HARPERS FERRY – Just off the US 340 up Charles Town Hill towards Harpers Ferry, nestled atop and overlooking the beauty of the valley is what has become an almost resort-like atmosphere within the Clarion Hotel, White Horse Tavern and all other businesses and adventures on the property.
Matt Knott bought the property in 2015, and he and Tyler Tummolo, along with the staff, have slowly grown the business year after year, with White Horse Tavern becoming a favorite spot with locals and visitors alike.
âThis is really what we were looking for,â Tummolo said of the resort atmosphere. âThe ownership is the same between us and River Riders. We also have a campground, four vacation rentals, and really, what we’re trying to do is get people here for several days, take them out in the open, zip line one day, to come to the hotel and eat at the tavern. , go rafting the next day.
An ice cream shop was added to the property last year as a bonus for families and those looking for a sweet treat.
Among it all, White Horse stood out as the perfect place to relax after a day on the water or an escape from everyday life. The name comes from the love of nearby rivers and the adventure that comes with sister company River Riders.
âThe name White Horse actually derives from a collection of rapids on the Potomac River, the White Horse Rapids,â Tummolo said. âWe really focus on three of our staples: burgers, bourbon and beer. We keep it simple for people who are here on vacation. We don’t try to exaggerate things, but people love what we do. “
With the hiring of the Executive Chef, White Horse has always been a favorite of customers looking for simple items with a delicious twist.
âOne thing that we do that a lot of places don’t is that they’re handmade patties,â Tummolo said. ‘The real product, you can taste the difference. It does not come from a truck and a preformed cake. We also brand our buns with the White Horse Tavern brand. It’s a cool and very Instagrammable thing that people love. The food is good: the burgers, crab dip get rave reviews.
The culinary team also focused on adding new options for customers, like menus specific to April that featured items not normally found on the menu.
âIt kept locals coming back to try the new offerings,â Tummolo said.
The White Horse has also started having live music on the terrace on Saturdays and Sundays, adding to the atmosphere of the resort.
âIt was a huge success,â Tummolo said. âThey perform here (on the patio). People come from all over. We are blocking parts of the parking lot. People will come, go out, drink a few beers, eat food, and go to the ice cream shop.
âWe did a lot to try to stay open during everything. Obviously we take every precaution, but we were really trying to make it a good environment. We added tents, seats, one by one, we started to add items. The popularity started to grow and we tried to match it. “
The outdoor space just outside the tavern door allows for social distancing, Tummolo and the team are adding more outdoor options right before the pandemic hits in a sense of perfect timing.
âSurprisingly, just before the pandemic, winter first and foremost is when we put the outside seats in,â he said. âIt worked haphazardly in our favor. This past year, 2020 and 2021, have been good years for outdoor dining. “
In fact, this place on the outside is a lesson learned from the pandemic that Tummolo is confident will remain, along with many other lessons from the difficult times of COVID-19.
âOutdoor dining in general, I think it’s here to stay. That’s really what got us to do live music, and it attracts people from all over, âhe said. âIt was by no means easy. For a long time we had three employees, Matt, me and Harry (Longerbeam) at River Riders. We had everyone fired in a short time and then put everything back in place with the new challenges of disinfection, the buses having a different number of people who could be on board, it was very difficult. But we are extremely flexible. We have this improvised attitude which I think has been a success for us. We create these experiences for customers. It’s a tough time for people, so getting people outside and being able to smile and be able to interact with their families is great. It was good for us, but it was also very, very stressful.
With the stressful times, hopefully now, Tummolo is enjoying the little returns to normal, like a good meal, accompanied by live music.
âFor me personally, even as an employee, it’s been great,â Tummolo said with a smile as he watched where the musicians play. âTo have people here and actually sit and enjoy things for an extended period of time, without having the craziness that 2020 and the start of 2021 has been, is awesome. We love to see smiling faces, and now that more and more people are getting vaccinated, that opens doors.
Other aspects of the property, such as the hotel, were hit hard during the pandemic, having to really pivot to keep operations and employees working. But through it all, the team in charge is committed to giving customers the best possible experiences, whether it’s the perfect burger or a great time on the river, the team has always been focused on the next big. adventure.
âIt got pretty crazy sometimes,â Tummolo said of the opening late last year. âA lot of people, once the restrictions were relaxed, wanted to come out. We managed to get a lot of people out on the water. The tubing was enormous. It is the perfect socially distant activity. We have a lot of people doing hits, more than any year we’ve had.