last week. “Back then, we were closed in the summer and winter. I kind of miss those days.”
Bobby was 9 and his brother Peter 5 at the time, and they soon worked various positions to help their father, Bob, with day-to-day operations. They were busboys, waiters, dishwashers and did whatever else needed to be done.
When Bob passed away in 2005, Bobby and Peter became owners of the inn.
“We were doing all right until the economy turned a few years ago. It hit us hard and we had a tough time,” Bobby said.
The hotel was built in 1913 by Mrs. E.C. Bliss and was once owned by Donald Ross, architect of the revered Pinehurst No. 2 golf course.
“We have a lot of overhead because of the building’s age,” Bobby said. “We’re just a friendly old inn that we’re trying to run better than we have been.”
To do so, the brothers have hired Drew Gross as resident manager, Donald Sanders as executive chef and spent five figures on renovations and repairs.
“Competition forces you to do things differently, and the dynamics now are completely different,” said Gross, an experienced hotelier who has been a friend of the Barretts since the 1970s.
But Gross said the hotel’s credo — “We’re going to take care of our hotel guests first” — remains the same.
“We can never forget who we are. It’s always been a family business,” he said. “When you come here, you’re going to get the friendliest service in town.”
Gross believes guests will also get one of the best meals in town.
“In my opinion, we have gone from an extremely average restaurant to one of the best in Moore County, thanks to Donald and his staff,” Gross said. “It is pure luck that we found him.”
Actually, it was happenstance. Sanders’ cousin, Carol Hess, manages the dining room.
“I called her out of the blue in January when they were renovating the hotel and she told me they may be looking for a new chef,” Sanders said. “The conversation was casual at first, but when it turned serious I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Sanders, 46, who was born in Moore County, cut his teeth in the restaurant business at The Peddler in Chapel Hill, which was owned by his father.
“I used to walk on milk crates when I was 7 years old to wash dishes in the kitchen,” Sanders said. “Cooking was the first thing I ever truly loved to do.”
Sanders was classically trained as a saucier at the old cooking school at Pinehurst Resort but has spent most of his life working at steakhouses.
“So I don’t know how you’d combine the two to best describe my style,” he said.
So far, Sanders has been judicious in tweaking the menu.
“I’ve changed the chicken cordon bleu slightly and added a blackened ribeye,” he said. “I’m not done, but you don’t want to change a menu too drastically or too quickly.”
Gross reached out to local meeting planners last week by hosting a familiarization lunch.
“We can host special events or private gatherings for groups of up to 50 people. The client simply provides us with a budget and Donald creates a menu specifically for them,” Gross said. “We also have a bakery that specializes in custom take-out desserts. Just give our pastry chef 24 hours notice, and your choice will be ready for you to pick up the next day.”
Bobby Barrett said all of the changes came to fruition before the spring golf season and the bottom line improved as a result.
“We needed to spruce up the inn. The place needed repairs,” Bobby said. “I’m glad we did it because business picked up this spring. The inn is vibrant again.”
The Barretts hope to carry the momentum over to the new year, which marks the inn’s centennial celebration.
The Pine Crest opened on Nov. 1, 1913, an event reported by The Pinehurst Outlook as follows:
“The most marked evidence of growth in Pinehurst is noted as Mrs. E.C. Bliss’ new hotel, the Pine Crest Inn, which comes as a delightful addition to the list of hotels; its comfort is suggested by the charm of the exterior.
“Spacious colonial pillared verandas, glass entrance doors, and the decorative treatment of the building itself make it a sparkling note of color against the distant sky and pines.”
The Barretts will pay tribute to Mrs. Bliss by kicking off the celebration on Nov. 1 and using her original marketing slogan: “The Inn Like a Home.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com.
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