Over the course of his 30-plus-year career, Richard Gere has been called many things: American Gigolo, Mr. Cindy Crawford, Sexiest Man Alive and world’s second most famous Buddhist. But his latest moniker is surely his unlikeliest: innkeeper. This summer Gere and his wife, Carey Lowell, will welcome their first overnight guests to the Bedford Post, an 18th-century house and barn in Bedford, New York, that they have turned into a small luxury hotel, restaurant, bistro and yoga loft.
“We’re total neophytes,” says Gere, 60, whose familiarity with innkeeping had been pretty much limited to his turn in the 2008 tearjerker Nights in Rodanthe, in which he played bed-and-breakfast manager Diane Lane’s guest-turned-lover. Not having a clue about how to operate a hotel or restaurant has allowed him to run wild with “what-ifs,” he says, to imagine vast possibilities for his fantasy retreat in this tony, horse-country enclave 45 minutes north of Manhattan. Gere and Lowell envision hosting symposia headlined by A-listers from the lecture circuit. And with neighbors like Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren and Jean-Georges Vongerichten to tap, the couple hope the place will be a magnet for like-minded, powerful souls to come together to save the planet—or at least to chat about big-picture ideas over veggie burgers.
“There are a lot of very effective people who live up here, and I saw this on one level as a clubhouse for these people to engage on levels that might be of benefit to the world,” Gere says one rainy summer morning as he digs into his breakfast alongside Lowell in the inn’s private dining room, a cocoon of recycled wood and velvet club chairs. Ruggedly handsome in jeans, work boots, zip-up sweatshirt and tan corduroy jacket, he wears Buddhist prayer beads on one wrist, his tousled silver hair swept high off his face. “I see us generating ideas and networking on a very high level.”
Gere, whose foundation has long supported the Dalai Lama, has frequently used his celebrity to shine a light on hot-button issues, whether by discussing Tibet on Charlie Rose or hitting up Bill Gates to fund an initiative to raise AIDS awareness in India. As a model for his inn, he and Lowell looked to friend Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse. While shooting 2005’s Bee Season, Gere ate there almost every night, and he admired the way the restaurant drew together luminaries from varied fields over sophisticated food and wine. To that end, they recruited chef Brian Lewis, a champion of slow food cooking who has done stints at Lutèce and Oceana in New York, Bix in San Francisco and Vu in Scottsdale, Arizona. Lewis, 42, a Westchester County native, was intrigued by the idea of an inn anchored by an ambitious farm-to-table restaurant and a yoga studio. And as Gere describes it, the Bedford Post’s philosophy is as organic as the seasonal ingredients that Lewis sources from local and family farms: From good karma, food and conversation, good works will flow.