Welcome to the inn: Under new owners, Hatfield’s renovated Old Mill Inn, new cafe is a draw

  • The Old Mill Inn on School Street in Hatfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A suite in the Old Mill Inn in Hatfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Biscuits made and served at the Old Mill Inn in Hatfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Biscuits made and served at the Old Mill Inn in Hatfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The Old Mill Inn on School Street in Hatfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A suite in the Old Mill Inn in Hatfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bill and Priscilla Ennis, visiting from Townsend, and Marcia Wojewoda, in the cafe at the Old Mill Inn in Hatfield. “This is my first time but I plan to come back, its wonderful to have a like this in town,” said Wojewoda. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Meaghan Killeen, front left, holds Peyton Killeen, with back left, Justin Killeen and Bill Wooldridge, all owners of The Old Mill Inn in Hatfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Marcia Hayes, Meghan Arquin and Shannon Blomstrom are cafe managers at the Old Mill Inn in Hatfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A suite in the Old Mill Inn in Hatfield. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Marcia Hayes, a cafe manager at the Old Mill Inn in Hatfield, puts out baked goods Friday morning, Jan. 28. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/2/2022 2:05:54 PM

HATFIELD — At the Old Mill Inn, water flowing over the neighboring dam, even when ice and snow cover the Mill River, is part of the sights and sounds for overnight guests.

While those staying at the 19th-century grist mill have long experienced the proximity to the building’s one-time power source, welcoming the public daily for breakfast and lunch at the Old Mill Cafe is a new concept introduced by the owners who bought the property last year.

After purchasing the 87 School St. site in January 2021 and making extensive renovations, Justin Killeen of Leverett and Bill Wooldridge of Northampton reopened the building in May and, so far, have been delighted with the response to the lodging and dining they are providing.

“It’s a beautiful property and we saw a lot of opportunity here,” says Killeen, who previously ran the 50/50 Fitness Studio in Hadley.

Killeen and Wooldridge, a retired professor in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, met at the fitness studio and were in part inspired to buy the inn after it was featured on a segment of “Chronicle” on Boston’s WCVB.

“We played around with the idea, but went into it thinking it was a long shot,” Wooldridge said.

“We knew we had the ability to work with people, to be hands-on and to be in it for the long term,” Killeen said. “But we had to gauge what it would look like on the other side.”

Once a decision was made to buy the site, they threw themselves into the project. In the initial months after acquiring the property that dates to 1881, once known as the Shattuck Gun Factory, they spent time “refurbishing everything,” as Wooldridge puts it, installing new floors and freshening up the 9,000 square feet of space spread out over three floors.

“It was ripe for renovation,” Wooldridge said. “It’s a challenging building to upkeep due to its age and the quirks to it.”

Killeen said much of the property was stripped down and rebuilt from the floors up, using a more consistent theme that embraces the building’s industrial past. This was done by exposing the brick, metals and beams, rather than hiding them.

“Each room is unique and has its own character,” Killeen said of the nine rooms and three suites, which have various amenities such as kitchenettes. The suites are positioned alongside the falls so that guests can have the full experience of being in an old mill.

The businessmen bought prints from the Hatfield Historical Society that now hang in hallways and in the main dining room to show what the building’s interior and exterior once look like, including at the times when pistols and spark plugs were made. The mill’s wheel that powered remains intact at the bottom of the building.

While the Old Mill Inn has been a bed and breakfast for the past 16 years, after earlier being the longtime offices of the Valley Advocate newspaper, Killeen and Wooldridge wanted the place to be more of a hotel, and also have the cafe open to the public. Breakfast and lunch are served daily, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Old Mill Cafe and Bar.

Local ingredients make up the menu, whether the sandwich specials, like turkey bacon ranch wrap or a ham and cheddar croissant, a series of breakfast sandwiches, biscuits and muffins, soups and salads and Rao’s coffee.

By spring, they hope to have a covered outdoor patio and deck that will bring patrons even closer to the falls.

Killeen and Wooldridge said they are finding that many of the visitors are coming for local attractions, whether visiting downtown Northampton, less than a 10-minute drive, or South Deerfield attractions such as Yankee Candle and the recently opened Treehouse Brewing. Others may be attending events in the area, or are local people seeking a quick escape in the time of COVID-19.

“There are a lot of people who just want to get away for a night or two,” Killeen said.

Wooldridge said the foliage season was particularly busy. “This is very beautiful here in the fall,” Wooldridge said.

Meantime, the business partners have also bought the nearby Double B’s at 4 Prospect Court and are in the process of rehabilitating that historic building as well. With the town considering investing Community Preservation Act money in a long-closed bridge nearby, if that comes to pass the two properties can more easily be tied together, with guests able to take a short jaunt to what they envision will be a new pizza bar and casual dining establishment.

The Old Mill Inn employs about 12 people. Both owners appreciate how receptive Hatfield officials have been.

Though they didn’t know what to expect, there hadn’t been a slow period until the new year. “They’re finding us over and over again,” Killeen said.

Wooldridge attributes this to guests wanting something out of the ordinary. “People are looking for boutique places,” Wooldridge said.

Even with little time to catch their breath, Killeen said the past year has been enjoyable.

“Our major focus has been on getting up and running,” Killeen said. “It’s been fun.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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