Last week we started our series offering insight into the day in the life of a Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE) innkeeper during the Coronavirus shut down. While most DINE innkeepers are finding themselves with more personal time, they miss the guests that fill these New England inns. After all, without guests, these inns are houses; with guests they are alive with the joy of vacations. Just like you, DINE innkeepers miss the joyful noises of guests enjoying breakfast, returning after a day of exploration and simply snuggling while enjoying a rare bit of time together during their romantic getaways.
We asked all the innkeepers in DINE country to offer a glimpse into their lives. Last week we heard from Brian and Mary Ellen at the Manor on Golden Pond that they’re busy homeschooling their grandchildren and working on projects around the inn. We heard from Angela at Grafton Inn that they’re re-scheduling spring weddings and offering curbside Burger and Brew and weekend Take Out. We learned that Brian and Leslie at Rabbit Hill Inn are getting reacquainted with their house, trying new recipes and having zoom cocktail parties with guests, and Judy at Chesterfield Inn is also experimenting with cooking alongside her son. Finally, we heard from Elizabeth at the Inn at English Meadows that she is taking walks by the ocean and enjoying morning coffee in the rocking chairs on the porch, usually in high demand by guests (she’d really rather have you there, though!). Click here to read more news from these innkeeper friends.
This week, we’ll explore the lives of three more DINE innkeepers, who share in the sentiment that they hope that soon the joyful noise of vacations will return.
Peter at the Harbor Light Inn had this news to report…
“Like our other fellow innkeepers we are trying to adjust to the new norm. We were able to keep the majority of our employees on payroll through last week. Starting this week we will be able to put everyone back on full payroll thankfully. However, since our state does not allow us to have anyone come to work, our entire staff Is staying home and staying safe. We meet by video.
The inn may be closed for the first time in our 34 years of ownership, but the maintenance on a property almost 300 years old does not take a day off. We had just rebuilt two stone walls in the parking lot when the third one decided to start ejecting large stones. That unwelcomed project work was completed in mid-April. Then we lost a number of shingles during the last storm so now we are replacing the roof of the main building. Since the hits keep on coming, we are working on the pool to find a leak which probably caused the stone wall issue.
We are also trying to plan how the inn will function differently when we do open. Separation at the front desk, altering our check in to keep all safe, separating our dining room seating, removing bar stools, table service instead of buffet, housekeeping protocols, will all probably be in place. I think we can make the right adjustments with a little forward planning and caution.
The best news is that Harbor Light Inn innkeeper, Carolyn, is only 3 weeks away from delivering our next General Manager. It is so nice to have something so exciting to look forward to. I hope you all stay home and stay safe while we wait impatiently for the better days that are coming.”
Leslie and Brian from the Rabbit Hill Inn told DINE…
“On March 25th, by state mandate we had to shut down. It’s been lights out since then. We are not allowed to have any staff on premises and all staff had to go on unemployment. As of last Friday, the state informed innkeepers we are allowed to take reservations for June 15th and forward. We’d love to re-open on May 15th but are awaiting word from the Governor on that.
On a personal note, we are adjusting to not working 13-hour days/ 7 days a week at the inn. Although we spend many hours in the office most days, we are enjoying our “home time”. We have tackled deep cleaning in our home and reacquainted ourselves with our kitchen and having fun cooking. Our two house cats are loving the attention. We head down our village road or to the nearby Connecticut river for peaceful walks (when weather cooperates). Occasionally, (very occasionally) Leslie tunes in to an online exercise session. This includes a Zumba class on Zoom hosted by one of our employees. We certainly are catching up on many streaming TV programming (#Netflixbonaza). I’m embarrassed to say that we watched the Tiger King (I’ll never get those hours back, ugh).
We are still in touch with our staff family and many of our guests. They check in on us by phone, email, and direct social media chats. We have also enjoyed a few virtual happy hours with some of our guest friends from Montreal, Nashville, and CT. Hope to do a few more of those in the future. So that’s the story from our corner of the world.”
Peter and Janis from the Camden Maine Stay Inn reported in…
“First and foremost, we are safe and healthy. As we go about our fairly cloistered lives at the inn, we have at least that much to be thankful for, even as we face the business and financial challenges of owning an inn that we are not allowed to operate. We try not to lose sight of the fact that, as bad as things might be for our small business, we have been blessed with good health and with the love, kindness and care of our family and friends.
We already had planned to be closed during March and most of April for maintenance projects. Our primary projects have been to rebuild our laundry room and to continue resurfacing the hardwood floors in our guest rooms and common rooms. The floor refinishing project is 90% complete, and the refurbished floors look fantastic! Many of our rooms have the original wood floors from 1802 when our house was built. It is amazing to think that something can last this long in a “throw-away” society. Not only are the floors solid and beautiful, but they also tell the story of our house. Now you can clearly see the original hand-wrought nails that hold the floor down, the different varieties of wood that were used throughout the house, and the places where the floors have been patched and repaired over the past two centuries.
Outside, we have continued to work on our gardens, installing new stone pathways and lining them with beautiful Maine rocks. We are getting ready to plant our colorful annuals as soon as the danger of frost has passed, and we soon will be sowing grass seed in the large, newly cleared garden space near the stream in our backyard.
Peter has worked hard on our new website, which we are pleased to announce was launched two weeks ago. He also has kept busy working as a handyman and interior decorator around the inn.
Janis has used this time to sleep in each of the guest rooms to see how to improve the rooms and guests’ experiences. As a result, we have upgraded several of the bed frames and mattresses and replaced some tired furniture, lamps and rugs in a few of the rooms. Janis also has spent a lot of time in the kitchen, experimenting with new breakfast entrees and breads. She has spent countless hours reading recipes and trying them out for dinner, usually (but not always) to the delight of the family.
Speaking of family, on a personal note, our two daughters who are in college came home in March to complete the rest of their spring terms in online classes. Our youngest daughter, a senior in high school, also is doing remote learning and, sadly, will likely miss the traditional experiences that mark the end of high school. We never thought that the five of us would be living together again. What an unexpected blessing and joy this otherwise cruel health crisis has brought us! Needless to say, we are enjoying this special family time together.
Many of our guests will remember our regal Irish Setter dog, Paddy. He has certainly been getting extra attention from our family in the absence of our guests. We take him on long walks around our neighborhood and down to the harbor. Our two kitty cats, Ella and Einstein also are enjoying having everyone home.
Finally, we have reaped many intangible benefits from our past guests this spring. We have received phone calls and emails from many of them expressing care and concern for our personal and business health. We are humbled by this outpouring of kindness and are reminded again why we love being innkeepers. We say to all of them that when the time is right and they are ready to travel again, we will be ready, willing and able to provide them with a relaxing, comfortable stay at the inn.”
As you can see, your DINE innkeeper friends are getting by, but their reason for being is no longer there. As the New England states being the gradual process of re-opening, DINE inns will open their doors and welcome you with elbow bumps and hand sanitizer. Be sure to check with your favorite DINE inn for re-opening dates. They vary depending upon state directives. And remember, when you book your reservation, be sure to book direct!
In Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic