From law to finanical PR to inn-keeping in New England
In 2006 when we last spoke to Tom Randell, he was a director of a financial PR agency in London (having previously worked at Linklaters). He still has the same job, but six months ago he moved to New Hampshire, USA with his wife and two young children, where they now run the Olde Orchard Inn. He’s updated us on how he manages to live in one place while keeping ties with another; hard work but good fun apparently and he certainly seems to be enjoying himself. You can read about Tom's career in financial PR here.
mtl: Hi Tom, it’s all change since we last spoke to you. How did you go from living in south-east London and working in the City to running an inn in New Hampshire?
Tom: My wife is American and we’d always thought that we’d like to move back to the USA at some point. It became a now or never situation as our children were getting older and the longer we left it, the harder it would have been on them. After ten years in the UK, an inn which we’d previously stayed at came on the market and we decided rather quickly to buy it as a fun way of making the move, rather than because we’d ever planned to run a b&b. So we are now running an inn in New Hampshire, two hours north of Boston and getting ready for our first snowy New England winter
I am still at Merlin PR and I spend a week a month in London seeing clients, having lunches, and very importantly stocking up on tea bags and digestive biscuits. The rest of the month I am based at the inn and am working as normal, in between cooking guest breakfasts and driving tractors around our orchard. Although I’m not generally available in the mornings UK time, I come online at lunch time and can work into the evenings UK time, so the job is doable despite the different time zones. It seems to be working well with clients and the USA connection is proving to be useful as so many businesses today have an eye on what is happening on both sides of the Atlantic.
mtl: Tell us about the inn?
Linkaters trainee in NYC, met wife
2000 – 2010
Working in London
Thought about buying inn
Sold house in London and bought inn
Moved to the USA
Opened Olde Orchard Inn, Moultonborough, New Hampshire
Tom: We are on ten acres in an area rather like the Lake District that is popular with tourists and second home owners. The scenery is spectacular and varied with lakes and mountains and stone walls crossing through the woods from when the area used to be used for raising sheep - making it feel like England. There’s a strong local artistic and arts and crafts community in part as a result of the townies who come here to escape Boston and New York. “On Golden Pond” starring Katharine Hepburn was filmed nearby and she used to eat at the restaurant opposite our apple orchard. I thought I might be bored by the absence of gastro pubs and arts cinemas but I haven’t had a free moment so far.
New Hampshire’s motto is “live free or die” and people here are very self-reliant with an outdoors culture involving constant skiing, biking and hiking and DIY handiness that puts me to shame – I’ve inherited a fantastic workshop in my barn and don’t recognize half the tools let alone know how to use them. I’ve lived in New York before which was great fun and very cosmopolitan but this is a completely different side of America. Living here makes me understand better where the America that doesn’t live in the Big Cities is coming from. It also makes me see how much I and most Brits have in common with other Europeans when they arrive as guests!
When we bought the property we had to do quite a bit of de-cluttering and change it from being a frilly lace curtains kind of b&b into something more friendly and comfortable. We’ve added solar panels and generally spent more than we thought on the refurbishment, though we were able to purchase the inn for less than the price of our comparably tiny south-east London house. The big spending is (hopefully) now over, at least until we get into cider production next year.
We have an orchard, lawns and woods all of which take a lot of time to manage so I’ve been very busy since arriving. Unlike many inns in the local area we are kid friendly, so we have lots of families coming – normally after hearing about us from other guests. Our main marketing so far has come from referrals by friends in the UK and US. Its been surprising how many people have a connection to what we’re doing, whether its through Irish cousins in Boston, a sister in Montreal or a honeymoon already booked in New Hampshire (as with two Norton Rose assistants this summer).
There are a lot of animals here, everything from black bears to deer, moose, beavers (all of whom can at different times be seen strolling around the property) to even mountain lions in the nearby hills. We also have goats, chickens and rabbits for our kids and for visiting children to play with. When we first arrived we were outraged to hear a car alarm disturbing our quiet rural idyll, only to realise days later that we had been listening to the mating call of the local and noisy Spring Peeper frogs.
We have nine b&b rooms and a guest cottage and our guests are international as well as American and a surprisingly eclectic bunch. The American guests are usually surprisingly impressed that I’m a lawyer, a group of people considered both smart and commercially savvy over here – and as a result feared and admired in equal measure. We have a big breakfast table that we brought over from the UK, and everyone sits together in the morning which results in spirited but so far always good natured conversations about politics between the different nationalities.
I’ve had some amusing experiences so far, including having to collect a well-to-do guest from the county jail in the early hours after he was stopped for drink-driving, an Abraham Lincoln impersonator who was too tall for our eighteenth century ceilings and gifts sent by guests, including a beaver hat. I’ve set off fire alarms and evacuated people while cooking my own dinner. And we have some resident ghosts, who tend to be a talking point in the mornings… If it all goes wrong we can always sell up and move on, but so far we are really enjoying building a little bit of Olde England in New England.
mtl: Thank you for the update Tom and good luck!
If you know any other ex-lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives then please get in touch.
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