A Happy Accident: Our Guest House Renovation

One of the most exciting happenings at the Walla Faces Vineyard this season was the recent opening of our newly renovated guest house! However, it was somewhat of a last-minute addition to our spring to-do list…

In February, what you might call a “deep freeze” hit the Walla Walla valley. The winter’s icy temperatures were perfect for winemaking, and made a unique contribution to the production of our new rosé–but unfortunately, they were not so kind to our guest house. Before long, we discovered that a pipe had frozen and burst, flooding the building and ruining the floor, walls, and some furniture.

A team from local First Choice Restoration, led by Randy Wisdom, was there doing cleanup within the hour. Meanwhile, owners Rick and Debbie decided to turn the mess into an opportunity.

Instead of a mere reconstruction, the guest house received a full remodel, to give it an updated, cleaner, and more sophisticated atmosphere. It boasts all new drywall and a new white-washed oak floor. A larger, tiled fireplace is the centerpiece of the rearranged living room, while the bathroom has brand new tiling and fixtures. The updated space is airy, modern, and luxurious.

Our guest house was already one of our favorite places at the Vineyard. It is the largest available space, with a full kitchen and a hot tub. Even better, the windows and private patio have spectacular views of the vineyards and surrounding Blue Mountains. Now it’s more beautiful than ever, and it’s hard to think of a more peaceful place to spend a vacation.

Thank you, February! It turns out that pipe bursting was the best thing that could have happened to our guest house after all.

If you want to see the new space, now is a great time to book it for a few days! Go to http://www.wallafaces.com/hotels/ for details.

L’Occitane en Provence

When you check in to one of our hotel rooms, you’ll soon notice that we don’t stock our bathrooms with no-name soaps or shampoos. We believe that our guests deserve the best, so we use L’Occitane en Provence health and beauty products in our suites.

L’Occitane, of course, makes high-quality products, which is one reason we’re proud to carry them. But in addition to that, the L’Occitane company is an example of a business dedicated to important social causes. Today, we’d like to share the L’Occitane story, so you can know more about the bath products we offer at Walla Faces.

A wide selection of the L'Occitane products we stock in our hotel suites

From soaps to fizzy bath cubes, we’re proud to offer a wide variety of L’Occitane products.

The Origins of L’Occitane

L’Occitane began in the tiny local markets of Provence, France. In 1976, founder Oliver Baussan, only 23 years old, reoccupied an old soap-making factory to follow his passion for traditional Marseille-style soap-making. Using a distillation still, he extracted the essential oils from wild rosemary and used it to make shampoo. A year later, L’Occitane expanded and reserved its very first harvest of lavender.

Four years later, Oliver began traveling the world, coming into contact with exotic new ingredients. He fell in love with the shea butter made in Burkina Faso, Africa and ordered a large shipment.

The little-company-that-could continued to expand, and in 1990 became a fragrance merchant. In 1992, L’Occitane en Provence opened its first boutique location in Paris, and by 1997, the company had also opened various other boutique fronts in other major cities such as New York, Hong Kong and Japan. As of 2012, L’Occitane had over 2,000 stores internationally.

A Brand with a Conscience

L’Occitane isn’t just committed to producing luxurious soaps and fragrances—it’s also dedicated to numerous social causes. For instance, in 2001, L’Occitane began a partnership with Orbis, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), to fight blindness in developing countries. The French company was even one of the first in the world to feature labeling in Braille on its bath products.

In 2006, L’Occitane created the L’Occitane Foundation. This philanthropic organization exists to support the blind and visually impaired, and to fight for the international economic emancipation of women. In particular, the L’Occitane Foundation supports efforts toward these goals in Burkina Faso, where Oliver Baussan first fell in love with shea butter. The United Nations Development Programme has even recognized L’Occitane as an “exemplary company”!

If that weren’t enough, L’Occitane also takes steps to encourage traditional cultivation of the ingredients in its products, doesn’t conduct animal testing, and purchases shea butter directly from women in Burkina Faso, earning their products the Ecocert “Fair Trade” certification. Clearly, L’Occitane is a brand with a conscience.

When you come to visit us in Walla Walla, you can feel reinvigorated by the indulgent L’Occitane products we feature, like zesty citrus verbena shampoo, or effervescent sugar cubes designed to make your baths that much more relaxing. But more than that, you can take comfort in the fact that the products you’re using come to us from Provence, France, home of a socially responsible brand!

Eager to enjoy a luxurious stay in our hotels? Learn more and make reservations here. For more information on the history of L’Occitane en Provence, check out their timeline and brand page.

The History of the “Walla Walla Inns at Historic Downtown”

The Walla Faces Inn at Historic Downtown is housed in one of the oldest, most prominent buildings in Walla Walla: the Hungate Building.

Erected in 1905, this building has stood on as Walla Walla has progressed from a rural farming town to a bustling, elegant destination.

