The Brass Pineapple Inn
Mildred Ruffner and Cindy Newton are fictional characters from Laura Boggess’s novel Mildred’s Garden. Lisa Elefritz and The Brass Pineapple are very much real-life characters. If you are ever in Charleston, West Virginia and need a place to stay, we hope you’ll stop by The Brass Pineapple Inn. You won’t be disappointed.
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When Mildred Ruffner and Cindy Newton decided to open a bed and breakfast, they called upon the rich hospitality community in their home state of West Virginia to educate them. “Why, if I can help you avoid the mistakes I made when I opened my inn,” one helpful proprietor told them, “I’d be more than glad. It takes a village, you know.” Mildred and Cindy arranged to meet with and tour several bed and breakfasts near or around their proposed site to see what they could learn. What follows are some notes from Mildred’s journal detailing some of the things they learned on their visits.
Name of bed and breakfast
The Brass Pineapple Inn
Downtown Charleston, West Virginia, in the historic district. Only a half a block away from the state capitol complex. The grounds of the inn are marked by two lovely 100-year-old oak trees. The flowers on the lawn and in the garden are organically grown and provide a nice greenspace to relax in during free time. The covered front porch is another relaxing spot to sip a glass of tea or read a book.
The Inside Scoop (Our Story at The Brass Pineapple):
She answered the door in bare feet, apron-clad.
“I’m sorry for my appearance,” she apologized. “I was just taking a little break from cleaning. I have four rooms to make up for guests tonight.”
She held the door open for us and gave us a welcoming smile. “I’m Lisa Elefritz, owner and operator of The Brass Pineapple Inn.”
“I’m Mildred,” I said. “We spoke on the telephone? And this is my partner Cindy.”
“Just let me get some shoes on, so I look a little more professional,” Lisa said, pulling at her apron, and we followed her through the front dining room and into a cozy sitting room, passing by Victorian antiques and carefully selected art pieces. Lisa bid us sit and she continued into the kitchen, still talking to us.
“Would you like a cup of tea? There are several varieties on the buffet. Help yourself. I keep tea and coffee available at all times for the guests.”
Cindy and I milled across the room, quieted by the cozy atmosphere. The room glowed in the soft light cascading through the stained-glass windows; the antique wood paneling honeyed in the lamplight.
“Imagine the stories these walls could tell,” Cindy whispered, as we perused the teas.
I chose two pretty tea cups from an assortment stacked neatly on the buffet and poured us both some hot water from an electric kettle. We let our teabags steep. We could hear Lisa in the kitchen rustling about, so we followed the noise. We found her at the sink, efficiently finishing off a sink of dishes.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I was in the middle of this … it will just take me a minute to finish up.”
I could see Cindy’s fingers itching to dip in the soapy water to help. A trained pastry chef, Cindy is more comfortable in the kitchen than any other room in the house.
“We can stay in here and talk while you work, if you like,” I offered. Cindy nodded, and grabbed a dish towel. Lisa took the towel from Cindy’s hand and protested.
“No, no, I’m finished here. And I think I’ll have a cup of tea too. Would you like some peach cake? Or a brownie?”
Cindy’s head perked up at the mention of sweets and I knew before she spoke what she would choose.
“A brownie would be lovely!”
Lisa served us each a brownie, poured herself a cup of tea and we all settled back down in the sitting room again. Our host seemed to settle into her chair and become one with it. She gave a deep sigh of relaxation.
“Running a bed and breakfast can be overwhelming,” she said, and took a sip of tea. “Every service we provide… everything we do … has a personal touch. We make every decision with our guests in mind. But I do believe I’ve had a gift for hospitality since I was a child. I grew up in a very old-fashioned home with a mom and grandma who cooked everything from scratch. I do enjoy cooking for people. It can be a lot of work, but I’m doing something I love. Not everyone gets to say that.”
I watched Cindy take a bite of her brownie. I mimicked her cautious nibble, let the cakey bite melt on my tongue. There was nothing but me and the brownie now. I closed my eyes and let the taste of rich chocolate wake up my taste buds. Later, Cindy would tell me that’s why she chose the brownie. “It seems like such a simple thing to make,” she said. “But to make a brownie stand out is a special kind of hat trick.” Lisa Elefritz knew some hat tricks.
“What sets us apart at The Brass Pineapple,” our host was saying, “is definitely the food. I use locally sourced food as much as possible. I’m well versed in gluten-free, vegan, whatever dietary needs there are, I accommodate as much as I can. I’ve been offered jobs from chefs who’ve stayed here—the most famous is Emeril Lagasse. He told me I should open a restaurant.”
As I savored the last bite of my brownie, I thought so too.
Lisa leaned back in her chair and smiled. “Now, tell me how I can help you ladies in your new venture.”
We talked for two hours. Lisa shared some stories and tips on inn-keeping, but the conversation naturally moved across a wide berth of topics. She told us the illustrious history of the inn, its beginnings in 1910 as a family home and the massive restoration that went into the making of a bed and breakfast. We talked about neuroplasticity and how the pandemic may be changing our brains, about mentoring young people and how teaching the art of cooking builds character; Lisa told us the story of how she’d acquired the inn and shared a sorrow from her past. The talk seemed to be a living thing, taking on its own character and lending a sense of comfort and ease.
I looked around at the stained-glass windows and oak paneling, and thought that maybe, indeed, the walls were telling their stories. The house itself seemed to embrace us in a sweet mood of generous hospitality. If a bed and breakfast is about bringing back a gentler time—a time of warm conversation and meeting each other eye to eye, a time of sharing over a hot drink and good food, of caring for others and their creature comforts—I can say The Brass Pineapple Inn is just that.
Off-street parking, free wifi, biodegradable cleaners, no air fresheners or perfumes (excellent for allergy sensitive people), vegan and/or organic dietary options available, as well as other special dietary accommodations, morning breakfast and afternoon tea included, relatively soundproof walls, private bathrooms, comfortable beds (they iron the sheets!), half a block from the capitol complex, and only one mile from downtown restaurants and businesses. For an additional fee, guests may order a packed picnic lunch or special in-room trays for various occasions.
Featured photo by Nicolas Raymond, Creative Commons, via Flickr. In-post photos and post by Laura Boggess.
Special Tea for Your Visit
Special discount available for patrons throughout September, in honor of the release of Mildred’s Garden.
Winner of the West Virginia Writer’s Competition!
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