From the Ashes: Potsdam couple rebuilds family legacy

Audrey and Jake Roberts in the kitchen area of Maple Rock Bed and Breakfast in Potsdam. Christopher Lenney/NNY Business

BY: Vaughn Golden
Just a few minutes outside the village, down a narrow road flanked by the natural beauty, sits Audrey and Jake Roberts’ dream home, but it’s not just theirs. 

    Audrey has roots here. Five years ago, those roots grew, fueled by passion, determination and a dream, into Maple Rock Bed and Breakfast.  

    Where the B&B now stands was once her great-grandparents home and nearly 100 acres of surrounding farmland and forested walking trails. Her mother lived next door for a time and Audrey fondly remembers ventures amongst the maple trees with her grandfather to a large glacial rock deposited onto the property thousands of years prior.  

    In 2008, after her great-grandparents moved out, the old farmhouse caught fire and burned to the ground. But a few years later, Audrey and her husband Jake would build a new home in its stead — and not just one for themselves.  

    Audrey, a trained family consumer science teacher, always dreamed of running her own bed and breakfast complete with cooking classes. She and husband Jake, an English teacher at Potsdam High School, made a plan and set that plan into motion. On top of her great-grandparents’ foundation, they would build Audrey’s dream B&B complete with five comfortable rooms, each with their own bathrooms, and a spacious kitchen with room for an audience.  

    “That property sat vacant for probably five years … seven years. I said I was going to do this thing and we jumped on top of it,” Audrey said. “It will be five years this weekend that we’ve been in business.”  

    But life quickly intervened, putting a fork in the road of Audrey’s career as a teacher. Faced with some choices, she chose to turn what was a five-year plan to set up the B&B into a five-month plan.  

    With construction already in the works, the couple quickly threw themselves into the new venture. They sold their house and moved into the barn next door. They slept on a mattress atop an old hot tub until Maple Rock was ready.  

    “It was my grandfather’s pool barn,” Audrey laughed as she pointed to the whitewashed building just next door. “Because we sold our house, this place wasn’t done, so we moved up there. It’s what my parents called the hot tub room.”  

    Straight through into the weekend they opened, Audrey and Jake were working tirelessly to have it ready. Only 15 minutes after she finished cleaning, the first guests arrived. The next day, Jake was hanging a door and finished it just in time to open it again for the guests who would be staying there.  

    Their second weekend was a full house, and things have been consistently growing since. Audrey has been able to put more time and energy into cooking classes. She now offers several different workshops, some for more serious culinary enthusiasts, and others for more laid-back groups who may indulge in some (of their own) wine while they cook.  

    “It took right off; I was very fortunate,” Audrey said. “I feel like just in 2019 I kind of had my ducks in a row and I knew what was going on. I was able to hire someone to come in and clean all the rooms so I could focus more on cooking classes and some other things.”  

    With most guests usually just staying the weekend, Audrey said she spends most of the week cleaning, shopping for groceries, making bookings and handling all the other odds and ends of the business. The weekends then are naturally hectic.  

    “So, I’m usually up around 6 a.m. so I can get all of that ready,” Audrey said. “Then as soon as the guests come down it’s like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, everything’s got to be well in place and well timed.”  

    Each morning she makes homemade breakfast for the guests. Currently on the menu is a seasonal flair; macadamia nut French toast, ham, zucchini and cheddar cheese frittata, and her favorite homemade granola. Most of the ingredients, like the eggs, meats and produce, she tries to source locally.  

    She said usually two or three of the five rooms are booked every weekend, typically filled with professionals, vacationers or parents of college students visiting town. Weekends with major college events would normally fill the house as would special events like bridal showers or corporate retreats. The B&B is often host to regular clients, who they’ve befriended over the last few years.  

    This year, the B&B was on track to break records, even exceeding the income Jake pulled in from his teachers’ salary.  

    But, enter COVID. With restrictions in place and the colleges closed, the B&B was only filling one or two rooms for many weeks. In the year that was supposed to break records, Audrey found herself back at square one.  

    “It was really, really frustrating for me,” she said.  

    The future, though still uncertain, may hold promise. Audrey and Jake said things are still slow, but a few events are booked for the coming weeks. They also hope to expand in that direction moving forward.  

    Just like its namesake glacial boulder, and with the roots and passion set deep, it doesn’t appear Maple Rock is going anywhere.