After 20 years in charge of the Woodbine Hotel in Madisonville, Susan Warmuth and her husband Werner have sold the historic landmark to Shamshad Zaidi, but do not expect the establishment’s daily operations to change.
“When I first came here, we wondered how the community would accept us,” said Warmuth. “I came to the understanding that whoever owns this place is a caretaker. This beautiful building belongs to Madisonville. I have always been proud of the fact that I know so many people here. This town has truly embraced this hotel and the caretakers of it. I have an expectation of this town to wrap their arms around (Zaidi) like they have me.”
Susan Warmuth and her husband Werner will remain in their Madisonville residence and even assist Zaidi in the transition over the next three months. For the time being, Warmuth is taking a break and open to what the future has in store. She expressed a desire to visit her home in Germany as well as her father in Philadelphia.
“(Zaidi) has been here for one week now,” said Warmuth. “I have seen my fair share of new employees, she is by far the quickest, swiftest and most eager person I have ever met. She is jumping right in, learning and absorbing it.”
Zaidi is a citizen of the United States, she moved here in 1988 and has lived in Texas ever since. She is originally from Pakistan but spent two years studying in Japan before moving to the U.S. She came to Texas with her husband, who studied in the Texas A&M Geophysics department.
She was then hired by A&M as a Japanese Language professor, a position she held for 16 years. During her time as a student in Japan, Zaidi even worked as a Japanese to English interpreter for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone.
She would also go on to teach language at the University of Texas in Austin and Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.
After over 20 years in education, Zaidi embarked on what would prove to ultimately be a stepping stone to her ownership of the Woodbine by opening a bed and breakfast of her own in College Station, Willow Ranch Bed and Breakfast.
“It was a lot of fun for me,” said Zaidi. “I like meeting people very much and that was definitely my favorite part of the business.”
But after a couple of years in the business, she was thinking bigger. She stumbled across the Woodbine online and decided to check it out for herself. Upon discovering the establishment’s place in history and getting acquainted with the Warmuths, she decided that she wanted to keep the legacy alive.
“I always say that ‘old is gold,’” said Zaidi. “I love this old house and the tradition. I also feel that the food is the most important part.”
The menu at the Woodbine will remain as is for the time being. New ownership will also continue to accept the gift cards that were distributed by Warmuth as well as their existing values.
Zaidi also purchased the parking lot across the street from the Woodbine, everything inside the hotel, the Brimberry House, which is the oldest structure in Madison County, as well as the Cannon House, which is two doors down from the Woodbine.
She has plans to turn the first floor of the Cannon House into an area accessible for guests with disabilities, since there is not an elevator in the Woodbine.
She will consider making changes and adding new facilities, but no changes may be made to the Woodbine building itself.
“I want everyone in Madisonville and surrounding areas to know that I will keep the same food and same employees,” said Zaidi. “I will do my best to keep this hotel the same or maybe even better.”
The Woodbine will also remain open to the traditional celebrations and promotions they have offered, such as the 12 Days of Valentine’s. They will continue to try and incorporate Christmas parties and will continue to accommodate guests and the events they wish to have at the facilities, including weddings.
Zaidi is passionate about many things, but cooking is one of her main loves. She is incredibly knowledgable on a number of diverse dishes and plans to hold a food demo at the next Mushroom Festival.
“I am a very friendly person and a humble person,” said Zaidi. “I like to meet people and love people, so that is why I believe we will make it.”
Zaidi is part of an Aggie family as her, her husband and three children are all either associated with the University or will be. Her oldest daughter Anila is a graduate of A&M and currently works in the dean’s office. Her second daughter, Shumila, is set to graduate from the biology department later this month. Her son Raza currently attends Blinn College but plans to transfer to A&M next year.