MEET THE INNKEEPERS: Nancy and Bill from the Cliffside Inn

This week we are continuing our series on getting up-close-and-personal with the Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE) innkeepers.  We hear over and over that it’s the people that make the difference between a hotel stay and a B&B stay. Stay at a DINE inn and you’ll agree that it’s the innkeepers that really make the difference.  When is the last time the general manager of your hotel remembered your anniversary and left complimentary chocolate covered strawberries in your room?  Better yet, when’s the last time anything during your hotel stay was complimentary?  Whether it’s a romantic getaway or some simple R&R, the eleven Distinctive Inns of New England and their innkeepers who own and manage them will insure that your trip is memorable and distinctive.

This week, we’re introducing Bill Bagwill and Nancy Stafford, owners of the Cliffside Inn in Newport, RI.


Nancy was born on Long Island, New York and raised in Freehold, New Jersey where she graduated from high school.  She attended Trenton State College and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting.  For the next ten years, she worked her way up the ladder at a number of banks in New Jersey and Philadelphia.  In 1994, she moved to Chicago where she managed a portfolio of asset-based loans from $10 – $50 million for Heller Business Credit.  It was here that her interest in law began, and she attended DePaul University College of Law at night and got a JD Degree, graduating in the top ten percent of her class in 2000.  After a stint with a big NY firm and a year in Hong Kong, it was on to the Georgetown University Law Center where she graduated with distinction in 2003 with a Masters in International Comparative Law.  Nancy spent more than a decade dedicated to international and women’s rights legal issues, monitoring legal, political and administrative developments with human rights implications in the United States and Africa.  She was an Adjunct Professor at Emory University School of Law, Atlanta, GA, teaching a course in International Woman’s Human Rights Law and spearheaded strategic planning, development and implementation of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project there too.  In 2008, she joined King & Spalding in Atlanta, GA as a contract attorney in finance where she remains on staff today.  Nancy is also extremely involved with the American Bar Association and is the current Division Chair for the Section of International Law’s Africa and Eurasia Division.

BillBagwellAlso hailing from the East Coast, Bill Bagwill was born in Philadelphia, PA as John Williams (Bill) Bagwill III. Bill spent his school years in Wellesley MA and then in Westchester County in Scarsdale and Chappaqua NY.  After finishing high school, he headed west to Seattle where he graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Psychology.  The lure of the hospitality industry got hold of Bill early, and he completed his formal education at Cornell University with a Master’s Degree in Hotel Administration.  After graduating in 1980, he started his hospitality career at the corporate office of the Sheraton Corporation, and then spent the next three decades, in senior postings around the world, developing, buying and selling hotels for Sheraton, Interstate Hotels & Resorts and the Intercontinental Hotels Group.  While developing hotels, Bill learned what he liked and what guests liked in hotels and resorts, laying the ideal background for his new career in inn ownership and management.

Nancy and Bill met in Washington, DC where he was working and Nancy was completing her LLM Degree.  When Bill re-joined InterContinental Hotels they both moved to Atlanta, and eventually were married at Colts Neck Reform Church in New Jersey.  Nancy and Bill are celebrating their 6th wedding anniversary this weekend, while taking care of guests at the Cliffside Inn.

After years of corporate life, travel and emotional investment in women’s and international civil rights, both Bill and Nancy decided it was time to leave the corporate and law scene and try something new.  With a knack and plenty of experience with hotel development, they began their search for their own small lodging property.  Nancy came across the Legendary Inns of Newport, a group of three Newport inns being quietly marketed, and knew this was a “must see” as Bill’s parents lived so close by in Middletown, RI.  “When we first walked in, the Cliffside Inn spoke to us,” confided Nancy.  Prior to that, none of the properties they saw seemed like a good fit.  “We loved the location, and knew that it offered such great potential,” Nancy finished.

Cliffside-NancyandBill-AAAAwardBill and Nancy purchased the Cliffside Inn at the end of 2010.  The next eight months were spent gutting the property down to bare wood and starting anew with structural and decorating enhancements. No corner was left unturned and the result has been an award winning inn.  The Cliffside Inn was fully reopened in April, 2011 and it has been a success story ever since.  Just last month, the Cliffside Inn was named among the Top Ten Luxury Inns in the world by, the largest online B&B directory worldwide.

While Nancy and Bill are at the center of the management team, there’s one more member of the family that simply can’t go without a mention.   Koty, their 7 year old Sheltie, is chief guest welcomer and heart-stealer. Every single guest that enters the Cliffside Inn has a soft spot for all of Koty’s cuteness!  Koty even receives his own mail!

Cliffside-NancyandBill-onstepsOn their rare free time away from the inn, Bill and Nancy enjoy traveling, walking the dog, riding their motorcycle, or indulging in a quick power nap.  Despite the fact that they’re well into their second year of innkeeping, Nancy and Bill still feel that they’re just getting their feet wet and finding out new things about inn ownership each day.  “One never gets bored as an innkeeper, and it is never the same day twice,” shared Nancy.  “Whether it’s new people, new events, maintenance, or marketing there is always something to keep you busy – in a good way,” she added.

Innkeepers love to tell stories about the memorable guests.  Nancy shared this one…“We have one guest who has stayed with us a number of times in the 20 months we’ve been open.  He just loves one of our rooms and refers to it as “his” room.  He even hand-crafted a bed stool in his own workshop for his room.  He’s got a great eye for photography too and sends us a screensaver shot for each season.  The last time he was here we downloaded all of his photos to the digital picture frame in his room for him.  He was thrilled.  And that’s what’s best about innkeeping, you want to do nice things for your guests and they want to do nice things for you.” 

As this story attests, along with all the others shared by DINE innkeepers, it takes a special person to be an innkeeper.  It’s that special person who then creates a memorable place to vacation.  The memories last a lifetime, and while guests may begin as visitors, they always leave as friends.  This is what sets DINE inns apart.

Now that you’ve met many of the DINE innkeepers on this blog, it’s time to meet them in person.  Visit the Distinctive Inns of New England availability calendar, and plan your summer getaway to include a DINE member inn.

Nancy talks with Leslie from the Rabbit Hill Inn and Melissa from the Grafton Inn at a recent DINE meeting held at the Deerfield Inn.

Nancy talks with Leslie from the Rabbit Hill Inn and Melissa from the Grafton Inn at a recent DINE meeting held at the Deerfield Inn.

One thought on “MEET THE INNKEEPERS: Nancy and Bill from the Cliffside Inn

  1. My husband and I absolutely loved our stay with Nancy and Bill. We felt relaxed and at home immediately, so much so we found ourselves dancing on the porch to our favorite IPad tunes during a light rain. The rooms are beautiful and it was the best sleep I have every had away from home. The food served was exquisite and they happily accommodated my special diet. Thank you for a wonderful stay and we hope to visit again.

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