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Thursday, October 30, 2014

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Megan Alexander, Owner of Country Bed & Breakfast in Queensbury, New York and Owner of Special Cakes Our Coverage Sponsored by Stribling and Associates



Megan Alexander

For over 30 years, Stribling and Associates has represented high-end residential real estate, specializing in the sale and rental of townhouses, condos, co-ops, and lofts throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, and around the globe. Stribling has more than 200 professional brokers who use their respected expertise to provide personalized service to buyers and sellers at all price levels. A separate division, Stribling Private Brokerage, discreetly markets properties over $5 million, and commands a significant market share in this rarified sector of residential real estate. Stribling is the exclusive New York City affiliate of Savills, a leading global real estate advisor with over 200 office in 48 countries. 




Check out their listings:


Whom You Know Congratulates their new President, Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan: http://www.whomyouknow.com/2012/12/breaking-manhattan-real-estate-news.html

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Megan Alexander co-founded, co-owns, and co-operates two businesses, Country House Bed & Breakfast and Special Cakes, with her sister, Brittany Alexander, in Queensbury, NY. The formulation and execution of both brands is derived from a vision. The vision for these brands culminates from a plethora of unique skills, talents, and abilities, both learned and innate. Megan’s dynamic background, experience, and personality have positioned her at the helm of reinventing the norm through creating two brands that defy expectation. With the creative input of her sister, Megan conveys each brand’s vision through their websites, social media, and photography. All content from these is original and created by Megan and her sister. Through these brands, Megan’s traits as an independent thinker, determined leader, and dynamic individual are brought to fruition and it is only a matter of time before we see what Megan’s character derives next.

Never one to accept the status quo, Megan has always had an independent mind. She sees beyond average expectations to what should and could be. Having been raised in an atmosphere that valued aesthetics, quality, and ingenuity, Megan was primed for the opportunity to carry out such qualities in the accommodation and cake industries. Country House Bed & Breakfast and Special Cakes take the expected norm of accommodations and cake and turn it on its head. 

Country House Bed & Breakfast is different from the average accommodation in that guests enjoy quality brands and modern amenities with the opportunity to enjoy these deluxe accommodations with their dog. When formulating the Country House brand, it was important to Megan to create an experience where the guest felt that they stepped into the pages of a home design and luxury food magazine. To do this, quality brands are offered rather than generic wholesale items for guests and their pets. For example, the beds are Ethan Allen, the sheets, bed skirts, and pillows are Pottery Barn, the comforters and pillow shams are Shabby Chic, and Martha Stewart, the mattresses are Westin Dream Heavenly, the croissants are from Williams-Sonoma, the pool towels are from Frontgate, the shower curtains, bathmats, and owners’ aprons are from Anthropologie, extravagant bath amenities are from L’Occitane en Provence, the silverware is from West Elm, the dishes are from Frontgate, breakfast display items are from Pottery Barn, the afternoon refreshments are Tate’s Bakeshop boxed chocolate chip cookie wedding favors, even the filigree mats beneath the dog’s food and water bowls are from Frontgate and the leashes from Martha Stewart Pets. To ensure that the guest enjoys the best, Megan also provides fresh squeezed orange juice using the Orange X juicer from Williams-Sonoma, Gevalia coffee, fresh berries, Purely Elizabeth Granola, and Chobani Greek yogurt. Service at the bed & breakfast also exceeds expectation, as the owners are available around the clock to meet any need to make a guest’s stay more convenient. Also, amenities are replenished daily, turn down service is provided, sheets are changed daily, and there is complementary wifi, phone and refreshments. In designing the entire property, Megan’s focus remained on the guest’s comfort. Guests benefit from motorized blackout shades, fenced yard and pool, and even sensor waste bins. Megan also designed the guest parking area to be hidden from the road, as to preserve the property’s integrity. She also wrote the script for the telephone answering system, chose transfer music that would speak to the brands, and ensured that the proper phone lines and extensions were available. Megan thought out every detail for the most pleasant stay possible down to the bags used for chamber service and the mints on the pillows. Linens are toted in ruffled laundry bags from Urban Outfitters and cleaning supplies, in a gold sequined Victoria’s Secret duffle bag. The gold foil chocolate mints are custom made with a sketch of Country House imprinted on each one. Megan’s ingenuity and independent thought led to the creation of a bed & breakfast that surpasses expectations.

