Mark Chambers and Joe Pitti had lived in their Marmalade home for decades, developing it into an oasis that many visited at various functions, like the Aqua AID fundraiser for the Utah AIDS Foundation. Last summer, the couple put the house up for sale, packed up all their belongings, and headed to Utah’s Dixie. They had bought Springdale’s oldest bed and breakfast and were eager to put their touches on it.
The two were frequent visitors of Utah’s national parks. Last year, they had gone to Zion National Park, staying at Zion Canyon Lodge. Needing an extra night, they turned to Purple Roofs, a Web site listing gay- and lesbian-friendly accommodations around the world, and found Under the Eaves.
“I instantly fell in love with the house,” Pitti said. “As Mark was unpacking his luggage in our room I said to the previous owner, Steve, ‘you have a great set-up here,’ to which he said, ‘make me an offer.’”
The seed was planted.
But how could two well-entrenched Salt Lakers uproot from the 40th largest city and move to a town of 450 people?
“We had been thinking about a transition to partial retirement,” Chambers said. “Salt Lake City was beginning to feel both ‘too big’ and ‘too small’ at the same time; and the air pollution was disagreeable.”
They took inventory of the business skills they’d developed through their lives and the bed and breakfast just “seemed to fit.”
And fit, it did. Along with two friends, I headed down for a 3-night stay over the town’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration and noticed immediately that the duo played the part of B&B hosts as if they’d been doing it their entire lives.
We were put up in the largest of the house’s six rooms: upstairs in the Eaves Suite. The 1,200-square-foot room has three beds, a kitchenette, a wood-burning stove, vaulted ceilings and a claw-foot tub. A large, antique church window overlooks the gardens and has a breathtaking view of the West Temple in Zion Park, which glows a fiery red in the early morning.
There are two other bedrooms in the main house on the main level and three rooms in the Garden Cottage behind the house.
If you’ve ever been to the Pitti-Chambers house while in Salt Lake, you know they are avid collectors of angels. Angels large and small grace the property inside and out. The fountain that once stood outside their Quince Street home now sits off Zion Park Boulevard, looking like it was built right there with the house.
While the B&B was wonderful before the pair bought it, it has truly come alive with character in the short time they’ve called it home with new bedding, fresh paint, and furnishings.
And then, of course, there are Mark and Joe. Both are friendly, funny and, at the same time, professional with issues such as privacy.
While we were staying there, a gay couple from Austin, Texas was staying downstairs from us. Mark, Joe, the Austin couple and the three of us spent one night in the house’s living area playing board and card games while going over our days exploring the area.
Springdale has embraced the couple as well.
“One of the reasons we were drawn to Springdale is their hosting of Southern Utah Gay Pride,” Pitti said. “We knew they were a liberal town, welcoming such an event.”
“There is a small gay community down here and some gay-owned businesses, but more than that the town is quite a liberal enclave. A ‘live and let live’ feeling permeates within the community,” Pitti continued. “Springdale also becomes somewhat of an international city during the tourist season. Close to three million visitors come to Zion each year and see what the park has to offer. During the height of the tourist season you can hear languages spoken from all over the world.”
While we were in town, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade passed right in front of the B&B. The three of us and Joe donned “say-something hats,” and waived as entries of businesses, individuals and organizations drove by, including Chambers dressed as a turtle (because it was green) for the area’s arts and cultural group, of which Chambers and Pitti are president and vice president. One man, riding a donkey, had a sign on his back saying, “Follow my ass to the Bit N Spur for Jell-O,” which we did, finding live Irish music, green Jell-O-eating and green Jell-O sculpture contests.
“The town is always putting on some kind of fun event,” Chambers said.
Of course, Zion National Park is the area’s largest draw, but the couple took us in their open-topped Jeep to the ghost town of Grafton, stopping on the way at the Springdale Fruit Co. Market for some incredible gelato.
The area also boasts some extremely good restaurants, a well-stocked wine and liquor store and more art and rock galleries than you could visit in a week. I even took care of a Mothers’ Day gift while there.
But, it’s more the people who make Pitti and Chambers feel they are at home.
“We have been pleasantly surprised by the spirit of generosity we have consistently encountered,” Chambers said. “Everybody has been welcoming, inviting us into their homes and offering any kind of help we might need.”
Which is exactly what we found of Joe and Mark as well.