Tea & Sympathy – It’s what innkeepers do

By Marti Mayne

RecenDonn and friends visit on the porch at Rabbit Hill Inntly each of the Distinctive Inns of New England innkeepers were asked to profile the amenities offered at each of their eleven New England inns. As we’ve outlined in previous DINE blog entries, the added value of complimentary breakfasts, afternoon refreshments and teas, evening receptions, in-room offerings, complimentary DVDs and more add up to as much as $200 per stay when compared to the cost of these items at equivalent hotels and resorts.  That’s a lot of money when we’re talking about a 2 to 3 night stay.

However, after reading comments from DINE innkeepers it’s apparent that there are even bigger rewards for staying at an inn than money can buy.  Innkeepers also serve as counselors, therapists, EMTs, nurses, stand-in parents and more.  Travelers don’t come home from vacations to hotels talking about how the General Manager drove them to get their car repaired or picked up Pepto Bismol and delivered it when they were sick.  It’s the personal touch you get from innkeepers who soon become friends that not only set inns and B&Bs apart, but often the one thing that saves the vacation from disaster.

Jill Meyer, co-owner of the Captain’s House Inn shared Much like hair dressers, part of an innkeeper’s job is to listen.  We make the rounds in the dining room checking in on guests’ experiences, making small talk, playing concierge, and addressing any concerns they might have.  Sometimes these concerns go beyond the simple fireplace fix or suggestion for a romantic dinner”.  Jill recounted stories about helping guests who’ve come to the inn to find solace after their husbands passed away or holding the hand of a girlfriend who dumped her boyfriend during a trip to the inn.  Captain’s House Inn has offered a number of “exhausted parents” getaway giveaways too; offering free stays to parents who just need a little time to relax. When is the last time your much needed R&R getaway was given to you by a hotel or resort?

OJane Howard, innkeeper at the Deerfield Inn shared this description of what sets innkeepers apart from their counterparts in hotels. “We come in at any and all times to change bedding if there has been an accident, to wipe up sick, to unclog loos, to bring in Pepto-Bismol, to lend cufflinks when they have been forgotten, to hug and reassure a parent who is distraught at leaving a young person at boarding school, to hold hair back while a guest has morning sickness, to fetch something from the store that a guest cannot live without (almond milk and Nutella in the past week alone), to stitch up hems and replace buttons, to accompany ill guests to the hospital and sit with them and comfort them until they are attended to. There is no charge for this sort of thing, and I have only cited a few “added value” things; it is just what an innkeeper does that a GM at a hotel would probably not. I suppose you could say our signature selling point is “tea and sympathy.”

Inn at Harbor Hill Marina - blizzard dinnerDave Labrie at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina confided, “we have been known to follow guests to local auto/tire repair shops when they have had car problems, and have even gone looking for guests who opted to walk downtown for dinner or a walk on the beach after a rain storm has popped up.  We go out and cover car windows of guests who left windows open during rain/thunder storms too.”  When guests were stranded in a blizzard at the Inn at Harbor Hill for two days, Dave and Sue provided not one but two complimentary dinners, prepared without any electricity during the three day power outage, and didn’t charge guests extra.  Would that have happened at a Connecticut shoreline hotel? Not likely.

Anyone who has ever stayed at the Rabbit Hill Inn knows that a hug is always waiting at welcome and goodbye time.  Leslie and Brian Mulcahy have many a story to share of taking guests to hospitals in the middle of the night, then sitting with the spouse who suffered from dementia answering the same question over and over and over again.  When the economy turned sour in 2008-09 and massive lay-offs at businesses resulted, it was the Rabbit Hill Inn that offered “pink slip getaways” to unemployed people under tremendous stress.  “It’s just what an innkeeper does,” we hear from Leslie and Brian who are champions of stewardship.

A pin cushion with everything you need for mending is found in each guest room at Manor On Golden Pond. At Chesterfield Inn, you’ll find innkeepers and staff in the parking lot after it snows brushing off cars so guests won’t have to do it when they leave.  At Cliffside Inn, flowers from the inn’s garden are shared with guests who arrive to enjoy fresh flowers in their rooms.  At the Gateways Inn & Restaurant, refrigerators are found in guest rooms.  If guests must leave before breakfast is served, Michele Gazit places fruit, yogurt, granola, crackers, cheese selection, and hard boiled eggs in the fridge so the guest can enjoy breakfast on the go.  At Manor on Golden Pond, guests will find the perfect little handmade sewing kit in their bathrooms for those unanticipated emergency repairs – something you’d never find at a hotel! At the Grafton Inn, innkeepers leave a complimentary plate of Grafton Village Cheddar Cheese in your room to welcome you. That cheese plate would cost upwards of $15 at a resort in Vermont.  At the Camden Main Stay Inn you’ll find homemade cookies and lemonade along with your welcome from innkeepers – in English or Italian, take your pick!  Arrive at tea time to the Inn at Thorn Hill, and you’ll be treated to a sweet and savory spread – included in your room rate, of course!

When was the last time a hotel front desk manager or Hotel GM went home to get cuff links for you to borrow when you forgot yours?  When is the last time anyone sat with your Mom or Dad, held their hand and tirelessly and answered the same question over and over?  And when’s the last time anyone ran out to get Nutella for you?  The complimentary breakfasts and afternoon refreshments add up to $200 or more in value.  The innkeeper who jumps in his car to rescue you in a downpour is priceless.

Earlier in the year we profiled each of the DINE innkeepers so our guests and readers could learn more about the people who own and manage the inns.  Our hope was to provide a little inside scoop on what makes each of them special.  If you didn’t get a chance to read about the DINE innkeepers, simply scroll down through previous entries in this blog and you’ll find their profiles.

If you’ve never tried an inn or B&B, try it for your next vacation. Start your inn experience with Distinctive Inns of New England, and you’ll soon be sharing stories of priceless service and extraordinary support. For a complete list of Distinctive Inns of New England, visit www.DistinctiveInns.com.


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