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Buying and Selling an Inn

I’ve never officially been diagnosed with ADD, but every couple of years I start feeling restless. Let’s just say if there’s not something new and exciting to report in my annual holiday card, I start seeking out a new adventure. Such was the case in late 2005. We had a couple solid years at the Carriage House Inn under our belts and had tripled the occupancy rate. We were in a busy, but predictable routine…and ready to move on. There are a lot of advantages to owning a smaller six guestroom inn – without a staff, we had total control over every guest interaction, we were able to get into the rooms daily for inspections, we didn’t have to hire/fire/train staff, and we could answer emails and phone calls in our pajamas. There are also a number of disadvantages – without staff, we were ALWAYS at work. If someone said they were going to check in at 3:00 and they still hadn’t arrived at 6:00, we had to call off our plans to go out to dinner. If someone wanted an extra pillow at 10pm, guess who’s got to get dressed and bring it to their room? And going on vacation meant hiring, training, and paying a professional innsitter or closing the inn. Basically, with a smaller inn, you forfeit freedom for complete control. We were young, and couldn’t envision living the next twenty-five years married to the inn. So we began seeking out a bigger venture.

As luck would have it, the Captains House Inn, just next door happened to be on the market. We were familiar with the inn and knew it had an outstanding reputation. With sixteen rooms and a separate house for the owners, it was just what we were looking for. The problem, of course, was the price. Let’s just say that two acres of property in close proximity to downtown Chatham doesn’t come cheap. Unlike our more spontaneous purchase of the Carriage House Inn, this purchase required a lot more number crunching, a formal business plan, and some creative marketing ideas to convince the bank that we could sustain a profitable business to support the huge mortgage we were requesting. With some creative financing and a very trusting loan officer, we managed to seal the deal and settled on a closing date for June 2006.

I’ll never forget how overwhelming it was to walk through the engineering inspection. We went from dreaming up a business plan and fantasizing about owning a four diamond inn to the reality of maintaining eighteen bathrooms, seven whirlpool tubs, seventeen fireplaces, commercial washers and dryers, a commercial kitchen, two acres of landscaping, a swimming pool, a fitness center, and a gift shop. We would have to learn how to do payroll, market and execute afternoon tea, train a staff, manage a large reservation system, track inventory, and maintain all the standards to meet AAA four diamond criteria. Needless to say, we had many sleepless nights as the closing date approached.

While this was all going on, we were also in the process of selling the Carriage House Inn. We were lucky enough to have six offers over the course of just a few months and ultimately sold it to a couple from South Carolina, Paula and Tim Miller, who were seasoned and savvy innkeepers. It was important to us to sell to a couple who would sustain and improve upon the business we had worked so hard to build and the Millers fit the bill.

With the sale of the Carriage House and the purchase of the Captains House successfully orchestrated, our next step was to make the transition. It would be a long, but educational summer!

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