Tom Amello wants nothing more than to share his passion and knowledge of Thoroughbred racing and handicapping with a captive audience. He might have the perfectly engaged crowd on any given summer morning now that he and his wife Renee and daughter Kate are the soon-to-be owners of the Brunswick Bed & Breakfast just across from Saratoga Race Course.
Amello, who started his popular Trackfacts tip sheet in the late 1980s and continues to provide handicapping services on a variety of platforms, also knows there might not be a more disappointed crowd at the breakfast table the morning after a rough day at the races. So, long story short, don’t expect Amello to try and push too many winners on the Brunswick guests during the Spa meeting.
“However you want to play this; it’s one thing to be like the Lone Ranger and you have a seminar and you give your picks,” Amello joked last month over coffee in downtown Saratoga. “It’s another thing to show up the next day and put breakfast on their table when you went 0-for-9.”
The Amellos hope they have a winner in the Brunswick, a Gothic Victorian built in the late 1800s almost on the corner of Union and Nelson Avenues next door to the Brook Tavern and across the street from the Saratoga Reading Room. They will buy the historic B&B, and an adjoining property at 145 Union Avenue, from longtime owner and operator C. Kirk Nichols through a sale that should close before the end of March.
The purchase of the Brunswick goes far beyond an interest in Saratoga and racing for Tom Amello.
Kate Amello, a human-resources professional with certification from Cornell University in hotel and restaurant management and will soon earn an associates degree in culinary arts, is the former innkeeper at the famous Batchellor Mansion in Saratoga. According to a note Nichols sent guests last month, the Batchellor Mansion’s “Tripadvisor ranking, an important industry barometer, rose from fifth to third among B&Bs in Saratoga” during Kate Amello’s tenure at the historic inn at the corner of Circular Street and Whitney Place.
The Amello’s interest in running a B&B started several years ago, like it does for many people that consider a job change, after a professional life-altering moment.
“I’ve been an HR professional for 20-plus years and the last company I’d worked for merged with another, my position was eliminated and then I was offered something much different and a much different salary,” Kate Amello said. “It made me reflect on life and ask, ‘what am I doing, where am I going?’ I don’t want to say it was a midlife crisis so to speak, but it did give me the opportunity to take a pause.
“Around that time my parents had come up and stayed Union Gables (B&B in Saratoga Springs) for their anniversary and mentioned to the owner that I was interested in getting into the business. He was kind enough to share that there was an organization out there for innkeepers and that we should look into it. It’s called PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers International). They had an upcoming event that January in Charleston, South Carolina. We looked into it and my dad and I went. After that I was sold.”
The Amellos settled on the Brunswick after looking at several other properties in Saratoga Springs, along with others in Lake Placid and Cape Cod. Some were existing B&Bs, others large homes they considered converting into businesses pending local approval.
The idea really took hold when Tom Amello, a fixture at Saratoga Race Course and former host of a daily handicapping program on the Capital OTB network, called his daughter walking out the track one afternoon.
“The dream started about four years ago,” Kate Amello said. “It actually kicked of because my father called me from the track because of the Schrade House in the Wright Street lot on Nelson Ave.”
Tom Amello parks his car in the Wright Street lot during the meet.
“I’d become friendly with the innkeeper there, the owner,” he said. “They probably had four rooms. We thought about it, but it wasn’t quite right. One of the things that we had talked about was, ‘if this is going to happen, we kind of have to have a situation where the three of us can live in the same place.’ But we want something where we can avoid being on top of each other. Something with some space.”
The situation at the Brunswick will allow that. Tom and Renee Amello plan to live in the property next door, which could also double for necessary kitchen or office space. Kate Amello will work and live out the main Brunswick property.
Kate Amello will work double duty initially, continuing in her current position as the human resources director for the City of Saratoga Springs while handling innkeeper duties and the weekend cooking. Tom and Renee Amello, who are experienced in the food business as former owners of a diner in the northern Adirondack Mountains while Tom was teaching high school English and coaching basketball, will initially handle the cooking during the week.
The new owners plan to do some renovation to the Brunswick – refurbishing the floors, adding a fresh coat of paint, updating and “changing the rooms a bit to make it to today’s travelers’ standards,” Kate Amello said. They also plan to update the inn’s website and get started on some additional marketing initiatives.
The new owners hope to re-open the Brunswick sometime in May with an open house for the community tentatively scheduled for early June, Kate Amello said.
Tom Amello said he hoped to rename the inn’s 10 rooms, which all offer private bathrooms and are currently listed alphabetically and numerically, to honor notable horseplayers, racetrack personalities and others tied to racing in Saratoga.
“The Brunswick was the closest that was turnkey to all the places we looked at,” Tom Amello said. “Kirk was willing to sell the property, almost everything inside except his personal stuff. What was either a deal maker or deal breaker, he had just bought 145 (Union Avenue). … So this is a two-parcel deal. It will allow us to live in separate places, one here and one next door.
Besides the above-mentioned renovations and changes, not much else needs to be done at the Brunswick, unless you count plans for the summer racing season.
“What’s nice about this, because my father does have the racing connection, slowly people are learning through word of mouth what we’re doing,” Kate Amello said. “We joke all the time that maybe he’ll offer little seminars, not in the main B&B but maybe next door on the porch.”
And with any luck, a few winners will be given out to avoid that awkward breakfast conversation.