Welcome to Le Chateau Pier
Piergallinis plan Christmas open house for sneak peek at their new destination venue in Smithfield
SMITHFIELD — When the chamber of commerce’s Business After Hours was in its infancy 30 years ago, Todd Piergallini catered the Christmas time social and networking event held at the Jefferson County Historical Association Museum located at 426 Franklin Ave.
With preparations done and food ready to serve, there was lull time before guests arrived, an opportunity for Piergallini to see what family history he might uncover in the museum’s adjoining library.
Instead, he found a book, and in it, a photo of a grandiose Smithfield house familiar to anyone who lives in or travels that area.
He recognized the house that sits on the hill across from the cemetery.
It was built in 1843, originally the home of W.M. Cope and his wife.
It would be a nursing home during the 1960s.
Later it would be fully restored with an addition added in 2009.
It would serve as Our Lady’s Chapel and House for about 10 years.
And it would ultimately sit vacant for a couple of years.
Fast forward to present-day Christmas time, and there’s irony in the air.
That very picture that captured Piergallini’s attention some three decades ago is now a place that’s a passionate pursuit for a new venture for him and his wife, Tina, and their daughter Marlee.
COME AND SEE
Le Chateau Pier, located at 195 state Route 151, Smithfield, will be a new bed and breakfast/event venue to include indoor and outdoor dining, a ballroom/event area that seats 180, Piergallini Catering at Le Chateau, the Country Villa Bed and Breakfast and Luna Bleu Lounge.
The bed and breakfast opens in April — it’s available for bookings now — and outdoor wedding facilities to include a pavilion are on the horizon for June. Such are two of the phases of development.
Piergallini bought the place in August and during the summer returned to the Steubenville museum to find that picture of the house he’d seen years back.
“I’m going to enlarge it to 16-by-20 and put it in every bedroom,” he said of his intentions for the B&B’s seven bedrooms, all with private bathrooms.
“They were amazed — ‘How did you remember this picture being in the book?'” he said of the reaction of museum volunteers.
The Piergallinis hope for amazement of another kind when they welcome the public to an open house to see what’s done and share in their vision.
A Christmas open house will be held from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 17-20 and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 26. There will be refreshments.
While there is no admission, donations will be accepted and split between the Jefferson County Historical Association and the Smithfield Historical Society. He is a lifetime member of both.
The “open house sneak peek” of what the public can anticipate comes on the heels of Piergallini “retiring” at year’s end as the exclusive caterer at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville.
Twenty years ago in November, Piergallini said he catered Pat Marshall’s victory dinner in celebration of becoming Jefferson County’s auditor.
Earlier this month, it was Marshall’s retirement dinner and E.J. Conn’s victory dinner as his successor.
Time truly has wings it flaps, Piergallini agrees.
“I have been in the catering business 33 years, and Tina has been a registered nurse and has helped me off and on,” he said in sharing a review of his professional and personal life during an interview at Le Chateau Pier. Their oldest daughter, Kassandra “Kassy” Doughty, has been his business partner at St. Florian the past 10 years.
“Thirty years ago, I had this vision to have dinners in our home, which we have a Victorian home 3 miles from here,” he said. “We had three little kids at the time, and we had built a new Victorian house, but when we built it, we built one big living room, so we moved the living room furniture out. My catering business had already started by accident. We never set out to have a catering business — it just kind of evolved,” he said.
“We would open our house up for $15 a plate, 30 people minimum, and we would serve a sit-down dinner,” Piergallini said. “The one year we did 14 dinners at our home for at least 30 people between Dec. 1 and Dec. 20. We’ve dabbled in this before, and she wanted someplace to have a vineyard, bed and breakfast, so it’s always been something we wanted to do,” he said.
“We patronize the local wineries that are here, and we hope to partner with them eventually,” interjects Tina, who works for Help Me Grow and was at Harrison Community Hospital before that. She plans to retire March 31.
She will handle the bed and breakfast; he, the events and cooking.
The years at St. Florian have been special, which makes leaving “bittersweet.”
“I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed the people, the success we had there, I enjoyed the events, everything,” he said. “The part I probably enjoyed the most was you never worked with the same person every day, so the events were annual events, monthly events, and we always were doing different themes, and that part made our job interesting, because we got involved in the event. We weren’t just the caterer. We got involved with the person, the organization hosting the event, and we partnered with everybody,” Piergallini said.
But the change brings time for family.
“We wanted to spend more time with our family, and this is going to allow us to do this, because we are going to be closed every year in January, February and March,” he said.
Todd and Tina have six children: Kassy (Mark) Doughty of Smithfield, whose children are Max and Breken; Austin, a student at Ohio State University studying criminology; Corey (Julie) of Mingo Junction, a member of the carpenters local, who have a girl named Lucianna, named after Todd’s mother; Jordan, at home; Marlee, who has a son, Cannon, named in honor of his great-grandfather’s handle as a truck driver; and Angelina, a freshman at Ohio University, pursuing international studies, geology.
Being able to be with their grandchildren under foot at Le Chateau Pier is special and important.
“Tina and I both know first-hand the importance of grandparents being in child rearing since many of our life experiences were taught working or cooking along side of our grandparents,” said Piergallini, whose parents, Ray and Lucille, raised him and his siblings on an Italian family farm near Smithfield where they were taught to cook and embrace a strong work ethic.
Piergallini said he’s had his eyes on the Smithfield property since last November.
“Our house is close to here so driving by it, we see it, and a lot of people, including my brother, Dobie, said that would be a perfect fit. A lot of people had seen this place and that it was empty and said, ‘boy, that would make a good bed and breakfast — hope somebody gets it who can do something with it,'” Piergallini said, noting it’s too big to be a living quarter.
