There is a wishing jar in the Conway Inn on Washington Street where adventurers from all over the world voice their wishes.
While many crave pizza, a good portion crave harmony. That’s where the Inn’s new owners, Kyle Newman and Haley Gowland come in.
“The world right now needs more togetherness and community and some people wanted it,” Gowland said. “I hope we can be at least a small part of that.”
The tradition of accommodation continues in the village as the young engaged couple bought the old White Mountains hostel (formerly called Albert B. Lester Memorial Hostel), renamed it Conway Hostel and opened it in July. .
The three-story, 12-bedroom CoHo with its assortment of bed styles has seen repainted and sanded floors as well as fine art and outward-facing flair. The common area is attractive with a foosball table and board games, books, and coffee, while the kitchen is a good place to refuel after a day of exploring. The welcoming porch overlooks the grassy yard with three new campsites – one with a tent – which has seen plenty of newbies this summer.
Often hanging out by the backyard fireplaces and as the couple flip the rooms are their two Australian Shepherds Koda and Cody.
Avid skiers and mountain bikers Newman and Gowland met while working for Mountain Workshop as group adventure guides guiding students around camping, hiking, leadership building and more in Nova Scotia. England. Newman is from Bristol, Connecticut, and Gowland from Dunstable, Mass.
They embraced the outdoor life early on with Newman active in scouting and spent around 20 years in the outdoor retail industry, and Gowland having a ski patrol mom. Both were weekend warriors from White Mountain, ski resorts like Cranmore and Loon.
The couple eventually moved to Nederland, Colorado, near Boulder, to lead active lives with seasonal work. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and quarantine was imposed, they decided they were ready to buy real estate and have more permanent jobs.
Hayley’s mother urged them to return to New England by sending them real estate ads. The hostel one hit home, and using their outdoor recreation and hospitality background, decided it might work.
“The light bulb has lit in our heads,” said Gowland. “It was the perfect combination of our goals and what we’re passionate about, and it’s sustainable all year round.”
The hostel with its community nature is known to attract budget conscious people. The couple saw mountain bikers, road cyclists, day hikers, hikers and vacationers on the Appalachian Trail, as well as international customers from Israel and Argentina. They even had a family of three generations in the Midwest on Grandpa’s birthday.
Two miles from the Marshall Conservation Area, the hostel is an easy biking base camp. It is also found on the Adventure Cycling Association’s Northern Tier cross-country route from Washington to Bar Harbor, Maine. They saw cyclists ride from Austin, Texas, Maine, and Chicago, Maine. Last week, a team from the nonprofit White Mountain Trail Collective settled there while they were doing work on the local trails.
“We saw an even split between road cyclists and mountain bikers,” Newman said.
Many of their mountain biker clients start with a day in Marshall and then head to the Hurricane Mountain Zone and Black Cap. They even rode with guests.
“We are seeing this region explode with mountain biking trails and opportunities,” Gowland said.
They have a bicycle rack and allow bicycles in the rooms. Future plans may include a bicycle tool station and a keyboard accessible bicycle area. They can also restart the 130-mile White Mountain circuit allowing riders to stay at CoHo, The Notch Hostel in North Woodstock, and Rattle River Hostel in Shelburne. A mobile backyard stage for events and a ski tuning station are possible.
In winter, they will welcome skiers, snowboarders, ice climbers, fat bikes and more. Often the couple see novice boarders who are not used to sharing kitchens, common areas and bathrooms with strangers.
“If they’ve never stayed at a hostel before, we tell them it’s clean for sure,” she said. “But it’s a vulnerable experience to share space with people, so you have to have a base of comfort.”
Newman sees an inn as a tool.
“A hotel provides everything you need,” Newman said. “In a hostel, we provide you with the tools to choose your own adventure. If you want to cook, here are the tools to do it.
So get ready for some conviviality with this kitchen sizzle.