The Washington Territory was created in 1853 and Walla Walla County was created a mere year later. Subsequently, the city of Walla Walla was laid out by the surveyor H. H. Chase in 1859. The property is a part of the oldest patent in Walla Walla, dated from 1861, which was before Walla Walla was incorporated as a city. Its first owners were A. J. Cain, the newspaper financier and Walla Walla prosecuting attorney who was known as “the Father of Columbia County”, and A. H. Reynolds, who established Walla Walla’s first bank. The area housed a grain warehouse in 1884, an agricultural supply store in 1888, and a blacksmith shop in 1894. Although these small businesses fit the needs of the rural farming community, some local businessmen had grander ideas.

In 1903, the property was purchased by Harrison H. Hungate, an educated farmer who served as the Walla Walla County treasurer. The area that now houses a bustling downtown was rows of stables and Hungate had to seek permission of the livestock owners to build his two-story building. As soon as the ink was dry on his contract, Hungate got to work.

Hungate employed an architect named Henry Osterman, a German immigrant who designed many of the prominent buildings in Walla Walla, including the Whitman College Administration building, Green Park Elementary, Sharpstein Elementary, Liberty Theater, and Carnegie Library.

Osterman immigrated to the United States in 1889, where he worked as a carpenter. On the side, he designed his own house and learned to speak English. His skilled work garnered so much attention that he was able to open an architectural firm in 1899. According to the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Osterman designed “practically all the important business and office buildings in the city, together with many of the finer residences”.

The exterior of the Hungate Building in historic downtown Walla Walla

The Hungate Building in historic downtown Walla Walla, home to Walla Faces

Construction began in 1904 and the Walla Walla Hotel was finally erected in 1905 with the same address that the Walla Faces Hotel at Historic Downtown holds today: 214 East Main. When Hungate died in 1916, his daughters split inn property equally. It was kept in the family until 1972, when its ownership again came into flux. The Hungate Building hosted a variety of short-lived businesses ranging from ice cream to barber shops.

Rick and Debbie Johnson, the Walla Faces owners, purchased the Hungate Building in 2005, continuing the building’s historical tradition as one of the most prestigious hotels in the Walla Walla Valley.

Want to see it for yourself? Check out our Hotels page for more information about the Hungate Building’s latest evolution and to make a reservation!

Science Says You Probably Need a Vacation

If you’ve been postponing a vacation to the Walla Walla Valley, you might not want to delay much longer! The scientific literature suggests that taking a brief holiday may not only help reduce stress, but promote health and intelligence.

If you’ve been procrastinating on taking a trip, you’re not alone. Americans earn fewer vacation days than workers in other countries. Despite this, the average American worker leaves 17% of their vacation days unused at the end of the year. A full 25% of Americans take no vacations at all. This is unfortunate, since taking some time off from everyday stress is an important step in taking care of yourself.

Need a vacation? This is the view from the Walla Faces Pool Suite at the vineyard.

The view from the Walla Faces Pool Suite at the vineyard.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life, the best thing you can do to increase your happiness is to plan a vacation. On average, planning a vacation boosted happiness for a full eight weeks. This works just as well for small trips as it does for big trips! Because the anticipation was so key to the effects on happiness, the researchers noted that a few trips may be better than one big, long one. Once you get back, your boosted mood will last for an average of two more weeks. That means that a weekend getaway from, say, Seattle to Walla Walla could make a really big difference for your stress level, adding up to nearly ten weeks of reduced stress!

Among men who are at high risk of coronary heart disease, taking a vacation decreased their chances of having a heart attack by a full 32%. Women showed even more startling results: Women who vacation twice a year are eight times less likely to have a heart attack than women who vacation once every six years. Studies have show that vacations can do everything from lowering your blood pressure to boosting your immune system.

Vacations also increase job productivity when you do get back to work. There is even some evidence that a good vacation will boost your IQ. (Hardly a surprise, given the neurological evidence that stress may shrink parts of the human brain.) Luckily, a few days away in the Walla Walla Valley is an easy solution…

To make a reservation at the Walla Faces Inns and start planning your vacation, click here.

A Night At the Walla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown

In an attempt to get a customer-eye view of the Walla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown, I spent the night in the gorgeous Suite 4. (It’s a hard life.) In an evening punctuated by tickets to the Powerhouse Theater and a three course meal at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, the highlight of my evening was still the Walla Faces bathtub.

Although the Walla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown was first opened in 2006, the historical building has been a part of the Walla Walla landscape since it was built in 1904. Walla Faces owners Rick and Debbie Johnson bought the property in 2006 and transformed it into the perfect mix of modern design and old-fashioned touches. Since its inception, the Walla Faces Inns have received rave reviews from travelers and a 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. The rooms overlook the quaint Walla Walla Main Street, within walking distance of both amazing restaurants and countless wine tasting rooms (including the Walla Faces Tasting Room right downstairs!).

