Photo by Neil Strebig
A view from the sun room at the Parador Inn along Western Avenue in Allegheny West.
By Neil Strebig
Green geckos camouflage themselves against the near wall. Vibrant red parrots fly across the far ceiling stopping abruptly before colliding into a stone-faced monkey hidden in the wallpaper canopy. These hand painted creatures are just another one of the many secret treasures tucked away inside Northside’s only tropical getaway; Allegheny West’s Parador Inn.
“I bought a lot of these impressive antiques from the previous owner. I bought a Victorian house. I bought Victorian antiques and I thought ‘a Victorian bed and breakfast? How boring, everybody does that’ so I figured why not give it a tropical twist,” current owner Ed Menzer said. “It sets me apart. We get a lot of people just for that reason.”
The Parador Inn is located on Western Avenue in a building built by Joshua Rhodes in the 1870s.
Menzer inherited the building over 10 years ago and knew immediately that he found a “gem.” He still keeps in contact with Rhodes’ great granddaughter, Wendy Rhodes-McAllister, who thanked Menzer in an e-mail for “honoring” her ancestor by “restoring his home.”
Menzer, a South Hills native, has spent his entire life in the hospitality industry, immersing himself in every aspect of it, and now serves as the president of the Western Association, the secretary of the Pittsbu
rgh Association, and board member of the state association for the Pa. Association of Bed & Breakfasts and Inns. He is also working on finishing a book (the Ins & Outs of Innkeeping is the unofficial title) about the hotel and hospitality industry.
Yet, his pride and joy, his bed and breakfast’s greatest achievement, is the ability to bring a personalized paradise to his guests and patrons.
“My guests are wonderful,” Menzer said. “People become family.”
Working with an exclusively small team, including housemates, RJ and Rayzett which are a pair of black labs that join Menzer as the hotel’s only permanent residents, Menzer is quick to brand his inn’s success based on the trust he has for his employees. He proudly boasts about Dee Spencer, who’s been working with him for nine years.
“She is such an extrovert with the guests,” he said.
He happily recalls a story about Dee’s, seven-year old son, who turned from a shy little kid to an extroverted host like his mother.
It is the little things like that and the tiny details that make the Parador such an amazing getaway.
It all begins in the breezeway, Menzer’s favorite room, which features hand-crafted leather in the ceiling and the single-wood panel walls, that are an architectural rarity even by 20th century standards. As you pace through the handcrafted wood hallways you can see the amount of care and precision Menzer and Co. put into their award-winning inn.
You may wish to relax by the living room’s fire place, sipping down a glass of port as the only original piece of furniture, a petite grandfather clock, stares back at you from its resting place above the fireplace.
Perhaps, history and desert wine are not your forte. That’s just fine, just around the bend guests can escape to the sun room, a vibrant jungle of Menzer’s own personal collection of vegetation he brought back with him from his days in South Palm Beach, Florida. A hand-crafted steel drum sits silently waiting for a new visitor to pound out its next foot-stomping rhythm.
By the time you march up the wooden stair cases to one of the nine bedrooms, each named after a tropical plant, the natural illumination and vibrant color schemes will have you forgetting about your work problems, kicking your shoes off and letting out that lavish sigh of relaxation.
Soon the sweet smell of banana pancakes may trickle its way up the stairs drawing your attention back down to the first floor’s library and dining room. Guests gather around the six-seat dining room table, where Menzer personally cooks and serves an assortment of delicious breakfast treats.
Menzer gets up at 5:30 a.m. in order to prepare patrons a healthy and unique meal to start the day. Although, the most impressive moment shared at the dining room table is the personal interactions between traveling strangers.
“I get a lot of pleasure when I see strangers at my table, exchanging emails because they had such a good time,” Menzer said.
Guests look at Menzer with child-like appreciation for helping them achieve such a getaway. Yet, sitting at the dining table your eye might just catch another hidden treasure just outside the window, a handcrafted Aztec sundial with the Spanish word Parador carved into it.
The sundial sits at the far end of the luscious courtyard that looks more like a portion of San Juan than Northside, aiding to remind guests that this isn’t your average bed & breakfast and Menzer doesn’t provide your average stop and stay. He mentioned how guests have camped out in the courtyard before to enjoy the summer weather.
“I have a lot of amazing space and a lot of it.”
The Parador boasts a 65 percent occupancy rate, which is higher than the average 40 percent rate most B&B’s have.
Menzer is currently working on rebranding his online reservation system, something that will help improve his already impressive occupancy rate, and with online travel agencies he is expecting sellouts to become a “regular occurrence.”
Menzer has made it a point to help partner with local eateries and business to help promote not only his Inn, but also the Northside itself.
“I think we’re at the tipping point to where this place (Northside) is going to explode,” Menzer said.
The Parador Inn is open seven days a week. For more information visit the official website or call 412-231-4800.