Suite Dreams Are Made of These
Too often suites aren’t so sweet. You arrive expecting a suite of rooms and instead open the door to an oversized hotel room.
Sure, there might be a sitting area. Even a small wet bar. But a single room is not a suite.
Two Maine destinations—a European-style boutique hotel in downtown Belfast and a full-scale resort on the shores of Cape Elizabeth’s Crescent Beach—deliver the real deal.
These suites pamper guests in homelike environments, both with fashionable, distinctive touches.
Belfast Bay Inn & Suites: Exceeding Expectations
Ed Hemmingsen remembers when he first brought his wife, Judy, to see the rundown motel he’d purchased, sight unseen, in Bar Harbor in 1980. They tried to open one door, and in the process put a knee through the it. Judy started crying. In another room, the carpet was purple. They found a brick holding up the couch. Judy kept crying. “She cried for 21 years,” he says. Well, not really. By the time they sold the Bluenose Hotel in 2001, they not only had turned it into an elite four-diamond property, they also had created The Rose Garden, one of only 41 fivediamond restaurants in North America.
They retired to Belfast. Or so they thought. In late 2005, the Hemmingsens purchased two adjacent, mid-nineteenth-century brick rowhouses downtown, just a couple of blocks up from the harbor. They gutted them, began creating condominiums, and sold one, before rethinking their plan. “We were lucky that we were able to buy it back, because we fell in love with the building and realized we could create a lovely boutique hotel with guest suites,” Judy says.
They salvaged as much of the original architecture as possible, including the interior brick walls and massive beams, installed an elevator, and created six suites, each with cloudlike king-size beds, kitchens equipped with everything but a stove, bathrooms with full laundries, and spacious living rooms. They also carved out two spacious hotel rooms that would be called suites in most other hotels.
“When we were in Bar Harbor, we decorated one room, and repeated it,” Ed says. In Belfast, Judy wanted each suite to have its own personality. “I decorated them as I would my home, so I have eight little houses,” she says. All have hardwood and stone floors, granite countertops, and original oil paintings; some have gas fireplaces, a few have harbor views, and two suites have private balconies.
Judy shopped for furniture in Portland, Boston, North Carolina, and Florida, choosing high-end residential pieces rather than from hotel lines. “I’d find one thing, and build from there,” she says, choosing complementary fabrics. She even visited artists to find the perfect painting for each location.
When they opened the doors to the Belfast Bay Inn & Suites in 2008, the Hemmingsens’ goal was to exceed guest expectations. “We’ve tried to provide every amenity that we could think of. We wanted guests to find surprises that we don’t advertise, like the washers and dryers, the Bose clock radios with CD players, and breakfast delivered to your suite each morning, a full hot breakfast,” Judy says. Or delivered to the courtyard garden, if you prefer. “We do the cooking, and we really have fun. We’re very hands on,” Judy says. “It’s really quality time together. It’s the best part of the day,” Ed adds. At the guest-specified time, Ed and Judy deliver the room-service breakfast: coffee or tea, fresh orange juice, freshly baked breads, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, and a hot entree, perhaps blueberry pancakes with sausage and real maple syrup.
That attention to detail and the owners’ on-site presence every day translates into a guest stay that’s similar in service to one at a Ritz-Carlton. There’s a reason for that. “We learned to run a hotel at the Ritz- Carlton,” Judy says. Not in the traditional way. Early on in their career, the couple frequently visited Boston’s Ritz on Newbury Street, armed with portable cameras and notebooks. “We’d take pictures of the front desk, employee dress, the chandeliers, how the towels were hung, and I’d sit in the lobbyand just watch how the hotel staff interacted with guests and take notes,” she says.
Back at the hotel, whenever she had a problem or doubted herself, she’d call the Ritz to speak with the appropriate manager to get her questions answered. “My pleasure,” they say in unison, recalling how every interaction with a Ritz staff member ended. “Look what I learned,” Judy says. “It’s the little, special things that make a difference, and that’s what we try to do here, but in a casual, relaxed atmosphere.”
Thanks to their attentiveness and a longterm goal of exceeding expectations, the inn has already achieved both four-diamond and Select Registry status. “We know we’re on the right track, but we can’t stop,” Judy says. She gazes around the suite and considers their achievements, then smiles. “I want to thank the Ritz,” she says. “I think we’ve exceeded our own expectations.”
