Tracy and Gretchen Du Peza move from Switzerland, buy Harmony House

By Todd F. Michalek, Sun Journal staff

Owners of the Harmony House Inn Bed and Breakfast, Gretchen and Tracy Du Peza, had never heard of New Bern. It was their daughter who discovered the town online and recommended the couple take a well-deserved break here. It was a perfect fit for the couple who’d spent time raising their family in Switzerland.

“We spent 12 years living in Switzerland,” Gretchen said. “Our daughter got us a gift certificate to stay at a bed and breakfast (not Harmony House) in New Bern. Because we had reservations at the inn we were receiving email updates from the inn and found out they were putting the inn up for sale.”

Before the couple was scheduled to stay at the inn, they visited New Bern to check it out. From a business perspective, the inn wasn’t a good fit, but it reignited a glancing desire to one day run their own bed and breakfast.

“The kids were really little and we were staying somewhere and we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to run a bed and breakfast when the kids are grown up and we’re retired?’” Gretchen said. “It’s one of those things you say in passing but never really think it’ll happen."

The couple kept finding reasons to come back to New Bern, and in time began falling in love with it. The once half-thought notion of owning a bed and breakfast became something the couple pursued, and on their visits to New Bern, began looking at places to make the bed and breakfast a reality.

“We started looking for properties that were available and wanted something that had a fair amount of property,” said Tracy. “I wanted something that had a workshop where I can refinish furniture and repair things, so this property worked out very well. This property also has a cottage, so it gives us a chance to turn things off, give the guests their space, and have our own space.”

Guests to the Harmony House are prevalently from the East Coast, and it’s typical to have people who stop in on their way down to Charleston, South Carolina or Savannah, Georgia or the Outer Banks. The inn has, however, hosted guests from all over the country and world.

“We’ve had people come down from Maine, and some from Michigan, and Virginia,” Gretchen said, “but we’ve also had travelers from Europe and have had several families from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland, and South Africa.”

With people coming from all over the world, there’s a certain appeal about staying in a bed and breakfast in a historic town like New Bern. The Du Pezas are keenly aware of this and present guests with an experience that pays homage to New Bern’s historical roots.

“We want to give it the ambiance that is due when the house was originally built back in the 1850s, and bring back some of the grandeur and stateliness of the home so people can enjoy and appreciate that,” Gretchen said.

While the inn allows guests to appreciate their visit with a bit of historical flair, the Du Pezas temper the historical sensibilities of the inn with a modern day approach to relaxation.

“Our goal here a the Harmony House is to feel very comfortable and to treat it like home,” Gretchen said. “We want them to feel like they’re at home, and we don’t want it such that it’s so high brow that people feel they have to walk around the furniture, or that they can’t touch anything.”

Given the number of people who have made plans to return and have returned to the inn, it’s hard to believe anyone would feel that way.

“One of the best compliments we’ve gotten is the number of people who’ve stayed with us have said they’re coming back,” Gretchen said. “We had several guests stay with us three or four times now. It’s a great compliment knowing that we’ve created a nice environment and they felt comfortable here, and I feel like we’ve made a lot of friends.”

New Bern offers a lot to those who are traveling through and one of the goals for the Du Pezas are to connect guests to all that New Bern has to offer through their experience at the Harmony House.