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Clarkson’s new general manager brings Inn the bacon

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POTSDAM — George LaVigne, the new general manager of the Clarkson Inn, felt inspired the first time he walked through its doors.

“When I came in, I said ‘this is the place,’” he said. “It’s a beautiful hotel, you walk in and you feel welcome. Most hotels these days look like they came out of a box.”

Mr. Lavigne took the reigns from Peggy Snell, who retired years on March 12. He is the third general manager of the 23- year-old hotel, but he is already making his mark — the hotel will begin serving hot breakfast for the first time.

“Before we just had cold cereal, but now it will be a little more entertaining,” he said. “We’re going to serve fresh fruit, french bread, hot cereal, croissants, scrambled eggs, bacon and smoked salmon.”

Though guests will be able to serve themselves coffee, Mr. Lavigne said that someone will also walk through the hotel’s breakfast area to refill coffee. Breakfast will cost $10.

The hotel is also adding a Friday and Saturday tea time from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., where guests will be able to mingle with the public.

“This project will be open to the community,” said Mr. Lavigne. “We’ll have a harpist from the Crane School to provide some entertainment, and we’ll want people to come here and mingle.”

Besides tea and breakfast, Mr. Lavigne also brings unique experience to the job — he once worked as a chef in a palace of the Shah of Iran.

“It was on an island in the Persian Gulf,” said Mr. Lavigne. “The Shah was there every 15 days with 150-200 guests. In 1978 I went to work for the season in Deauville, France at the Hotel Royale. At the end of the summer we got the news that we weren’t going back to the palace.”

Mr. Lavigne then took a job as a line cook in Minneapolis, but he had bigger dreams.

“I always wanted to be an executive chef at a big hotel,” he said. “I ended up taking a job as an executive chef in Middletown, Ohio.”

Mr. Lavigne’s career then took him to the Michiganian, a Detroit landmark, and then to a resort hotel on Bora Bora — but after a month on the job, Mr. Lavigne says he loves the Clarkson Inn.

“This is my place,” he said. “This is where I want it to end. I know I can deliver here because the people are here. It was easy for me to draw a sketch for where I want to take this place.”

Mr. Lavigne said that by making some small changes, he hopes to raise the hotel’s AAA rating from three diamonds to four.

“We have decided to stay within our four walls,” he said. “We’re improving not the comfort, but the look of our rooms.”

That includes new leather skirting on the beds and sheets with a higher thread count to make them softer. Guests at the inn will also notice more pillows in the rooms.

Bathroom amenities have also been updated with all natural shampoos, soaps and lotions from New Zealand. New towels and new, plush bathrobes also welcome each guest.

The hotel now offers full coffee service in each room, and each guest will have a personalized welcome letter signed by Mr. Lavigne.

“Five minutes after you get to your room, the front desk will call you to see how you are doing and if there is anything they can get for you,” he said. “Upon request, we also offer a turndown service that includes truffles and chocolates set on the bed.”

Mr. Lavigne said he was confident the small changes, all made without raising the hotel’s rates, would provide guests with better service.

“The third week I was here I started implementing these changes,” he said. “I am very happy with that, it gives you a sense of what you can accomplish.”

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