At first, the process can feel a little foreign. There is no front desk, room key, or check-in system. Rather, you set a four-digit room code. Any time after 3:00, you can “check in” simply by entering your door code at the front door, which opens to a grand staircase, or the back door, which has a convenient elevator right by the parking lot. The system offers a feeling of privacy and seclusion.

As soon as I ascended into the hotel, I was surrounded by paintings, sculptural light fixtures and hardwood floors. I entered my code into the Suite 4 and a whirring noise and a tiny green light welcomed me to my room.

Suite 4 was spacious and well-conceived, with lovely high ceilings. A kitchen (bigger than my kitchen at home!) complete with a full-sized refrigerator, dishes, and pots and pans overlooked a living space adorned with art.  The soft, cozy couch was perfect for snuggling up with a book or watching TV on the flatscreen over the fireplace. The bedroom has a king sized mattress and four down-feather pillows. It opens toward a modern-looking office space. A full-sized  washer and dryer sit beside the bathroom.

Luxury is defined by bathrooms. Fluffy towels. Jacuzzi tubs. Bath bombs. Pretty mirrors. Scaldingly hot water. Well-thought-out bathrooms are what truly have the charms to soothe the savage beast. The citrus L’Occitane bath products and separate bathtub and shower were two cherries on top. My bath was hot, bubbly and fragrant; everything a bath should be.

I slept incredibly well and woke to light streaming in through my window. I’d never realized the brilliance of a memory foam mattress! Gathering my belongings to check out at 1pm was a sad ritual. On the bright side, thanks to the mattress, my back felt awesome…

You can book a night at the Walla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown online by clicking here or by calling us at 877 301 1181 x1.

An Honor for Walla Faces

Tripadvisor certifcateWalla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown and Walla Faces Inns at the Vineyard have been honored with the esteemed TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, an accolade that recognizes businesses for their exceptional hospitality.  Only 10 percent of the businesses on TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, receive this award, which is offered every year.  The award-winning properties range from one room bed-and-breakfasts to enormous hotels with over 6,000 rooms.

TripAdvisor calls the awards a “way of acknowledging the great work that many properties are doing, and helping them to stand out from their competition.”

To qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, businesses must be listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months and, during this time, maintain an overall rating of at least 4 out of 5. The award criteria also take into account the volume of customer reviews about a particular property.  Both locations have admirable ratings of 4.5 stars.

Reviewers who stayed at the Historic Downtown location rave about the sophisticated décor of the Suites and the approachability of the Inn owners, who are always willing to recommend restaurants and attractions.  Guests who experienced the Vineyard are equally enthusiastic, praising the beautiful, relaxing setting.

One reviewer recalls a stay several years later, noting fondly that “The memories are still as vivid as the day I left… it felt as if I were staying in a friend’s apartment.”

Another reviewer enthusiastically says of the Vineyard “don’t stay anywhere else in Walla Walla!”

Debbie Johnson, co-owner of Walla Faces, thanks her loyal customers for their support and for their role in creating the warm, familial atmosphere that makes Walla Faces special.   She says that many people who stay at the Inns are return customers.  “We have customers who have become friends…it’s like having people stay at your house.”

A Message From Rick and Debbie Johnson

More than two years ago, Walla Faces began featuring live music as part of its “Arts” program.  We initially started with music one night a week and gradually built it to five nights a week this summer.  It has been a fun project and very rewarding to see all of the local talent play in our tasting room.   Many of our local performers have impressively grown and expanded their musical skills over the last couple of years.  I like to think we played a small part in that development by offering them our venue in which to play.

In addition to our many talented local performers, we have had many nationally known performers play in our tasting room.  It is hard to believe we had the likes of The Posies, Randy Hansen, Susan Gibson and many other nationally known performers play right here in Walla Walla.  And of course, the capstone and high point of the last two years was Walla Faces promoting and sponsoring Peter Frampton playing in Walla Walla at Cordiner Hall.  For me that will definitely be a life memory.

Along with the music program, Walla Faces has also grown.  Since we first opened our doors a little over two years ago, we have been pleasantly surprised about the acceptance of the Walla Faces wine brand.   Our wine sales have been growing.  Continued growth is going to require changes on our part to increase our production to meet demand.  Up until now, we have been sharing our wine making with another local winery.  We now are moving into our own winery out by the airport.  This move will help us to increase our production and have better control of our product.  It is also going to require more time on our part to monitor the wine and expanded production.

Starting November 1, we are going to have to suspend our music program for the near several months because of these new time constraints.    We hope to bring back music in one form or another in the future.  We are exploring many options to include music as part of our tasting room and winery experience.

We sincerely appreciate your warm support and hope to see you in the tasting room, or at the airport winery – especially when we have special events to share with YOU!  Please stop in and say hello!  We will be open downtown on a daily basis from 1-6pm.  We are working on our hours at the airport, but they will be mostly on the weekends.  Again, please do stay in touch!

Fondly,
Rick & Debbie Johnson and the entire Walla Faces Team