Restoring the Past, Designing the Future
The New, Modern Take on General Sutter Inn
“Some things happen by design, others by destiny. This was definitely by destiny,” said David Stoudt, new owner of of The General Sutter Inn and Bulls Head Public House. He and his wife, Susan Hovenden, acquired the Lititz landmark, and through their thoughtful and articulate design created a chic new space within it.
In March 2017, the couple purchased the General Sutter Inn and Bulls Head Pub after the previous owner, Paul Pendyck, approached them about it. Hovenden is a doctor and Stoudt is the CEO and president of Stoudt Advisors, a benefits and consulting brokerage firm, so the restaurant biz seemed outside of their realm. But wanting to continue the legacy of the space, the regulars embarked on a new chapter for this special place at the heart of their community.
General Sutter Inn is deeply rooted in the history of Lititz, spanning before the town’s official establishment in 1776. It went into business in 1764 under the name of the “Zum Anker Inn” (the sign of the anchor) and in the 1930s became known as the General Sutter Inn, named after John Augustus Sutter, a California Gold Rush pioneer who lived in town.
Stoudt and Hovenden had big plans for the restaurant and inn while still wanting to pay homage to its history. When it came time for renovations, they knew they had to involve the community in the process. They placed design boards by Beers and Hoffman Architects in the General Sutter lobby and heard the candid responses of their community members. From the negative to positive, Stoudt and Hovenden took it all in so they could respect and reflect on what their patrons wanted. “We knew we had the right design, when the people stopped saying anything,” Stoudt said. “We wanted to make it a local effort and roll out this project with confidence. I really think people wanted to see change.”
They started from the inside out. The first year of renovations and changes involved improvements for the staff, all of which were offered their same jobs after the sale. It included air conditioning added to the kitchen, health benefits for employees and a new walk-in fridge, to name a few.
This year, they turned to the dining room and 16 hotel rooms. Fusing contemporary and classic, the dark cocktail lounge of yore attached to the dining room was elevated with muted pop-art inspired portraits of John Augustus Sutter and Queen Elizabeth II. “There’s a portrait of my mother,” joked England native Hovenden, as she pointed to the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II during a tour of the space.
The room is filled with eclectic touches including a golden bronze bulls head as a nod to its sister: Bulls Head Public House. Throughout the cocktail lounge, the gold-flecked wallpaper features a subtle microphone pattern, in a funky yet elegant tribute to Rock Lititz and the Clair Brothers who installed a new sound system throughout the Sutter’s dining room and banquet hall. “We knew we had to change and brighten up the space and modernize,” said Stoudt.
In the cocktail lounge, Stoudt and Hovenden split tap lines with the Bulls Head Public House in order to provide the full beer selection in the cocktail lounge. They even expanded their wine list and hired a mixologist to develop 15 new signature mixed drinks for the General Sutter dining room, making it the perfect date night spot. As you move from the cocktail area to the dining room, there is a Mondrian-inspired partition in an elegant neutral color scheme, allowing for separation yet effortless flow between the spaces. Keeping its traditional roots, the dining room still features the original brightly-colored stained glass windows with their playful tulip design.
The iconic Bulls Head pub is a communal hub for Lititz natives. It was nationally recognized as the top beer bar in the country by the readers of 10Best.com, a travel website of USA Today. When the talk of renovations for the inn began, Stoudt knew he already had the winning formula for the English-inspired pub straight out of Liverpool. “You’re never really alone here. You can take a break, be human, put the phone down and just be here,” said Stoudt. “Our bartenders and staff have been trained to interact with people: engage them, and create a unique experience.”
The old inn has gone through many iterations in its long history. And through destiny, Stoudt and Hovenden have become woven into its story. Respecting its past, but moving it forward into the future.
By: Allison Rohland