Winters Express Jan. 9, 2014
Bruce Smith got his son off to college and started thinking that perhaps he would like a quieter life than living in the hustle and bustle of san Francisco and being a realtor. He cruised to the North Bay region _ Sonoma, Healdsburg, Petaluma – and wondered what to do in the next chapter of his life. He stopped in Winters where his fellow realtor, Rafael Galiano, had restored a Victorian, the Inn at Park Winters.
When Smith saw the Abbey House Inn, he rang the bell and asked to speak to the owner. John Siracusa said it was not for sale. When the former innkeeper became ill during the summer of 2013, Liz & John Siracusa asked Smith if he could take over as innkeeper. He officially started running Abbey House on Sept.1, 2013.
“I am overwhelmed with the support and generosity of the business owners and people in this unique town”, says Smith. “In turn, I try to use my skills in art, video & photography to help publicize the businesses and events that go on in Winters. Working together to promote Winters as a destination city is good for all of us. I immediately put Abbey House Inn on various social media websites. Our own website now allows online bookings and virtual tours, which has saved me a lot of phone calls and is bringing us a new clientele”. “People can fly in to Yolo County or Sacramento airports & I will pick them up. No need to rent a car to enjoy a day or so in downtown Winters. you can walk a short distance to downtown. There is so much to see, do hear, eat and enjoy.”
Smith has an eclectic background. His grandmother was a “Rosie the Riveter” in the Richmond shipyards during the WWII and his grandfather was a metal worker who worked on the construction of the Bay Bridge. He was born in Richmond, where his parents met at Richmond High school. When he was 3-4, he moved to Livermore. He was in 4H, raised rabbits and pigeons. His grandparents bought a small property & retired in Lake County and he can remember coming to Winters in the summers, having ice cream at a local drug store and loading up the truck with produce that his mother and grandmother would can.
His first job was with Trans International Airlines, (TIA) in Oakland, as a flight attendant scheduler, which allowed him free travel anywhere in the world. He next worked onboard the Royal Viking Sea, a passenger cruise ship in the dining room as a waiter & responsible for the early risers breakfast set up at 5:30am. He finally became the waiter for the Captain’s table and the onboard Wine Similar.
“I went all over the world with them, been through the Panama canal 23 times, we went up the Yangtze River to Shanghai before China was really open to foreign visitors. The windows of the ship were ordered to be all papered over. There were no cameras aloud anywhere. The populace all dressed in Mao suits. People would stop and stare at me and point at my yellow hair” remembers Smith. “These experiences taught me how to offer five star hospitality service to my guests.”
Once back home, he studied art & art history at Cabrillo College in Aptos. He received a full scholarship to the prestigious private art school in the Oakland hills, California College of Arts & Crafts, now known as California College of the Arts, (CCA) dual majoring in glass & design. He eventually taught there in the glass department. He made glass projects for cathedrals, restaurants, nightclubs & homes. In the late 1980’s he got into neon glass sculpture. That venture took him took him to Manhattan and worked as a designer of interiors and stores for Alexander Julian, the well-known clothes, home and furniture designer.
Once back in San Francisco, he started working in real estate sales. During the 1990’s and beyond, he would buy, refurbish and flip homes.
“i still do photography & artwork, and now use the inn as my gallery. I sold two pieces last weekend I cannot get over the number of interesting, well traveled and creative people visiting & living in Winters”. And generous. Somebody, whom I do not know, left a crate of avocados on the porch & Henry’s Bullfrog Bee’s dropped off gallons of honey & meats for us!” Where else does this happen? ” I feel like my whole life prepared me for being the innkeeper at Abbey House Inn”, concluded Smith.