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She keeps inn true to Roycroft spirit

For almost 18 years, Martha B. Augat has managed the historic Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, overseeing a 28-room inn, 200-seat restaurant and banquet facility. Moving here in 1994 from New England -- just before an $8 million restoration was complete -- Augat brought years of experience in the hospitality industry. Today she is 48 and lives in East Aurora with two daughters on three acres with a pond.

>PT: How well do you know Elbert Hubbard?

MA: I'm always learning new things. When I first came here, I had no idea who he was. I was a hotelier coming to open a property, and when I got here I was amazed there were people who talked about Elbert Hubbard like he was still alive. I thought: What have I fallen into?

>PT: You aren't native to Western New York?

MA: I grew up in New England -- near the birthplaces of John Quincy [Adams] and John Adams -- so my idea of history was Colonial revolutionary Paul Revere.

>PT: What did you do before?

MA: I've been in this line of work -- restaurants or hotels -- for almost 30 years, but prior to that I was a shoe designer. The shoe business was my dad's business.

>PT: Describe your job here.

MA: I am an innkeeper. Years ago, a mentor told me that if a property had fewer than 60 rooms, your title is innkeeper. If more, your title is general manager. I'm involved in restoration. I deal in human resource issues, finance, budgeting. Checking guests in and out. Marketing. Most of my day is spent in meetings.

>PT: Are you a list keeper?

MA: Yes, I write everything down. I juggle 25 balls at a time -- always. I journal everything. I could probably tell you what I had for dinner on this day 10 years ago, because I keep track of everything. Life is very cyclical. If you pay attention to that, it guides you. I have an incredibly good memory.

>PT: What is the toughest part about running an inn?

MA: It's a constant training process. The staff is always changing -- even though a lot of my staff has been here for a long time -- the average staff person has been here for 13 years.

>PT: When it comes to the physical plant, what can go wrong?

MA: Last year for the first time in my career I got a call on a Sunday morning that the inn had no water. All of the water in the entire town was out. The staff had been great. They had filled buckets and tubs, but what do you do? We had a full restaurant and no water.

Most of the guests had checked out, but the biggest thing no one thought of was that we didn't have a fire suppression system. So it became blowing out all the candles to make sure a fire didn't hit.

>PT: What is your strong personality trait?

MA: Tenacity. For example, we set a goal of restoring the buildings across the street. We had a lot of obstacles. I joke with my friends that I look at my life like I'm a GPS because I'm always recalculating.

>PT: What is your next professional goal?

MA: To have the campus self-sustaining by 2016. I had a goal I started on June 1, 2009 -- an 870-day plan to get the Power House done. [The Power House was the last building built by the Roycrofters in 1909-10. It was used to house three coal-fired steam generators.] I drove everyone crazy counting down those 870 days trying to keep people on track. A lot of people think I'm crazy.

>PT: How do you pamper yourself?

MA: I find new music. Toby Lightman is a fabulous young vocalist.

>PT: Describe the dream guest.

MA: A guest who understands what the Arts and Crafts Movement is. They aren't looking for a special duvet cover because a lot of thought is behind that cotton bedspread. The luxurious touches that are here are done to make them feel pampered in the Arts and Crafts style, which is a stark style.

>PT: What do you do with your guest books?

MA: Save them. Every now and again I'll use them. I save everything, which some people may call hoarding. But recently I had someone writing a book on the in-between years -- from the 1940s to the '90s. I had a box with all that information. People would clean out their parents' or grandparents' homes, find articles and send them to me. I have menus from 1930, 1940 -- and guest books.

>PT: How has the Internet changed inn keeping?

MA: Tremendously. AOL started the year we opened. It helps in a lot of ways. It hurts in some ways. I worry someday that if we have a power outage, and all the computers go down, how many servers can take a menu and figure out that bill. They're so used to touching a screen.

>PT: Your daughters are following in your footsteps?

MA: My younger daughter is just starting high school next year. My other daughter, a [college] freshman, has declared hospitality administration. It's something she's grown up with. She's a housekeeper here, an excellent housekeeper. It amazes me that of all the jobs she could pick in the property, that she would choose to work with the housekeeping team, but she loves it. Now if she only could keep her room clean at home.

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com