Behind the Blueberry

The innkeepers at Blueberry Cove Inn, Narragansett, RI invite you to their world of innkeeping. This is a behind the scenes look at their version of innkeeping.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday FAQs: The water's just fine

Is Narragansett's water OK to drink?

I can appreciate this question after living in Houston for 18 years. You could walk on the tap water down there. When I first came to Narragansett I continued to buy bottled water. It had never occurred to me to drink from the taps! The tenants in residence while we remodeled laughed openly at my big city ways until I finally relented and tried the water.

It is pure heaven! Clear, cold year round, no sediment and no fluoride. (I know, the fluoride issue has two sides.) It makes astoundingly good coffee and tea. Not too hard, not too soft, it is perfect for bathing. (And the endless supply hot water heater comes in handy too.)

Forget buying bottled water. Bring your sports bottles for the beach. We provide ice buckets, water pitchers, ice and water 24/7. We hope to have Blueberry Cove Inn sports bottles available for use and sale soon. (There are an astonishing the number of sports bottles available from the local logo store. I'm having trouble picking one so pipe up if you have an opinion.)

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday's FAQs: "Is it my imagination, or is it getting crowded in here?"

In "The Night at the Opera" Driftwood's broom closet of a room gets a bit crowded. At a circus it is hard to count how many clowns are tumbling out of the tiny car. At the Blueberry Cove Inn in lovely Narragansett you can always bet on the number of guests in any given B&B room: 2 human beings. (There might be up to six human beings in the Hideaway Suite so I guess it is a trick question.)

So why only two humans per room? There are two reasons. First and foremost, the Fire Code restricts us to two persons per room. After the Station nightclub disaster in 2003, Rhode Island enacted one of the strictest fire codes in the country. We quickly complied with the expensive new sprinkler and occupancy codes and will continue to do. (The code counts the Hideaway as a separate unit which is why we can allow up to six human beings in it.)

Secondly, in our early years when we would take anyone and everyone to pay the mortgage we learned that stumbling over the luggage of four guests in a room meant for two was a horrible way to make a living. We found that more than 16-18 people at breakfast ensured a miserable experience for guests and staff. What's the point of owning your own business if you are just going to make your life a nightmare?

Again, other properties have other policies. We strive to provide our guests with a comfortable and private get away experience and sticking to occupancy laws helps us meet that goal.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Keeping English Muffins fresh

I have always loved English Muffins. Almost any kind, brand, flavor or size will do for me. Depending on the flavor I might use butter, cream cheese or peanut butter on them for breakfast and use them instead of bread for a sandwich. These summer berry ones from Thomas' are absolutely delightful plain.
Not surprisingly, since we serve a whole heck of a lot of them, we buy them by the case and freeze them. To help them maintain their freshness I remove the cardboard liner as soon as they come out of the freezer or home from the grocery. The liner seems to suck the moisture out of the muffins. That's what works for me on Wednesday and every other day of the week.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday FAQs

Many guests want to know if the house is haunted. It all depends on who you ask.

When we first purchased the building it was a cheap, run down boarding house with tenants that were often indulging in recreational medication. They swore that the house was haunted. They said that on a stormy night the house would suddenly get stone cold and the ghost would making clanging noises. They were sure there had been a triple murder on the third floor. (Not that the town kept any record of it of course because it was covered up.)

Sure enough, late November brings a Nor'easter (everyone hum "The Edmund Fitzgerald"). Around midnight the lights flicker but the power comes back quickly. The building suddenly chills, banging and clanging ensues! Great Cesar's Ghost, Superman!

Dashing to the third floor to see the ghost revealed the flimsy plywood fire escape door banging against the iron fire stair rail. The wind had wiggled the door off of its latch. The sudden chill was the feeling of all the heat in the building gushing out of the open door. Bummer.

The door has been replaced so that "ghost" has never returned. Some guests have claimed to see entities on the second floor landing or in the front hall. One claimed to have seen five ghosts in one night. She reminded me of my crazy Aunt though so I don't know that I believed her. A self-described "professional ghost hunter" stayed with us and said that the house was disappointingly empty of "activity" whatever that means.

So who knows if there are ghosts. If you want to see them maybe you will. If you don't want to see them you probably won't. I'm open to the possibilities.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday FAQs: Questions asked by guests

Over our ten years we have had a lot of questions from guests. We should probably have a hand out of numbered answers to refer them to, sort of our own FAQ sheet so to speak, but that wouldn't seem very friendly.

The most frequent questions are about check in and out times. Check out is at 11 a.m. Check in starts at 4 p.m. and we hope everyone is here by 10 p.m. The closer it gets to midnight the the less sentient the innkeepers become. Early check out or check in is sometimes possible but we charge $25 per hour. Why a fee? Why those hours? Can't we make an exception?

To understand the policy it helps to understand the innkeeper's work day. Unlike many properties we do not have hired help other than the guy that cuts the grass. Breakfast prep usually starts at 7 a.m. The dining room is open from 8 to 10 a.m. which means meal service is over around 10:30. Dave waits to handle check outs while I play the coveted role of Scullery Maid. By noon we begin cleaning rooms, diving into laundry, making repairs, catching up on paperwork, answering phones, and the other unending, less than glamorous tasks that keep this place going. Some days we actually eat lunch. Depending on the number of rooms that need to be prepared we may not finish until nearly 4 p.m. On one particularly memorable day I had guests waiting on the porch at 3:45 p.m. while I dashed to the hardware store to buy three new toilet seats. (Why four broke in one night is a question I refuse to ask. I was still three short.)

Quite bluntly, the fee is to discourage early check ins and check outs. We have learned the hard way that making exceptions often back fires. Stopping the day's work to greet and help guests with their questions also means that another room might not be ready for the guests that show up at the stroke of 4 p.m. for their room.

Of course a hotel or another property might not have this policy or our fees. More power to them! (They also have the added expenses of a desk clerk, concierge, housekeeping staff and price their rooms accordingly.) We have learned over the years how to provide a quality experience for our guests by fine tuning our routines and recognizing what we can't provide.

If you are in the area early you may leave your car in our parking lot. Hang out on the lawn swing or walk to the beach or around town. (Unfortunately we do not have a public restroom or changing area at the inn. There are public facilities two blocks away next to the library.) Then come back at four to be welcomed with a smile.

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