Of the many facets of inn keeping for which we were unprepared back in 2002, one was certainly that almighty word of marketing – our brand. Indeed, what was our brand? We certainly didn’t know the answer to that question, nor even, to tell the truth, what we’d be serving for breakfast each morning. We knew almost nothing about what we were getting into.
From a distance, however, it did seem to us that maybe the name of the place needed some tinkering. Wasn’t it just a little presumptuous to be trading on the reputation of Shakespeare’s wife and that lovely thatched cottage thousands trek out to see at Stratford each year? Well, it didn’t take long after we arrived to realize that in fact Anne Hathaway was a brilliant name for the Inn. It put us out front alphabetically and it linked us inextricably to the biggest reason people come to Ashland, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It also occurred to me one sleepless night that my tenth grade English teacher, Miss Rose Ferdinand, would be delighted I remembered the name of Shakespeare’s wife, despite my tepid performance as a student of his work.
Many of our potential guests didn’t have Rose Ferdinand to tuck this fact into their storehouse of knowledge, however. Some assume it’s my name. Others think the Inn must be a sideline of the famous actor and was there any chance, by the way, that she’d be present during our visit? It is hard to ward off these assumptions and wishes by promising that the experience they’ll have at Anne Hathaway’s would be worthy of both Shakespeare and the Academy Award winner. The rooms in the B&B are in fact even named after people who actually lived under the real Anne Hathaway’s roof — their children Judith, Susanna and Hamnet (sic), Shakespeare’s Mother Mary, his father John and his good friend, Richard Burbage. We even have a hideaway known as Will’s Study, a good place for him to do his writing. Our Garden Suites are named after flowers featured in Shakespeare’s canon. And the gardens in front of the Iris room* have the very same flowers you’ll find outside the real Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.
Over our twelve years here, we’ve earnestly tried to burnish our Anne Hathaway brand and have embraced it in many ways. We serve a fine afternoon tea. No clotted cream, but everything else, including the occasional cucumber sandwich. Our breakfast tables are laden with foods grown in the area, as we imagine they were 300 years ago. Debates about the motivation of one character or another often punctuate mornings, afternoons and evenings too here at Anne Hathaway’s.
So there you have the real story of why we are called what we are. And please call me Deedie, not Anne.
*When we drew up the plans for this room and the one over it, they called for a daub and board cottage with thatched roof. Alas, the City’s Historic and Planning Commissions turned us down, saying it was far too “Disneyesque” for Ashland.