B.C. Kowalski/City Pages
Lenita Valdez (left) and Chris Carvajal are the new owners of the Everest Inn, a bed and breakfast in Wausau’s Andrew Warren Historic District.
It was during this summer’s Chalkfest weekend when Lenita Valdez and Chris Carvajal came up to Wausau from El Paso, Texas to visit relatives. During their stay, they happened by the Everest Inn, where a “for sale” sign was propped in the yard.
Two months and one 24-hour drive from El Paso later, they found themselves the new owners of the historic bed and breakfast, a gorgeous Victorian home just north of downtown, built in 1908.
The new owners don’t plan to change much of the successful bed and breakfast model that David and Lori Torkko ran for 19 years, Valdez says. But they do hope to build upon that success with new amenities. One good example: beer and cheese packages people can add to their experience. Valdez joked with a visitor who told her she picked up on Wisconsin culture quickly. They’ve also built a new website and expanded the online services through which guests can reserve a room.
Valdez comes with a bevy of experience in hospitality, real estate and food service, most recently leaving behind a food cart truck in El Paso. Valdez is the perfect person to take over the business, David Torkko says. “We expect Lenita to continue the legacy of enthusiastic guest care,” Torkko posted on the Inn’s Facebook page.
The learning curve hasn’t been easy. Valdez and Carvajal drove non-stop from Texas to sign the papers on the Everest Inn. The next morning, after just a few hours of sleep, Valdez sleepily followed Lori Torkko throughout the Inn, trying to quickly learn the ropes that the Torkkos have used in their nearly two decades of owning the business.
The cooking part? That’s no problem, Valdez says. In addition to running a food truck in El Paso, she also worked as a cook in the U.S. Army. And guests are always welcome to join Valdez and Carvajal for any meal, she says.
Besides entertaining vacationers, some of the nine rooms in the Everest Inn host long-term guests. Valdez says a couple of students attending classes at the Medical College of Wisconsin stay there, as does one of its professors. Bed and breakfast inns are common places for people needing long-term stays because they’re usually more comfortable than a hotel room, and feel a lot more like home.
The new innkeepers say the biggest deciding factor in buying the property was the amazing array of antiques included in the sale. The Everest Inn’s three floors are filled with rare pieces that remind Valdez of her mother, who died in 2015. And, in an unexpected twist of fate, the numbers in the sale price perfectly matched the date of Valdez’s mother’s birthday. Valdez took it as a sign. “It was like she was saying, OK, you’ll be fine,” she says.
The antiques make her feel at home, Valdez says, and her personal goal is to convey that to her guests at the Inn. “Guests have told me they feel like they’re at home,” she says. “I want everyone to feel like that: Welcome and comfortable.”