1. How did you get started?
Maurice Hill and my father Ralph Lea were best friends. Both men enjoyed collecting and Lodi history. Maurice appointed Ralph to be Trustee of his will and testament. Ralph made a promise to Maurice (the last Hill family member) to preserve his home for future generations and his artistic works. Before our father passed, it was his wishes that my sister and I continue to fulfill that promise. Maurice and my dad valued the Hill House as a gem of Lodi; to be enjoyed and visited by the community. We are working to honor that vision.
2. What is your favorite part of the business?
Maurice would often invite families to come over after church to his home. Maurice would play his upright grand piano while his guests sang songs, play games and ate ice cream. One of our first guests was Brian O’Neal of the famed band BusBoys with top hits; “The Boys Are Back In Town” and "New Shoes". Mr. O’Neal sat down at Maurice’s piano and performed a mini concert “Rockin’ And Rollin’ in Lodi” at the Hill House. That memory will forever put a smile on my face. I meet the most interesting people that stay at the Hill House Bed and Breakfast like Russ Leno, World Champion Master Sculptor who works with sand, ice, and wood as a few of the mediums he sculps. Russ pulled into the driveway with an 800 lb. plus pumpkin in the back of his truck on his way to a competition. What a delight meeting Judith Brinn, Emmy Nominated Makeup Artist, she worked for Fox TV, Disney, and all major movie studios. I was absorbed in Judith’s career stories about some of my favorite actors, and singers. I’ve met yacht owners that dock in Stockton and stayed with us to visit their favorite winery and restaurant in Lodi. The latest interesting guest was a woman that creates competitive scale miniatures. She showed me pictures of her miniature house with plumbing, electricity, and appliances that work. She took copious pictures, videos and measurements of Hill House inside and out and said our miniature version would be ready in 10 years.
3. What is unique about staying at the Hill House?
Besides the relaxing and comfortable environment, guests can experience the original furniture used by the Hill family back in 1901 thru 1950’s - 100-year-old tables, wicker chairs, dishes, and bedroom furniture. Maurice’s father George Hill crafted his own clocks, bookcase and stairway. Every guest receives a delicious home cooked breakfast served family style. In addition, we offer a unique venue where the back yard can accommodate 200 people and indoors up to 50 for your celebration or event.
4. What do customers find most special about the Hill House?
Believe it or not, it’s our beds. We purchased premium mattresses from Minerva’s here in Lodi. Everyone that stays here mentions how amazingly comfortable they slept. The number one object that brings out the camera phone video is the Victor Victrola which plays 78 speed records. Guests always enjoy listening and playing music from the Hill family collection.
5. Is there something you have done unrelated to your business that has helped with running the Hill House?
4-H gave me the building blocks for life: leadership, service, public speaking, business planning and critical thinking to name a few. As an adult, I was hired to work on political campaigns. My responsibility was coordinating volunteers and events. I have the greatest respect for people that donate their time for a cause they believe in. I learned a lot from working with so many diverse individuals. What I’ve carried over is to treat our guests with kindness and respect. During their stay at Hill House they are the master of the house.
6. How did your parents influence you?
We love both of our parents, but our mother was a career schoolteacher and she was determined that her children be well rounded. She was involved in all our activities. My mother was a strong-willed individual that taught me to appreciate wildlife, the arts and sports. She also taught me to never give up. She would often remind me that if one way didn’t work, to try another way. When I cook, I have a picture of my mom in the kitchen, so I always cook with love for my guests as she did for her family.
7. What is your life philosophy?
God is in control. Be honest and fair.
8. Where do you see your business in three years?
I see the community enjoying, appreciating and utilizing the Hill House for their venues. Maurice Hill kept the house filled with music, we would very much like to start an art scholarship for local talent. Ultimately, preserving and honoring Maurice’s wishes since Hill House is one of the few resident occupied Queen Anne homes of its kind in Lodi.