A Whole New World

The Whittaker Inn opens a world of possibilities

Story by Aaron Martin, Photos by John Underwood

A memorable night at a Connecticut inn in 2012 led Elizabeth Dimos Whittaker (BS, HTM ’99) and husband Andrew Whittaker (MS, HTM ’99) to leave their conventional careers in hospitality and pursue their dream of opening an upscale inn.

This new path also led them home, in a way, when they decided to locate their inn near Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. The Whittaker Inn, a 15-room inn built from the ground up just five miles from campus, opened in May 2019.

“We want The Whittaker Inn to be the premier location for lodging and events in Greater Lafayette, the place where people go to celebrate the memorable moments in their lives,” Andrew says. “The skills I learned at Purdue provided a great foundation for my roles in finance, and this in turn allowed us to put together a business plan for our inn project. Without that, this venture would not be happening.”

The Whittakers met while they were students in Purdue’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM).

After earning his degree in hotel and catering management from the University of Dundee in Scotland, Andrew learned of Purdue’s excellence in HTM during an exchange program and decided to pursue his master’s degree in Purdue’s Restaurant, Hotel, Institutional and Tourism Management Program. At the time, Elizabeth was earning her bachelor’s degree in restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management, eventually graduating with honors.

Elizabeth Dimos Whittaker (BS, HTM ’99) Elizabeth Dimos Whittaker (BS, HTM ’99)

Checking all the boxes

The Whittakers spent nearly 20 years in corporate hotel management and financing on the East Coast and abroad before deciding to launch their own hospitality business. After much research, they determined that an inn near Purdue “checked all the boxes,” Elizabeth says.

“We wanted to create a unique place that people can’t otherwise find in this area,” says Elizabeth, who is from Crown Point, Indiana. “Plus, I have a lot of family ties to Purdue. My grandfather graduated with the class of 1950 and my parents met here.”

Acknowledging the underlying connection between hotels and travel, the inn features destination-inspired rooms. Each room reflects a different location, from Indiana and New York to India and Norway. It includes an England-inspired room as a nod to Andrew’s home country, as well as a Greece-inspired room in honor of Elizabeth’s Greek heritage.

“Some of the rooms are based on places we’ve visited and some are based on places we’d like to go to someday. Some of our choices were easy because they’re based on family ties and experiences,” Elizabeth says. “We love to travel and we like the idea of learning about different cultures and different places. This also allows us to be experimental in terms of the food and beverage options we can have.”

Andrew Whittaker (MS, HTM ’99) Andrew Whittaker (MS, HTM ’99)

Complementary roles

Responsibility for the diverse menu will fall to Andrew, as the inn’s executive chef. Elizabeth will be responsible for “front of the house” duties like booking reservations, maintaining the website and overseeing the service experience.

“Our roles complement each other perfectly,” Andrew says. “Elizabeth has had a career in rooms operations and revenue generation, so she’ll be focused on the front of the house and generating sales. I have been in the food and beverage side and overall financial management, so I’m running the kitchen and doing the accounting. I’ve always loved cooking and this gives me an opportunity to go back to my roots.”

The Whittakers decided to have a new building constructed in order to offer all the charm of a traditional inn with all the modern amenities of a hotel — and at an affordable price point to match.

With a pair of two-story stone fireplaces as its centerpiece, The Whittaker Inn includes two suites, 13 standard rooms in various configurations, sleek and stylish en suite bathrooms throughout, and night kitchens offering snacks and beverages on both floors. The inn can accommodate 45-50 overnight guests, 50 dining room guests and as many as 75 people for a standup reception in the dining room, gathering room and patio.

Giving back to Purdue

The Whittakers, already HHS donors, also plan on giving back to Purdue when it comes to staffing the inn. They offer internships and other employment and training opportunities to HTM students.

“Purdue prepared me to be successful in my chosen career and I appreciate that. But we didn’t get where we are on our own,” Elizabeth says. “Lots of people invested in us when we were in college and they continued to invest in us. We want to give current Purdue students the same feeling. We want them to know that someone is investing in them.”

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