Belfast Bay Inn & Suites | 723 Main St. | Belfast | 207.338.5600 | belfastbayinn.com
The Inn by the Sea: A Treat for Man and Beast
In my next life, I want to come back as a dog and stay at the Inn by the Sea. I’ll romp on the beach, request extra belly-rub time during my in-suite canine massage, order Meat Roaff from the room-service Doggy Menu, then, after my all-natural, Mainemade turn-down treat, I’ll slumber on my L.L. Bean blanket.
Sweet dreams, indeed.
For human guests, the ultra-green, ultraluxe, ultra-pet-friendly Inn by the Sea delivers a center-stage box seat on Cape Elizabeth’s Crescent Beach. Enter the front door, and views draw you to the rear wall of glass. Beyond the deck, landscaped lawns, gardens, and pool, beyond the fringe of greenery-cosseted wetland, grassy dunes give way to the shimmering sea. Lobster boats bob on the waters of Kettle Cove, gulls shriek and cry, and when the door opens, a briny scent wafts on a salt-laden breeze. “I stand in the lobby every single day and look toward the back gardens and the water and The Inn by the Sea: A Treat for Man and Beast think what a beautiful location this is,” says Sara Masterson, the inn’s general manager.
Few accommodations in Maine can compete with Inn by the Sea for both a spectacular and a convenient location, and even fewer have the inn’s longevity in catering to travelers who demand luxury and service. When the tony inn opened in 1987 on the site of the dowdy Crescent Beach Inn, it was as if a chic, sophisticated aunt had replaced a frumpy, eccentric grandmother. Over the years, the inn kept upgrading and ratcheting up the services and amenities, including a 2008 renovation that added an intimate spa and the Sea Glass restaurant. Out went quaint cottage style. In came handsome, nautical-inspired decor. What stayed the same: the classic Shaker Shingle-style exterior and the prime location.
Inside, rich cognac hues, dark woods, and a nautical motif evoke being aboard an elegant yacht. Compass roses are inlaid into floors. Mirrors resemble portholes. There is a recessed wood ceiling in the lounge,berth-like couches in the suites and public spaces, and wicker chairs that would be equally comfortable topping an ocean liner’s deck. Original artwork depicts seascapes and boats; accent pieces include silver fish and plaster shells and sea sponges.
Suites deliver the comforts of home. Each has an expanded wet bar with microwave, refrigerator, and plentiful counter space; a spacious living room with fireplace and private balcony or deck; a bathroom with party-sized walk-in shower, oversized jetted tub, water closet, dual vanity sink, and—a nice touch— heated floors, and, of course, big windows framing those mesmerizing ocean views.
Location is the inn’s ace, and preserving its environment is a mission the inn takes seriously. “Sense of place is extremely important in this state,” Masterton says. “By preserving our environment, we’re taking care of one of the key reasons many people come here.” Given the increase in travelers who prefer green accommodations, it makes good business sense, too.
Unlike many properties guilty of greenwashing or coming late to the eco party, the Inn by the Sea’s long record of environmental
stewardship far exceeds the usual recycling, green-cleaning, and lighting programs. It was one of the state’s first green-certified
hotels, the first to heat with biofuel, the first to achieve carbon neutrality through offsets, and the first in New England to have dual-flush toilets. Towels are bamboo. Keys are made of recycled paper. Solar power heats the pool. The spa, designed with a LEED consultant, utilizes recycled rubber, low-VOC paint, sealants, and wall coverings; and recycled sheetrock.
The inn’s commitment to all things green goes beyond building materials and using all-natural products in the spa. Its five acres of indigenous seaside gardens are certified as a wildlife habitat and are home to both a bird sanctuary and a certified butterfly way station. At the Sea Glass restaurant, Executive Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich favors pairing locally sourced ingredients with his Argentine heritage to create worldly inspirations that are simultaneously familiar yet intriguing.
During summer, the inn is Gatsby-esque. New York power brokers and Washington pooh-bahs discuss $450-million deals over breakfast, pampered brides indulge in ultra-green white weddings, kids pretend to be bugs in environmental programs, and dogs frolic on chem-free lawns.
Ahhh, but in winter, when dogs are allowed on Crescent Beach and packages bring rates down, every stay—for both humans and dogs—is a day at the beach.
Inn by the Sea | 40 Bowery Beach Road | Cape Elizabeth | 207.799.3134 | innbythesea.com