On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, I took a trip to The Washington House Hotel & Restaurant in Sellersville. Just a few paces up the sidewalk is Sellersville Theater, which is an extension of The Washington House. Both buildings are staples in the Sellersville/Perkasie community, offering delicious food, warm accommodations, and a wide variety of exhilarating entertainment.
The road to communal success has been a long and interesting one, but the patience and hard work of owner Elayne Brick has situated the business as one of the leading figureheads in the Bucks and Montgomery County areas. I had the opportunity of sitting down with Elayne, as well as marketing director Alyson Faga, to learn of the journey taken to make these buildings legendary.
Before we begin, let’s partake in a short history lesson.
A Sometimes Hotel, Sometimes Boarding House
In the mid-1700’s, a farmhouse was built along the Lenape trail by German immigrants. This building would become The Washington House in the 1850’s after obtaining their first tavern license. The facility functioned as a hotel and boarding house for travelers−a function that endured until the late 1980’s. From there, many additions are built on the property, including the iconic tower.
In 1894, a stable is built next door to store the horses of patrons staying at The Washington House. This structure is what would eventually become Sellersville Theater, but has worn several hats before becoming a famed venue. In 1950, the stable transforms into a movie theater, the Selvil Theatre. However, tragedy struck in 1970 when a fire guts the interior of the building. Two years of renovations later, the theater became Cinema 1894, which it remained until 2002.
A Change of Pace
At this point, we’re arriving to where Elayne enters the story. She and her husband, William Quigley, purchase The Washington House in 1985. As self-proclaimed lovers of architecture, restoration, and food, Elayne and William were drawn to the structure and aesthetic of the historic building.
“There was no lofty goal of turning Sellersville into an entertainment destination,” she laughs. Their original motivation was to help revitalize the building and business. The Washington House remains a combination of many passions shared between Elayne and her husband. It seemed a no-brainer to take on the project.
The business still operated as a “sometimes hotel, sometimes boarding house” upon purchase. Due to some rather unfortunate fires, the eighteen rooms upstairs became unattainable for many years. While the exterior and first floor were fixable, the boarding rooms remained a little “toasty.” In a humorous anecdote, Elayne and Alyson reveal that by 2001, 4,000 square feet of the upstairs is filled with documents, receipts, and other storage.
In 2009, Elayne decides it’s time to restore the upper floors to their former glory. Over the next five years, the business plan renovations and clear out the 4,000 square feet of storage. Reconstruction begins in March of 2015, and the hotel opens in April of 2016.
A Theater Reborn
Concerning the theater, Elayne and William maintained a close relationship with the owner of Cinema 1894. When he informed them of his desire to retire in 2001, the goal was to rejoin the two buildings. The couple recognized an opportunity to complement existing business, thus discouraging competition.
After a brief period of trial and error, the couple decide it’s time to focus the theater on services they can provide best. What follows is the Sellersville Theater our community has come to love. The theater hosts music, comedy, free movies, and children’s theater. Coming up on twenty years of business, Sellersville Theater is renowned as one of the most versatile venues in the suburban area.
One of the most successful attributes of the theater is its international draw. Artists from Jeff Daniels, to John 5, and even folk-trio Joseph have performed in Sellersville, turning a quiet town into an entertainment hotspot. Naturally, there is a lot of passion and perseverance involved in building this kind of brand.
Bruce Ranes, the talent buyer at Sellersville Theater, will contact acts if he notices no Philadelphia stop on their tour. If bands are performing in Sellersville, they are the Philadelphia stop. Sellersville Theater is also revamping their Live & Local initiative, encouraging local artists of all genres to showcase their talents. The business wants to get back into running the “full gambit of local and international,” as Alyson Faga describes it.
Hotel, Home, Family: A Team United
The Washington House Hotel & Restaurant and The Sellersville Theater: the perfect combination of delicious dinner, exhilarating performance, and concluding with a stay in a lovely hotel. What could make this combination any better? The answer lies in the team.
When I ask her to describe the main vision of the business, Elayne Brick responds without hesitation: “Our mission is to provide true hospitality to our guests, performers, and ourselves with warmth, sincerity, and respect.” Between holiday events for families, Oktoberfest buffets, and five-course champagne dinners on New Years Eve, there’s something for everyone in the familial environment of both buildings. Even the staff operates like a loving family.
Alyson has been with the company for eleven years, first starting out as an intern. She recounts to Elayne how after completing her initial internship requirements for school, she wanted more experience. Following a splendid dinner at The Washington House, Alyson’s mother suggested she intern with Elayne. The rest, as they say, is history. As Alyson tells the story, I can see the closeness and camaraderie between the two of them. It is a genuine warmth that is palpable in interactions with any of the Washington House or Sellersville Theater staff.
Passion Pushes Business Forward
To wrap up our time together, I ask Elayne and Alyson what they are most passionate about in their time with the company. Elayne returns to the concept of true hospitality. As a team leader, her passion is most evident in her ability to encourage others to be and do their best. Over 30 years of ownership, she always makes sure her employees are getting the most out of life. That extends to customers as well.
For Alyson, she cites the fluid nature of her job as her passion. In marketing, mediums are constantly changing, which offers plenty of space for consistent learning. It helps keep her job fresh and exciting for her. It also helps to have a fearless leader in Elayne, who is always willing to get creative with upcoming projects.
A Partnership a Decade in the Making
We are honored to maintain a decade-long partnership with The Washington House and Sellersville Theater. Alyson spoke quite a bit about the excellent care and service that our salesman Tom Rolón has offered the company. When the Washington House was gearing up to reopen the hotel, Alyson approached Tom asking for stationary, door hangers, pens, and everything needed when opening a new part of the business. She said that Tom never batted an eye, and the projects turned out great.
Alyson also imparted a story where the company was looking for new ways to present gift cards to customers. Elayne and Allison contacted Tom, believing they knew exactly what was wanted and simply needing a price quote. Tom offered a simple and new suggestion that is warmly embraced. Those new designs will be rolled out this holiday season.
While Elayne Brick and Alyson Faga are our clients, they are a prominent part of the PrintWorks family. Their company remains a staple in the Bucks County and surrounding communities, offering a rich and unique experience. If this is your first time learning of the historic businesses, we encourage you take a trip over. Have a meal, see a show, perhaps even stay the night and rest those weary bones. If you’re a frequent patron of the Washington House and Sellersville Theater, we would be delighted to hear your experiences. And I extend my gracious thanks to Elayne and Alyson for sitting down with me and revisiting the successes of a neighborhood favorite.
– Tyler James McMaster