When folks come to stay at one of our vacation properties in the Finger Lakes, many will ask how we got started and what inspired us to put roots down here. It’s pretty wild to think that for more than 20 years, the Finger Lakes have been part of our lives.
Mark and I started going to the Finger Lakes when we were dating in the early 2000s. We loved going out to explore new places and things to do. It was a quick drive from our home in northeastern Pennsylvania so we would just pack a light backpack and head on the road for a weekend getaway in a jiff! It always felt like a vacation even if it wasn’t too far from home.
So, what drew us here?
At first, we were attracted to all of the wineries and breweries, but we quickly learned that the Finger Lakes had much more to offer. We found great restaurants to try with many focusing on farm-to-table sourcing which was something that was important to us. And how could you not love the local farm stands that dot the roads? And the big farmers markets like the Ithaca Farmers Market? They’re all local treasures.
The more time we spent up here, the more we found ourselves diving into nature, too. Just like so many of our guests, we wanted to really disconnect and get off the grid for the weekend. We’d rent some kayaks and explore Seneca, hop on a jet ski if we were feeling like we needed some adrenalin, or go fishing to pass the time and just reflect.
Other days, we wanted to be a bit more active so we hit the trails for some hiking. We’d hit up the Watkins Glen State Park or head over to Buttermilk Falls to see the waterfalls in all of their glory. On hot days, we would go to Havana Glen and take a dip in the water; it’s chilly but soooo refreshing!
Mark and I are also car enthusiasts, so being so close to The Glen is certainly a treat!
What do we love most about the Finger Lakes?
But probably the best part of why we love the Finger Lakes is the feeling that we have when we are here. We feel our minds and our bodies just relax and everything seems to slow down for us. We are able to escape our hectic lives back home and just enjoy ourselves being together, enjoy the peacefulness of our surroundings, enjoy the fun atmosphere that the Finger Lakes provides, and soak in the beauty of the region and all it has to offer.
When we are here, it’s a perfect blend of yin and yang. A mix of peace and play. A place where we are able to unwind, relax and enjoy each other while enjoying everything around us. It’s our perfect getaway and we hope it is yours too.
How did we end up doing rentals?
In 2018, we started looking for a place for us to buy that we could use as a home base when we went to the Finger Lakes. We were going so often that it just made sense to look for something more permanent! Mark and I are both entrepreneurs so even though we loved coming to the region, we knew we couldn’t be there all the time. We wanted a place that we could offer to family, friends, and guests when we couldn’t be there.
We never saw any of our properties as “just a rental”. They’ve always been homes -- places where you can getaway and feel peaceful and calm. It is what we would want for ourselves!
There’s no pressure here, no compromise. Each of our vacation rentals in the Finger Lakes really does feel like a home and not a guesthouse. There’s no hotel vibe and you won’t feel like you’re shacking up in someone’s extra living space. These are truly homes that are comfortable, relaxing, and serene -- just where we would want to be!
How we found our first property
Looking for the right property was tough. We saw maybe a dozen other places and none of them felt right. When we found the FLX Schoolhouse, it needed A LOT of work. Mark actually walked away and said, “No way!”. But I sat in the living room and looked out at that view. Wow.
I had this feeling of peace and contentment. I felt so calm, so relaxed. I I told him, “You need to take another look.” The location of the property really was (and still is!) perfect. You’re within 10 minutes of your first winery and Watkins Glen. You’d feel removed from any hustle and bustle but still close to dining, shopping, and so many things to do.
With some convincing, we really started to see the potential. I just had this gut feeling that this place felt good and we needed to trust it! And so, we started working on the FLX Schoolhouse to bring it to life.
We spent a lot of days (and nights!) working on restoring it. The view was always a comfort to us. The sunsets you can see on the property are absolutely amazing. There are all these bright vibrant pinks and rusty oranges and rich reds that go on for miles. As we worked, we dreamed of when we’d be able to sit outside with a glass of wine to enjoy it. Finally, in 2019, it fully came to life and we started renting!
How we expanded our vacation rentals
After we finished the FLX Schoolhouse, we started thinking about our next project. When we bought the property, we had some extra land available to us and that opened up a ton of potential. We decided to build four tiny cabins next to the schoolhouse in 2021. This was no small feat -- especially during the middle of COVID! -- but we were committed.
We built (from scratch!) our micro-cabins with a goal of giving guests the best of tiny living. There’s just enough space for two but very modern and luxe amenities to enjoy. They’re positioned so that you still have that killer view that the Schoolhouse has but the size is ideal for solo adventurers, couples, or even groups that want to gather in the Finger Lakes but want their own separate living spaces.
From there we simply couldn’t get enough! In 2022, we purchased our largest property, the FLX Farmhouse which is only three miles down the road from the FLX Schoolhouse and Micro-Cabins. We love this property because of two reasons: it’s an 1840s farmhouse (our oldest home) and it came with a beautiful piece of land.
The farmhouse itself has three bedrooms and is 2000 square feet -- over double the size of the schoolhouse. That means tons of potential for hosting families and friends. We lovingly restored and renovated it over the past year and now we’re ready to enjoy it! As for the land, we’re out exploring it as much as we can. There are 25 acres to enjoy with rustic nature trails running through it. Heaven!
We were also pleasantly surprised to find that the farmhouse property has sugar maple trees on it -- A LOT of them! So, in 2023, we started sugaring and making our own maple syrup. Not only did we have our rentals to keep us busy, but now Grouse Hill Maple Farm was born! It’s a micro-maple farm and someday, we hope to offer tours and maple experiences to our guests.
As you can see, we fell in love with this place and are here to stay. It really is our home away from home. We hope you’ll come to stay with us soon.