Piergallini said retirement really isn’t a part of his vocabulary, but he wanted a change instead.
“We had a decision to make — go to Florida, transfer her job, I could have found some kind of business down there, we have a house in Cocoa Beach, so it was a big decision,” he said of the stay-or-go choice.
“If I don’t do this, it might be an ‘I wish I would have done this,’ so it was actually in August finalized that we sat down and said, OK, what are we going to do?”
Work began in earnest, ironically again, on Labor Day.
The bed and breakfast has seven bedrooms and can accommodate 20 people sleeping over and has a breakfast nook, three living rooms, a library, the dining room and the kitchen.
Piergallini said he and Tina and daughter Marlee will be working together on a regular basis. Daughter Kassy will turn her attention to full-time motherhood. “She said she would help us out when we needed her, but she is going to take time off to spend time with the children,” he said.
Phases of the project include the bed and breakfast, which is operable as of April 1 and can be seen and booked.
Getting the outdoor venue operable is another phase.
“What we are doing is extending the porch out to make an outdoor wedding pavilion, and we’re going to have a path to a wooded plateau,” Piergallini said. “It’s going to be a flat excavated lawn and wooded archway for weddings, but you also could have bridal showers outside with the option to go in the pavilion if it’s raining. Those two will go hand in hand in the event of inclement weather.”
He envisions among the possibilities that it can be a spot as well for children’s events such as themed birthday parties.
Another phase is Luna Bleu, which daughter Marlee will run. The upscale lounge will feature entertainment on the three days it is open to the public: Wednesday, karaoke; Thursday, oldies; and Friday, live music with a different genre each time. There will be a cover charge that will include appetizers.
It will be available on other days for private events. “If someone wanted to have a class reunion there, and a lot of class reunions only have 70 people, that would be a perfect area for a class reunion and have a DJ,” he said.
“The other thing is we’ll have an in-house sound system so somebody can have music on an iPad or on their own laptop, and they’re going to be able to plug right into our in-house sound system, or a DJ doesn’t have to haul equipment up and down the steps so he can bring a minimal amount of equipment if he wants, so that will be a plus,” Piergallini said.
Another phase involves “an expansion of everything already here,” he explained. “We’re going to put a commercial kitchen in and possibly put more bedrooms above the kitchen and probably living quarters for her and me.”
A BUSY TIME
As the Piergallinis focus on the future venture that will include learning how to run a bed and breakfast, and get ready for the Christmas open house, they still have their “regular jobs.”
That includes the grand finale New Year’s Eve party at St. Florian Hall.
But they’ll be taking some time off, too.
“It’s been a crazy year,” Tina said.
Why do all this when there’s the option to retire?
“Because it’s just something we’ve always talked about doing, and it was a good fit because of my business background and our zest for entertaining. We always do. It was in our nature,” he said of their hospitality-and-hosting wiring.
“My grandmother was a really, really great cook, and so is my mom, and the two of us together — his mom as well — we’ve used recipes so that’s why my thing is more the bed and breakfast, providing the home and place to stay,” Tina said. “All the people used to come home in my grandmother’s family and stay at her house, and I lived next door, so I remember. It was a gathering,” she said of her childhood in Adena. Her grandmother was the eldest of 12 children.
“Everything kind of fell into place,” Piergallini said, and that includes decorations, family furniture and antiques that are all finding a new home and new use.
“It’s accumulated,” he said.
Piergallini said people were surprised “I didn’t pull anything Italian into it even though I cook mainly Italian. Our ancestors go back four and five generations as far as food and beverage, but when we looked at our family history in Italy all the Piergallinis came from one particular town — Ascoli,” he said.
“We went back to that area and researched our last name. They can only go back so far, but they learn from derivatives in a name,” he said. “We believe that our last name has a lot of French in it as well,” he said.
Piergallini emphasized Le Chateau Pier is not just a bed and breakfast. “It’s more than that. It is only one facet of what’s here, and that’s why we want to show everybody with this open house now and grand opening in the spring how much it’s going to offer the area, because it’s going to be a small resort,” he said.
“And we’re going to market it in other ways, like if somebody wants to do yoga weekend, they can sleep here; a class reunion, people out of town can come to the event and sleep here; bridal parties can sleep here and have a party; you can have a family reunion but still invite other people who live locally,” he said.
“The other thing is in this area, we have four funeral homes within a few miles — Adena, Dillonvale, Rayland and Smithfield, Hopedale — when you have relatives come in from out of town, children, grandchildren, and they’re being shown in these local funeral homes, they have to either stay with family or go to St. Clairsvlle, Steubenville or Weirton to get a hotel room. They can stay in this area, because we really don’t have a bed and breakfast in this immediate area,” he said.
Asked what he wants most to get across to readers, Piergallini said, “It will be more of an event venue. It’s going to offer local people a place to bring their families to have their family members stay, to have events, so it’s not just a bed and breakfast. It is going to be utilized not only locally, but it will be regional as well.”
Piergallini said it will be an event destination.
“It’s going to be more designed to be a destination venue where groups of people can congregate and have parties, and it will be a place for local people to enjoy a taste of Europe, too.”
When people talk about a bed and breakfast, they have the idea of sharing a house with somebody and sharing a bathroom.
“All the bedrooms have private bathrooms with white subway tile, and we do have a lot of common rooms, so it’s not just one kitchen,” he said. There are three living rooms, a dining room, a library area, outdoor seating areas and the porches.
Parking will be expanded to accommodate 100 cars. For information, visit lechateaupier.com/xmas.aspx.
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)