Megan has always believed that all things should be done aesthetically without compromising functionality. As such, Special Cakes is not your average bakery. Special Cakes creates and delivers personalized cupcakes. It is a brand that celebrates the individual, life, and all things good and pretty! Custom cupcake toppers are usually a very specific design. Megan strives to have each topper be pretty, meet client’s desires, and be beyond expectation. Rarely using fondant, Megan usually finds a sweet edible item to make toppers with so that they not only look like the design desired, but are delicious too. Special Cakes is headquartered at Country House Bed & Breakfast. Megan even designed the kitchen where Special Cakes operates from not to be the average bakery kitchen. When faced with the challenge of replacing the existing kitchen equipment at the bed & breakfast with new to meet commercial standards, the options looked daunting. True to her personality, Megan refused to accept the standard equipment that was so readily available, as common commercial kitchen equipment does not fit the d├ęcor of the historic home where Special Cakes resides. Megan thought there must be high quality equipment that would meet the needs of a commercial kitchen without having to compromise the home’s character. Megan thought; ‘who has style, class, and has the ultimate kitchen?’ Of course! She looked up the kitchen of Ina Garten who recently renovated her kitchen for her program, “Barefoot Contessa.” There, the answer lied. The major equipment used was Viking Range. This equipment not only qualified for the business, but fit the dimensions of the existing kitchen perfectly for the least disruption to the existing kitchen’s structure possible and even made the kitchen look better than it did before. When faced with a decision for the required mop sink, Megan chose a white Parisian pedestal sink from Pottery Barn. The refrigerator chosen was a gorgeous Frigidaire model with a window display. From the creation to the operation of Special Cakes, Megan does not settle for what is expected or average, and her clients benefit from this.

Megan was born in Nashua, NH and grew up in Queensbury, NY. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2004 with highest honors in the top 2% of her class from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, having achieved a 3.962 CGPA with a major in accounting and a minor in political science. In 2008, Megan passed all four sections of the CPA exam in the first attempt with high marks. She worked in the accounting field from 2005-2012 and with her sister, in 2012, began the launch of their two businesses.

Megan credits her parents and God for her gifts, talents, and abilities, and without whom, none of this would be possible. W
e are delighted to present Megan Alexander as our latest Mover and Shaker! Peachy Deegan interviewed Megan for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What do you attribute your independent streak to?
Megan Alexander: 
Genetics. I come from a long line of strong, independent women. For this, I am extremely grateful.

What brand logos have you found most challenging to replicate on cakes and why?

There are times when I am in the midst of constructing a cupcake topper when I believe I need a degree in engineering to complete it. For instance, I was engaged to construct Minecraft cupcakes. Minecraft is a video game where specific objects are built from virtual blocks. Using cookies, chocolate, and frosting, I constructed each figure as one would from blocks. The pieces needed to stick together and remain upright on each cupcake, so the dimensions of each piece were crucial to success. The creation of these precise, three dimensional, figurine type shapes, using food, are the most challenging. However, often, the decorations I find the most challenging end up becoming some of the best.


What criteria do you use when you choose to partner with a specific brand in your Bed and Breakfast business?
I choose brands for the bed and breakfast based on the experience I have had with them, personally. I want to share things that I have discovered and enjoyed, with others. For each item chosen, I could probably share a personal story of how I found it. As a matter of fact, most of the products chosen were not found on a quest for the business at all. Each product chosen came to my attention at some point during my life. One example: I have always loved chocolate croissants, but they are difficult to find. For Christmas one year, I called Williams-Sonoma to order them for a special breakfast treat. With the item number I provided, the operator told me I had ordered the chocolate-chocolate croissants from Galaxy Desserts. I did not even know such a thing existed. They are chocolate croissants with Belgian chocolate in the center, and chocolate throughout the croissant pastry dough. The operator gave me the option of regular chocolate croissants, but said the chocolate-chocolate were “wooonderful.” I followed his advice and ordered them. They were the best pastry I could imagine and are now the signature pastry offered at Country House Bed & Breakfast. With different scenarios, similar to this, each brand for the bed and breakfast evolved. I recognized the value of each product discovered and added it to the arsenal of things that I like. The bed and breakfast was a perfect avenue to share the collection of products and brands that I have found value in and I believe in the brands being offered. Also, the brands chosen need to exude the type of experience guests will enjoy at Country House. Some specific attributes shared by all the brands chosen are brand identity, aesthetic, and quality.

What makes a great guest at your B & B?
I love when a guest enjoys all the amenities offered. When I see that a guest fully utilizes the Country House experience, it is the best compliment. I would prefer a guest who uses and eats everything to one where little is touched. When a guest has enjoyed the unique experience provided, that is the ultimate goal and the ultimate reward.

What are the most unusual requests you've received at your B & B?
Not to bother make breakfast, change the sheets, or replenish the amenities. That is what you are here for! While I aim to please, those requests do go unmet. It is our pleasure to serve you!

What are the biggest accounting mistakes entrepreneurs make and what should they do instead?
Some entrepreneurs rely too heavily on their employees and accountants to handle their books. I would advise all entrepreneurs to learn basic accounting to be able to have independence in this aspect of the business. Knowledge is power and, as a business owner, you certainly want to know what is happening on the financial side, and why.


