AROUND TOWN: Manayunk Chambers

AROUND TOWN: Manayunk Chambers

By Leo Dillinger

Photography By Stephanie Nolt

In a neighborhood that thrives on small-town charm, it’s no surprise that the highest-rated source of lodging in Manayunk can be found in an elegant, three-story Victorian bed & breakfast at 168 Gay Street.

Innkeeper and resident, Mark Jerde, along with his partner, Neal Orzeck, opened Manayunk Chambers Guest House in July 2015 to give visitors a memorable stay in their historic yet comforting home while offering the finest hospitality imaginable. The building itself has stood since 1877 when it served as the parsonage for Ebenezer Methodist Church. Upon its completion at that time, church archives referred to this property as the “jewel of the neighborhood.”

“The beauty that Neal and I love the most about this place is having been a parsonage, it was written in record there was a christening here on one day or a wedding here another day,” Mark said. “Having read the journals, we know there’s a lot of positive spirit that has been here throughout the ages. For us, having this as a bed & breakfast, we’re continuing that tradition of bringing joy to all who enter.”

Upon their arrival, guests are escorted into Mark and Neal’s quaint, cozy parlor. The room itself looks like something out of Downton Abbey with impressionist paintings covering the walls, shelves loaded with special-interest books, a chandelier, and a baby grand piano that plays classical scores to lighten the room. Mark offers visitors complimentary beverages like bottled spring water, coffee, tea, Philly-style soda, wine, and even beer from the Manayunk Brewery to make them feel at home.

“I greet my guests when they come to the door. I acquaint them with the parlor room and let them know this is their living room for the next few days,” Mark said. “That way they can feel comfortable and utilize all the amenities in this room.”

Currently, there are three potential bedrooms that visitors can rent out with a fourth one in the works, which will be completed in 2017. Each suite comes with a private bathroom, a comfy bed, armoires to store luggage, fresh flower arrangements, and in-room climate control via air conditioning or gas fireplace. But what makes each room unique is the decor that adds an aesthetic personality to the guest experience.

Pastoral Suite: As an homage to the building’s original intent, this room on the second floor offers a spacious, relaxing environment for anyone traveling on business or spending a weekend getaway in Manayunk. This 250-square-foot room has a king size, four post bed and a private bathroom adjacent to the suite with spa-style shower, luxury bath, and a private lock to keep your belongings safe.

Suite-Heart Room: With a large percentage of single, working women who stay at Manayunk Chambers, Mark intricately designed this room as an ode to the strength of the woman. With bold, feminine decor, paintings that celebrate women, and a cozy queen-size bed, this third-floor suite is sure to serve as your personal sanctuary.

Parisienne Room: The Steampunk feel to this room makes any visitor feel like they’ve time-traveled to 19th century France. Beautiful furnishings, nostalgic charm, and an “invigorating French bidet” make this suite the perfect stay for any modern eccentric.

Though the rooms and amenities at Manayunk Chambers are exemplary, the best part of booking a reservation is Mark’s steadfast devotion to making guests happy. Mark has a mile-long résumé of 18 years experience in both the hotel and restaurant industry. He received his education from The Restaurant School and Omega Institute, specializing in everything from hotel law to front desk operations to housekeeping and security. Mark has worked as an apprentice at White Dog Cafe, a catering manager, a bakery manager, a wedding consultant, a teacher at Star Career Academy, and a night manager at The Rittenhouse Hotel.

Being a certified chef, Mark always adheres to the “breakfast” side of “bed & breakfast.” He offers his guests a continental breakfast of homemade pastries or a fresh fruit parfait as well as juice, coffee, and tea. Or for a small upcharge, Mark will give you the royal treatment by cooking up a full, gourmet breakfast. All you have to do is let him know.

“Having been in the hospitality business for as long as I have, I do my best to try and think of everything that my guests may need before they know they need it,” Mark said. “That’s what hospitality is all about.”

Mark and Neal considered the idea of turning the front of their home into a bed & breakfast for nearly a decade prior to opening. After years of saving up and renovating each room little by little, their home started taking on the Guest House identity. Mark gives credit to his neighbor and Yanako/Chabaa Thai mastermind, Moon Krapugthong, for giving him “the hardest kick in the butt” to officially open Manayunk Chambers. Moon had a friend from Thailand who was coming to visit in July 2015 and she kept asking Mark when he would be ready. Mark hesitantly agreed to book his first reservation and from there, everything started to snowball. He added Manayunk Chambers to TripAdvisor with help from one of his guests and has received nothing but accolades ever since.

“Neal always tells me, ‘This place is you,’” Mark said. “I have never received under a 5-Star review on TripAdvisor and it’s going to crush me the day I do. I’ll do my best to keep it from happening but that’s what it is. It’s me who I’m selling in a sense because that’s who you get when you stay here. You get me, and I love what I do.”

There is a bright future ahead for Mark and Neal’s cozy Gay Street B&B. Not only do they have a consistent flow of reservations coming in, they also have some new renovations in the works including a fourth bedroom, a sun porch, and a new breakfast room where Mark will be able to showcase his pastry skills to students. They even plan on hosting “Murder Mystery” escape weekends, culinary demonstration weekends, and dinner club evenings.

Mark wants anyone who considers booking a suite at Manayunk Chambers to know they will be taken care of in any capacity. If you’re looking for a luxurious stay in a quaint neighborhood at an accommodating bed & breakfast, look no further than Manayunk Chambers Guest House.

“I like to stress the amount of service that I offer. It’s wonderful service in a beautiful setting,” Mark said. “My tagline is ‘Rest Assured.’ I want people to feel confident when they stay here. I want them to feel comfortable and that their rest is assured. Most of all, I want them to leave with a wonderful, positive feeling.”

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