Business

Nogals are inn, and out

Sandy and Steve Nogal, the husband and wife management team that opened the Inn At Langley 14 years ago, are heading off the the wilds of Montana at the turn of the year. Steve Nogal, a chef, has become well-known for the multi-course meals he prepares at the inn, while both have received national acclaim for their work at the inn. - Matt Johnson
Sandy and Steve Nogal, the husband and wife management team that opened the Inn At Langley 14 years ago, are heading off the the wilds of Montana at the turn of the year. Steve Nogal, a chef, has become well-known for the multi-course meals he prepares at the inn, while both have received national acclaim for their work at the inn.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Fourteen years ago, Steve and Sandy Nogal started a career adventure on Whidbey Island.

At the time, Sandy Nogal was a hotel manager at the Four Seasons in Seattle; Steve Nogal was the chef at McCormick's Fish House. Life was pretty good.

At the same time, Paul Schell was building a new inn in Langley. With 24 rooms and an intimate dining room, it didn't need a big staff. A manager and a good chef were about all that was needed, aside from a few maids. This is where Sandy and Steve came in.

Having worked for Schell at his Alexis Hotel in 1982, Sandy Nogal -- who came complete with her own first choice for chef -- made the top of his call list. So in 1988, life got even better.

It was the first "why not" move of their lives. Sure, the Inn At Langley was new with no established clientele and no guarantee of success. They were willing to take a chance.

In January, the Nogals will make their second and probably last "why not" move. After almost a decade and a half of making the inn regionally and nationally famous for its accommodations and food, the couple is leaving Langley for Flathead, Mont., and a new start.

"We have one 'why not' move left in us," said Sandy Nogal this week. "It's time."

Nogal said she and her husband have done everything with the Inn At Langley they'd hoped. Running it like a sole proprietorship, even though Schell owned it, they've built a reputation. Cheery, chatty and energetic, Sandy Nogal has spent the past 14 years building a loyal clientele at the upscale inn. Steve Nogal, best known for his multi-course meals, has become locally famous for the kitchen stage show he puts on before meals to explain the preparation to diners.

And all it took to get this notoriety was the Nogals' complete and total attention.

"It wasn't just a job; it was our lives," said Sandy Nogal.

Nogal said Schell, who could not be reached by telephone this week, was "saddened" to hear that this management team is leaving. She said it is a dream that is taking them away from Whidbey Island; she and her husband want to open their own restaurant in Montana. It will require more energy and risk than running the inn, but she said it is something they need to do.

"We have the right amount of fear," she said.

The Nogals will still have interests on the island. Together, they own buildings leased by the Artists Cooperative of Whidbey Island and retailer Big Sister.

The couple will leave the Inn At Langley on Jan. 16. Sandy Nogal said the inn's management company, Columbia Hospitality, is currently searching for a new manager and new chef.

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