How I became an Innkeeper in Maine

Every Innkeeper has a “How I became an Innkeeper” story. Guests of the Inn are always curious how one decides to host people overnight and serve them breakfast in the morning. Many dream of the Innkeeping life and crave the opportunity to craft a morning breakfast and place chocolates on pillows. Others ask the question because they are confused about the job. The confused guests often start their inquiry by saying, “you must never get out, do you work all the time? Do you ever get a day off?” So to both types of people, I feel obligated to share my story into Innkeeping. My journey was not intentional and I always end my story with the line, “Luck is often defined as opportunity meets preparation, you never know where life will take you”.

MY “HOW I BECAME AN INNKEEPER” STORY

Once my husband and I acknowledged our stressful life in the big city, we decided to change course. We wanted to find a business that we could do together, something that would be a family business, something less stressful. We were young and optimistic. We made a list of things we wanted in our life and community. I wanted a good school system, to be on the east coast, near the water, have a YMCA and library, and be warm all the time. I only wanted to work half the year (seasonally) and make enough money so we could be with our children and travel more.

After getting our priorities set, we needed to find opportunities. There is a great website called BizBuySell. BizBuySell is a website that you can see business listing all over the country. We made appointments with business brokers up and down the East Coast. My parents watched the kids and we took weekend trips to look at businesses. We started in St Simons Island, Georgia. That first trip was fun because we talked about crafting our new future. We met with a business broker but did not find any opportunities that matched our desired lifestyle. After Georgia, we went to Florida. By the time we got to Florida, the economic real estate bubble was in full height. Everything was super expensive and things were selling quickly. From Florida we decide to move inland, perhaps, inland near the mountains, would not be as expensive. Nothing inland fit our must have list and we decided to keep looking on the coast. From the Carolinians, we went to Maryland and then looked in NY, NJ, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. After 2 years and many different business plans, I decided I was done. We looked at restaurants, catering, schools, franchises, rental, retail shops, and lodgings. I did not want to look any further. My husband was insistent that we still needed to look in Maine. I told him, if he wanted to look in Maine he had to go by himself. I was not interested in Maine, I had never been there before and it is too cold.

OPPORTUNITY IN MAINE

In 2004 my husband went to Maine by himself. While in Maine, he fell in love with a farm. The farm was inland and did not have many of the items on my must-have list. However, the opportunity did have some positives. It was a family business that the kids could get involved in and learn true skills. The farm had a beautiful piece of land with views of the mountains. When I saw how excited my husband was, I wanted to follow him on this journey. We made a decision to leave the NY area and move to Maine to be farmers. We sold our house within 6 weeks of listing it and put everything in storage. Our families thought we were insane.

We made a reservation to stay in a hotel in downtown Camden with the children a few days before the closing on the farm.  A deposit was given and we just needed to sign the papers. The night before the closing, we received a call that the deal was canceled. We were confused and shocked. After getting our deposit back and letting our emotions calm, we went into survival mode. We had no home, no jobs, and 3 little children. We were unsure if we should go back down South or stay in Maine. We lived in different hotels in the Midcoast while we tried to figure out what our next move was. We continued to work with the local business broker. Then one morning, our broker called us and said that a Bed and Breakfast just went for sale on High Street. We decided to look at it. I drove in the backyard of the Inn and knew it was the right place for us. The Inn has a home, a job, the community has a great school system, a first class library and it is 1 block from the ocean. There is even a YMCA close by. I told the business broker, we will take it.

In the end, we were able to get financing quickly and the innkeepers welcomed us to the Inn as its new owners.  You never know where you will end up. Always have your eyes open to opportunity. When years of preparation meet opportunity, you can truly be lucky.

Kristen Bifulco

About Kristen Bifulco

Kristen Bifulco owns the Camden Windward House Bed in downtown Camden Maine. Her Innkeeping style includes traditional and Airbnb methods. Kristen moved to Maine in 2005 originally to buy a farm, but by luck ended up owning a Bed and Breakfast.