What are your opinions on Corporate Taxes in America in general and specifically in their regard to foreign companies opening offices in the USA and how they are treated by our government from a tax perspective?
Corporate taxes in America should be lowered to increase American jobs, U.S. competitiveness, and U.S. business investment. There needs to be corporate tax reform to allow for American business to be strong and competitive on the global stage and to encourage economic growth within the U.S. Corporate tax reform needs to occur to give American companies a competitive opportunity especially in regard to foreign companies opening offices in the USA that are not as burdened by U.S. taxes as American companies are. It is my understanding that American multinational companies are taxed at the high U.S. rate on net income earned both home and abroad, while foreign companies opening offices in the U.S. operate under a special set of regulations where only a portion of their net income is subject to U.S. tax. America needs to level the playing field for U.S. corporations to give them a fair chance.

What politicians do you admire and why, and do they live what you were taught in political science?
I respect and admire former President George W. Bush immensely because he was a true leader. He is a man of God, withstands criticism, and stays true to his convictions. His response to 9/11 was heroic. He operated with dignity, grace and courage. Not to mention, he looked great doing it! What a man! He definitely lived the presidency how I was taught in political science. He defended and upheld the Constitution, protected America from enemy forces, and defended our freedom; traits only the most notable Presidents in history share. I believe George W. Bush will go down as one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history.

What should we all know about your sister Brittany?
She is extremely driven and wildly imaginative. When she sets her mind to something, she attacks it with great enthusiasm. Not one for doing anything half way, Brittany pushes the limits beyond what I even attempt to think is possible, and her ideas work! No matter how strong-willed Brittany may be, she does have one weakness; she simply cannot resist cake!

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?

The realization that opportunities are gifts that only last so long is what influences my pursuit of excellence greatly. When given an opportunity, I am driven to rise to the occasion to ensure that I am upholding and honoring the one providing that open door for me. Opportunities come once. To seize them is to pursue excellence. If you are in school, do your best! If you are at work, strive for success! If you are alive, be your best! No matter where you are or what situation you are going through, it is an opportunity given to you. What will you do with it? For me, I feel I owe it to the people that brought the opportunity to pass to pursue excellence and strive to be my best! I find that Charles F. Stanley’s guide to fulfilling your potential is often running through my mind. He often states that to reach your full potential, you need to “Look your best, do your best, and be your best.”

What are you proudest of and why?
I am proudest of being stalwart in my convictions. Remaining true to my beliefs makes me prouder than any tangible awards or accolades because I have honored the Lord above all else.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?

I would like to franchise my brands across the USA.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?

In college, I received the Richard E. Luhmann Scholarship Award, was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, and graduated with highest honors from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Now, I am honored to be featured by Whom You Know!


What one word best describes you and why?
Steady. Whatever life throws my way, I approach it with ease. Slow and steady wins the race!

What do you take your sense of identity from?
I take my sense of identity from my parents and Christ.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?

At a Broadway show.


What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?

Bergdorf Goodman; shoe department.


If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
Probably Martha Stewart, because she knows how to do everything.


What is your favorite drink?

Anything chocolate: Chocolate milkshake any day, ChocolatRouge for special occasions

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Following a “fool proof” party tip from a magazine, which shall not be named here, I thought I was rather savvy when I balanced my plate of appetizers atop my glass to aid in the ever debatable cocktail party quandary as to how to stand with a drink and eat at the same time. As I watched my chicken wing roll over the carpet and under the Christmas tree, leaving sauce in its wake, I vowed never to employ that cocktail party tip again!

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?

I do not recall the name, but I remember the food! It was a quaint little eatery in SoHo. I ate outside and had the best lemon chicken ever!

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature?

The Great Gatsby

Who would you like to be for a day and why?

I would like to be a popular singer on the day of the concert. I have always enjoyed singing and the excitement of the large audience, having an orchestra, and having the best acoustics would be something I would love to experience. I will go with a childhood favorite: Mariah.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?

A decadent dessert! It would need to contain chocolate and it would need to be out of this world, because when I think of Manhattan, I think of indulgence, and Megan Alexander loves to indulge!

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?

Shopping.



What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?

Best shopping, best food, best theater!

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?

My mother and grandmother; the best people I have ever met.


What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?

I was fortunate to have parents that exposed me to Broadway at an early age. My first show was Crazy For You. My favorite show was Les Miserables, which we saw more than once.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?

I am striving to share my God given gifts through Special Cakes and Country House Bed & Breakfast. I would like to offer something so unique that the world is better off from it.


What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan?

Overrated: Thinking that living there is success just because it is Manhattan.

Underrated: How many successful and talented people live and work in Manhattan.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?

My favorite Whom You Know column is Cuisine and Drinks because I love food and have always been fascinated with food and drink establishments. I think it is the Greek in me.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?

I am a direct descendent from passengers of the Mayflower, a descendant of the first white child born in the town of Hartford, NY, my ancestors are also Irish potato farmers that now operate a potato farm near where I live, my dog is very smart, and I still haven’t met Mr. Right!

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

Please email me directly at dashofnutmegan@aol.com.

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