The Maine Stay Inn and Cottages

When traveling in New England, one’s choice of lodging is often the crucial bedrock upon which the trip is built. The region is rich with houses and mansions whose lifetimes stretch beyond the century mark. Many have their important documents intact, tracing their histories down through the years to the present day. Many of New England’s inns and cottages have been updated with preservation in mind, giving travelers the opportunity to enjoy comfort and luxury, while communing closely with the stately and storied American past.

The Maine Stay Inn and Cottages is an exemplar of this ideal. Located on Maine Street in Kennebunkport, Maine, The central house was built by sea captain Melville Walker circa 1860, just prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War. The house suffered no notable traumas, passing from owner to owner over the years. In 1901 the house underwent a major renovation, under the ownership of railroad executive George Little. Sometime after 1924 the house was dubbed “The Maine Stay” and began its career as a lodging for travelers and guests. In 1954 cottages began to appear on the property, and in 1983 The Maine Stay transitioned into its current incarnation, as a bed and breakfast.

 

 

The Maine Stay Inn and Cottages

Owners – Judi and Walter Hauer

In April 2008, Judi and Walter Hauer purchased the house and business from Janice and George Yankowski, who had owned it for the previous six years. The Maine Stay was already well-established and doing good business, so the new owners had to hit the ground running.

“I remember there were reservations already on the books when we bought it,” says Judi Hauer. “The first weekend I was here, the front porch was just in shambles. And so I was outside scraping the steps of the front porch, and I had my back to the street, and this guest arrives and says to me, ‘I’m looking for Janice and George [Yankowski]’ – that was who we had bought the business from. So I get up and say, ‘I’m very sorry, but they are no longer here. I’m Judi Hauer, I bought the business three days ago.’ And the guest burst into tears [laughs]. The original owners had told no one they were selling the inn and cottages, and the guests – well, you do develop friendships. The guests were very upset that this had happened.”

Despite a bump or two at the beginning, business has been humming along for the Hauers. There is plenty of work for plenty of hands – The Maine Stay is an elaborate operation, requiring significant effort in many areas. “I have 17 [staff] during the peak season, so basically one staff member for every room,” says Judi, “I have a maintenance man, a laundry person, I have five housekeepers, kitchen staff, two people at the front desk – it takes a lot of people to run this business! People always say to me, you have how many!? What do you do!? [laughs]. I mean, what do they think, I have nothing to do? It takes a lot of work – and I’m always working.”

All of the hard work has paid off in the eyes of The Maine Stay’s many guests. A glance at TripAdvisor or Yelp reveals a nearly endless supply of positive reviews for the inn, staff and proprietors – many abundant with ebullient praise. Besides the customer generated word-of mouth, The Maine Stay belongs to both Passport to New England, a regional shortlist of quality inns, and to Select Registry – a small, nationwide, invite-only group of very distinguished inns and hotels. Unlike many business owners who cringe in revulsion at the very name, the Hauers have actually had a good experience with a certain online deal company as well. “We traditionally have Groupon coupons as a means of filling the inn during the off season,” Judi says. “That’s worked out very well for me because I don’t hardly make any money for myself during that time, but it allows me to provide income to pay my staff twelve months of the year… I think we will continue to do that.”

 

 

 

The Maine Stay does need to be resourceful to pull in business. With so many refined, charming lodgings offering exquisite food, soothing amenities and proximity to local attractions in the Kennebunks, the competition is palpable. However, in Judi’s experience, it has taken on a positive form. “I belong to the Historic Inns of Kennebunkport, and there are several inns that belong to that group, all within two miles of us. One is just two buildings down, Captain Jefferds Inn, and Captain Lord Mansion is right over there [gestures]. One is just next door in Kennebunk called Inn at English Meadows, and one is by the golf course,” she says. “We are friendly competitors. If I ever needed something, or had an emergency, I could go to those innkeepers and they would help me out, and I would help them out too, which is a really nice thing. Some business communities don’t bother talking to each other, and that’s awful!”

 

The inns collaborated very recently on the inaugural LAUNCH! A Maritime Festival, taking place over Father’s Day weekend 2016 and featuring various seafood-themed events, nautical-themed parties, a boat parade, costumed storytelling, arts, crafts and more. “We along with the other historic inns are sponsoring a scavenger hunt during that event,” says Judi, “and we at the Maine Stay Inn and Cottages are opening our cupola as a tour/open house for people to come and see, which has never been done before. You can see out to the ocean from the cupola.”

 

While events are a chance to try something different, just getting the day-to-day operation of The Maine Stay down can be an adventure. “My lead cook Janice – Janice has been with me for four years. Last week she had a hip replacement, so we are sort of doing what we need to do, in order to hold the position for her,” Judi explains. “We really want her to be able to come back. But before that, Janice had been working four days a week. And Andrea had been working three days a week. And so I hired a school teacher, who is still in school, but she does weekends. So we are plugging the gap. I’ve also done a lot of breakfast cooking this winter.”

 

Judi is a realist about how much longer she and Walter can keep up this pace, and be responsible owners of the inn and cottages. “In five years, I might be retired. I sort of thought that my daughter would have an interest in the business… She has come every weekend to work at the inn while she was in dental school… But now she’s going on to medical school and she’ll be further away, she’s just not going to have time.” Judi laments. “We would probably just decide at that time to just put it on the market. My husband is going to be 75 years old and I’m going to be 70. You can’t do this when you’re 80, you just can’t.”

 

But that doesn’t mean that the Hauers are in any way disinterested or fatalistic about The Maine Stay. In fact, their attitude is just the opposite, with an acute focus on being the best, relying on indicators like the much vaunted TripAdvisor to track their progress. “I’m fourth in Kennebunkport [on TripAdvisor], much to my chagrin,” Judi says. “I’ve been stuck in fourth. I would like to move out of fourth [laughs]. This is a pretty competitive market, fourth place is okay, but I would like to move up a little higher.”

Editor – David Sano

 

Web-link: The Maine Stay Inn and Cottages

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.