By Leah Etling
Innkeepers Dave and Katie Pollock, owners of ForFriends Inn in Santa Ynez, had never been in the hospitality business before they bought the small bed-and-breakfast property. But they had stayed in many B&Bs while traveling the U.S. and Europe and, as guests, they knew it was the details that make or break a stay.
“Our model is to make it very comfortable and inviting, as if they were coming to our own home,” said Dave Pollock. “This is an authentic B&B for socially active couples that want to come up and have a wine country insider’s experience.”
Each guest receives a “Friendship Pass” that serves as their passport to 40 local wine-tasting experiences, offering two-for-one tastings and discounts at local restaurants, shops and attractions.
“We bring thousands of people to the valley each year, and it’s our distinct privilege to help them become insiders and find out what all the cool things are to do and the history of this place. We are very proud to be part of the Santa Ynez Valley,” Pollock said.
In the heart of Santa Ynez at 1121 Edison St., next to the Red Barn, the inn looks like a private home from the street but includes seven comfortable rooms, most with fireplaces, and one stand-alone cottage.
At the heart of the ForFriends experience is connection and conversation. The inn staff members learn the names of each guest and introduce them to one another upon arrival. A hosted afternoon happy hour with cookies and cordials as well as communal breakfast are chances to chat and make new friends. The three-course breakfast, served at two large dining tables, includes fruit, homemade granola, and an egg dish.
“One of our taglines is ‘Arrive as guests, leave as friends,’” Pollock noted. “We really designed the whole operation to live up to that tag.”
Guests can borrow a picnic basket to take along on their wine-tasting adventure or get help with private wine tour reservations, and everyone receives a personal thank-you note on departure.
The Pollocks purchased the inn in partnership with another couple five years ago and then bought out their former partners at the beginning of 2017. Pollock has recently worked to increase the property’s digital marketing presence, and he notes that the days of hanging out a vacancy sign – even in a small town – are long gone.
Guests have responded to the personal touch, rating ForFriends 5-out-of-5 on both TripAdvisor and Yelp, an impressive feat.
“From the moment we arrived we were treated like friends and honored guests,” wrote a recent visitor from Massachusetts.
“The name describes the feeling that you get there perfectly. It’s like staying at your best friends’ or relatives’ home where you feel welcome beyond words,” wrote another from New York.
For more information: www.forfriendsinn.com.