In early May, we shared the challenging news that due to COVID-19, Christopher Lukas Bellis, Class of 1981, had to close down his Bed & Breakfast in scenic North Conway, N.H. This week we are delighted to share Christopher’s good news—that the Cranmore Inn will be able to accept guests from the State of New Hampshire beginning Friday, June 5. In addition, guests from out of state may stay at the Cranmore if they have completed a 14-day quarantine prior to their arrival. Christopher said there are limitations on the use of indoor common areas and the hot tub and other guidelines that guests will need to review at https://cranmoreinn.com/covid-19-update/.
Here is the story we posted on our website in May, just after the inn had to close.
Nearly eight years ago, Christopher Lukas Bellis, Class of 1981, started living the dream as an owner of a Bed & Breakfast in scenic North Conway, N.H.
However this March, because of COVID-19, Christopher and his husband, Eddie Bennett, were forced to close the doors to their Cranmore Inn.
For Christopher, his journey from Hamden Hall to innkeeper has been filled with creative and interesting twists and turns.
After his 1981 graduation, Christopher enrolled in the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Although he left college in 1983, he remained in Williamsburg and worked as restaurant manager at Hardee’s for five years.
In 1988, he returned to William & Mary and in 1990, he earned a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in theater and international relations.
After college, Christopher moved back to Connecticut, wanting to be closer to his family while also pursuing a career in the performing arts. He enjoyed directing some local theatre productions while also working at Long Wharf Theatre as a production assistant and in the box office.
In 1994, Christopher decided to further his education and began a Master of Fine Arts program at Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C,
While enrolled at CUA Christopher met Eddie. In 1996, they exchanged vows in a commitment ceremony; in 2004, they registered as domestic partners; in 2007, they held a civil union ceremony; and in 2012, they were finally allowed to legally marry.
After earning his MFA from CUA in 1997, Christopher and Eddie moved to New Jersey so that Christopher could pursue a directing career in New York City. But to “to pay the bills” while he directed productions on the side, he landed a job as a fundraiser.
“My career as fundraiser took off, and I worked at a number of different non-profits from 1997 to 2014 with increasing responsibilities culminating in working for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England as vice president of development from 2012 to 2014,” Christopher said.
In the interim, Christopher and Eddie became parents. They adopted two children in 2007: Daughter Sherie was just 11 days old and son David was 2 at the time.
“Eddie was a stay-at-home dad for the first five years and then we decided to purchase a Bed & Breakfast. We found the Cranmore Inn and purchased it in September 2012,” Christopher recalled.
By 2014, Christopher said he was “primarily an innkeeper” but continued to consult for non-profits including Planned Parenthood.
Fast forward to 2020 and Christopher is now the president of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. He also takes “great pride” as the founder of White Mountains Pride—a dedicated group of volunteers from local towns and businesses with a mission of bringing celebration, education, empowerment, and inclusion to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, friends, and family in the region.
The White Mountains Pride planning committee formed in the summer of 2018 with the idea of creating the area's first LGBTQ Pride celebration. The results of a community wide survey demonstrated an enthusiastic support for the creation of a Festival and Pride Week. According to its website, “It is our vision that The White Mountains Pride Week and Festival become an annual tradition that grows in size, spirit, and success of mission each year.”
Most recently, Christopher weighed in on Facebook when he was invited to join the New Hampshire Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy.
The page reads, “The COVID-19 crisis has wide reaching impacts on Granite Staters’ health and ability to make ends meet. We will be lifting up the experiences of NH people like Christopher, and urging lawmakers to support policies that can have a real impact.”
In response, Christopher wrote: “My husband and I own and operate the Cranmore Inn Bed and Breakfast in North Conway. Like so many other New Hampshire businesses, we closed down this March when COVID-19 started driving people indoors. But our guests, who come from all over the world, began to cancel reservations in February. We have yet to see reservations come in for later this year.
In travel and tourism, there are always lulls in business. We plan for it. But this is uncharted territory, and we are forced to navigate a world of unknowns without clear and consistent information. It’s so difficult to figure out how to move forward when you have no idea what you are planning for, and in what timeline. It’s important that people know what programs are available to them, and that those programs do what we need them to. Applying for a PPP loan has allowed us to continue to pay three full-time employees for the time being. But we had to lay off our part-time employees, because it seemed as if unemployment benefits could provide more for them than we are able at the moment. However, my understanding is that they have yet to see the additional money that the federal government has promised to add to that benefit. Car payments, mortgages, cell phone bills are still coming in. People desperately need this income.
And for business owners like my husband who have no other source of income, who get paid not by payroll but through business profit and pay taxes at the end of the year, unemployment benefits are incredibly difficult to navigate. My husband has been denied three times. I worry for people who own very small businesses who have applied for this benefit, and have yet to see any income from it. We are not doing enough for those families, and I don’t know what things will look like for them when we come out of this.
We are doing okay. Things might be different if we cannot open six months from now. I know some businesses in our industry who have said that if they cannot reopen by summer, they will need to permanently close their doors. And when our economy does finally reopen, what will this look like for businesses in travel and tourism? Will we need to take guests temperatures and test them before they check in, so as not to risk the health of our staff and guests? And will these benefits last until it’s again safe to open? I don’t know."
Hamden Hall thanks Christopher for sharing his experiences. We wish him the best and look forward to getting an update when the inn reopens. For now, enjoy a visit at www.cranmoreinn.com.