After careers as a playwright, radio actor, production stage manager, director, and owner and artistic director of theaters around the country, Bob Belfance ’55 has settled into small-town life. He and his wife, Carol, have in fact practically become part of the landscape of the charming small town of McConnelsville, Ohio (population 2,000).
For years the couple had thought about becoming innkeepers. In 1994, after responding to a newspaper ad regarding a bed and breakfast for sale and feeling that somehow McConnelsville was where they belonged, the two purchased the Outback Inn Bed and Breakfast. Built in 1870, the inn is part of the historic McConnelsville downtown, which also includes the century-old Howard House restaurant, a courthouse built in the 1920s, and an opera house that has been in continuous operation since 1892.
But the Outback isn’t just a B&B; it also doubles as the site of a morning radio show. From 1996 until recently, the Belfances hosted a program, Breakfast at the Outback, that covered everything from politics to entertainment to recipes. "Once," recalls Belfance, "we were up to our buns in tomatoes and zucchini --- people kept dropping them off on our porch. So we had a tomato and zucchini recipe day." During the show’s run of 418 broadcasts, the Belfances interviewed everyone from local celebrities to interesting patrons of their inn. One such guest was a woman who had been the subject of a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover --- and who, her hosts discovered, had acted in the 1930s at a theater Belfance went on to buy in the 1960s. Another guest had toured as a vocalist with Duke Ellington; yet another had witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor from the roof of a burning airplane hangar.
Between hosting their radio show and keeping inn guests comfortable, the Belfances have also been active in the political, business, and theater community of McConnelsville and spearheaded a project to revitalize the town center. And they have just published Beds, Breakfasts, and Broadcasts, which includes a history of the inn and the town, stories of their neighbors, quirky anecdotes from their radio show guests, and some of Carol Belfance’s favorite recipes. Small town life or no, there seems to be little time for R&R at the B&B.
--- Jeff Candura ’01