Photos Courtesy of The Bavarian Inn
David Asam has been focused on hospitality for as long as he can remember, which makes sense since he was a mere toddler when his parents packed up a station wagon in Washington, D.C., in 1977 and moved him and his brother Christian to Shepherdstown, West Virginia to start the Bavarian Inn.
“It was just a little Greystone building,” Ansam said. “My father was cooking out of a little two-car garage, my mother was the hostess, and we had one waitress. Our family lived upstairs.”
The business, he said, has “grown a little bit since then.”
Today the Bavarian Inn is a 72-room chalet-style gem of a small resort perched above the Potomac River, just an hour from the heart of Washington. The property serves up luxury and comfort in abundance in addition to an array of dining experiences that range from its award-winning centerpiece Potomac Room fine dining restaurant to a more casual brewpub, the basement Rathskeller restaurant and an outdoor garden dining option. During its 45 years, the property has won some of the industry’s most prestigious awards, including a AAA Four Diamond designation and Wine Spectators “Best Of” Award of Excellence.
German immigrant Erwin Asam and his wife Carol taught their sons the value of hard work and a passion for delivering first-class experiences for their guests. The boys were fixtures on the property throughout their childhoods, so it would make perfect sense that they would one day head up the family biz—but not before taking a bit of sage advice from their dad.
“One of the things our dad liked to say was that we should go and make mistakes on other people’s dimes,” Asam said.
Asam heeded that advice by graduating from Cornell’s prestigious hospitality school and then working at high-end properties and restaurants across the country. These included Four Seasons Resorts in Philadelphia and Santa Barbara and at high-end independent restaurants. He brought his many lessons home to Shepherdstown and the family business in 2006, following Christian, who had returned from his own hospitality career to join the business the same year.
While they are indeed a long way from that single building where their parents launched their dream property, the foundation of the business has never changed.
“Our parents instilled in us the idea of total commitment to the business,” he said. “We are very much hands on, and you will probably see one of us there every single day. We would never ask any of our employees or staff to do anything that we wouldn’t do ourselves, and that includes vacuuming, cleaning out toilets, running trays, bussing tables or jumping behind the line and cooking. We really want to focus on the little things and making sure our service is friendly and efficient without being overbearing.”
The brothers are not the only ones keeping their hands on the business. On many nights you will find their parents happily greeting guests and sharing memories with old friends.
The family’s attention to detail shows throughout the property and has been a cornerstone of its evolution from an inn to a resort-style property.
“Today’s traveler is really looking for an experience,” Asom said. “They kind of want to be told what to do. There are so many things you can do on our property, especially in the summertime. Our guests love to visit the beautiful and relaxing Infinity 101 Pool and Bar. They love to take advantage of our tennis and pickleball courts and have access to a beautiful private golf course just a few minutes down the road.”
One of the resort’s greatest attractions, he said, is its easy access to a wealth of local attractions in Harpers Ferry, ranging from rafting, hiking and biking the C&O Canal, and all the shopping, dining and first-class entertainment Jefferson County has to offer.
Another important evolution at the property came with the launch of Bavarian Brothers Brewing, which was introduced just over five years ago and features an array of outstanding seasonal beers, a brewpub, lounge and outdoor beer garden.
“We have a great brewmaster by the name of Harry Wright,” Asam said. “He and his assistant Nick Ledden make delicious and high-quality beers, and the brewery offers a nice contrast to our outstanding Potomac Room. The brewery offers the same great service and great food you find across our property, but in a little more casual atmosphere, so you don’t feel like you must put on a jacket and tie and have a long and luxurious meal. It’s a great way to have some outstanding beer and libations and enjoy good company.”
Asked to describe a dream one-night escape to the Bavarian Inn, Asam said, “You might start by heading down to the inifiity pool for a dip and/or a cocktail, then maybe a stroll through town to do a little shopping. Once you get back to your room, you might kick back, soak in the jacuzzi tub, then get ready for a great dining experience. After dinner, you can enjoy a drink by the fire pits, roast some s’mores, or maybe go down to the Rathskeller to enjoy some live music, and call it a day before waking to a beautiful sunrise and heading home relaxed and recharged—or stay another day and do it all again.”
Book your own getaway by visiting bavarianinnwv.com.
John Kelly is the managing editor of The Virginia Sportsman. He is a writer and public relations professional based in Charlottesville, Va., whose work has appeared in the UVA Arts Magazine, Albemarle Magazine and USA Today, among other publications. Kelly also works regularly throughout Central Virginia as a singer songwriter and recently released an album of original songs titled “In Between.”