Read more: Bonus Recipes from Innkeepers
Half the charm of a night spent at a cozy inn or bed-and-breakfast is the home-cooked feast the following morning. Innkeepers are known for their kitchen magic, especially when it’s the first meal of the day. All too often, though, they’re far too busy with the logistics of running a small business to enjoy the fruits of their own labors.
There’s taking care of the guests and their own families, booking reservations, doing the laundry, maintenance, and marketing, and more. A few years back, though, a small band of Maine innkeepers decided to do something about all that.
Today, the owners of four Rockland, Maine, venues–The Berry Manor Inn, the Old Granite Inn, the LimeRock Inn, and the Captain Lindsey House–are pooling their talents as the Historic Inns of Rockland, Maine, an association that promotes each of their properties and their charming coastal town. Among other tasks, they work together to plan events that would be cost prohibitive (not to mention too much work) as solo operators. And when they meet, especially in the winter when things are less hectic around this bustling seaside community, they like to prepare a meal, too.
“We’re all known for our breakfasts, but never get to eat each other’s food,” says Berry Manor co-owner Cheryl Michaelsen. “So instead of lunch, we now have breakfast meetings. The food is great. Sometimes we test out recipes and often end up serving each other’s food at our inns. We’re good at sharing. The camaraderie is strong, and we all get to do what we do well, and that benefits our overall goal. “
“We use the downtime to look closely at our businesses,” says Joan Hantz, who runs the Old Granite Inn with her husband, Ed. “We all have strengths, and we bring those strengths to the association, so there isn’t a lot of repetition, and everyone is involved in a way that makes sense for them.”
Frank Isganitis and PJ Walter left corporate America for coastal Maine for all the familiar reasons. Shortly after getting the Lime-Rock Inn underway, they immersed themselves in their new community. “Through this small association, we can leverage all of our strengths, while still taking risks–calculated risks,” Isganitis notes. “And although our styles differ, our core values are all the same.”
To that point, each member has assumed responsibilities that reflect his or her gifts. Isganitis is the networker; Walter manages a lot of the technical and computer projects; Michaelsen handles much of the marketing and many organizational tasks; Ken and Ellen Barnes of the Captain Lindsey House bring to the table nearly three decades of running businesses in the area (including the historic schooner Stephen Taber), plus Ken’s considerable talents as an illustrator; and the Hantzes offer their skills in graphic design and copy editing. Each inn is state-certified as an environmental leader, and owners can buy commodities such as heating oil together.
“There’s a lot to do and see here,” says Ken Barnes, “and not just in the summer. We have three really great museums, plus art galleries and boutiques. It jumps here in the warm weather, but winter is nice too. We want people to know that, so we use an economy of scale to get attention for all of us.”
True, they compete for guests, but each property has its own particular features and location–and, of course, its own special recipes.