The New Innkeepers

The Downings’ cabins - Maine Inns
Lindsay and Mike Downing of Mt. Chase Lodge. Photographed by Jason P. Smith

There are plenty of fresh faces on the Maine hospitality scene these days — and they’re running some of our favorite destination inns, lodges, boutique hotels, and more.

September_2017From our September 2017 issue.

“A generation of innkeepers hits retirement age,” read a headline in a local news story, describing the wave of high turnover washing over Maine’s lodging circuit. Baby-boomer hoteliers — long the driving force behind the state’s inns, B&Bs, sporting camps, and other accommodations — are handing over the keys, and a new crop of hosts are bringing with them fresh aesthetics, new investment, and novel ideas about what it means to be a guest of the house.

From the southern beaches to the midcoast to the North Maine Woods, some of our favorite places to stay in Maine are new to the scene or in new hands. Check out (and check into) these 12 standouts. Luxe to rustic, stately to mod, they’re all perfectly welcoming — and all quintessentially Maine.

The Rangeley Inn

2443 Main St., Rangeley. 207-864-3341

Travis Ferland’s first move as owner was to give The Rangeley Inn’s shingles a gorgeous sky-blue paint job. Photographed by Michael D. Wilson

For decades, the 110-year-old Rangeley Inn — for all of its built-in campy rustic opulence — seemed to be lumbering toward white-elephant status. Until four years ago, when Travis Ferland submitted an $800,000 bid in a foreclosure auction and, within months, launched a major restoration project. Ferland, 36, is guided by a returnee’s appreciation for his native state and an intuitive understanding of the hotel biz — when he was growing up, his parents owned Ogunquit’s elegant Pink Blossoms Resort. After a stint in the Peace Corps and the nonprofit sector in New York City, Ferland leapt at the chance to come home. So far, he’s given the inn’s south wing a historically sensitive update (work continues in the north wing): guest rooms have new plank-wood floors, fresh coats of paint, and modern bathroom fixtures; some have been made into suites. The most striking change is in the once-dreary 1950s annex, where rooms are now fresh and contemporary, with balconies that practically hover over serene Haley Pond. $115–$295.

Tops’l Farm

364 Bremen Rd., Waldoboro. 435-640-6440.

Tops’l Farm - Maine Inns
Tops’l Farm - Maine Inns

Call it “glamping,” if you want, but the wonder of Tops’l Farm is that Sarah and Josh Pike’s 10 comfy A-frames and wall tents don’t feel ostentatious or out of place on the landscape. Guests are quasi-roughing it, with minimal electricity (solar LED lights) and shared bathrooms, but both cabins and tents are done up in high rustic style, with twin beds swathed in down and flannel, vintage chests and dressers, and cute touches like wildflower bouquets, the odd hourglass, and weathered hardcovers with a Maine camp motif. Both Pikes were raised in Maine, and they bought their 83-acre spread, abutting the Medomak River, after dialing back entrepreneurial ventures (Josh in tech, Sarah in frozen foods) and relocating from the North Shore of Massachusetts. With just one season under their belt, their aim is to make a Tops’l Farm stay experiential, with an emphasis on communal recreation — think group archery classes, foraging excursions, board games in the lounge yurt, and bingo nights in the handsome post-and-beam events barn. “We want to be more than a high-end campground,” Sarah says. “I want this to be joyful.” $125, two-night minimum. Open 12 months out of the year for Glamping & The Cottage.

Black Duck Inn

36 Crowley Island Rd., Corea. 207-963-2689. 

Photographed by Johanna Billings

Will and Rae Mathewson spent a romantic weekend at the Black Duck Inn a few years back, and last year, while wedding planning, they reached out to see whether the inn might be available to host a ceremony. It was — but it was also for sale. So rather than risk their venue on a change of ownership, the couple (with help from Will’s mother) took the unusual move of buying the place. Will, a 31-year-old UMaine grad and former EMT from Norfolk, Virginia, first visited the Black Duck as a kid. Today, his impressionist paintings hang downstairs, alongside work from other artists that he curates with Rae, a 29-year-old former teacher. Yummy breakfasts are big on baked goods and fruit, and the three suites have an eclectic, country-inn feel, with wild floral wallpaper and views of the harbor. (In case you’re wondering, the Mathewsons tied the knot quietly this year, but they’re still planning a big ceremony at the inn in 2020.) ► $200–$225, with discounts in the off-season.

Mt. Chase Lodge

1517 Shin Pond Rd., Mount Chase. 207-528-2183. 

Photographed by Jason P. Smith

In a sense, this sporting lodge on Upper Shin Pond is a throwback to the time of its origin, 57 years ago, when hospitality meant rubbing shoulders with your hosts and fellow guests. Lindsay and Mike Downing — 30 and 34, respectively — bought the lodge last year from Lindsay’s parents, who welcomed sportsmen and snowmobilers for four decades. The Downings aim to broaden the clientele — Mt. Chase is an ideal launching point for hikers and skiers heading into Baxter State Park or Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and the Downings are savvy guides to both — but they’re betting all comers will appreciate a sporting camp’s ambiance: lodge rooms and cabins with simple, knotty-pine furnishings; loaner canoes for the tranquil pond out back; family-style meals on the back porch, prepared by Mike, a gastronomic whiz. “A lot of our people seek us out because they want a sit-down dinner on the lakeside, and they want that feeling of camaraderie,” Lindsay explains. Leaf peepers, take note: Mt. Chase makes an A+ North Woods foliage road-trip base camp. ► $98–$200. Meal plans available.

Inn on the Harbor

45 Main St., Stonington. 207-367-2420.

Photographed by Dana Moos, Maine Inn Broker,

Dana Durst and Jay Brown spent three years searching for the right inn. On paper, Inn on the Harbor sure looked remote, and 13 rooms sounded like a lot. But as their search dragged on, their broker convinced them to visit. “We got here and we were like, ‘Yes, this is it,’ ” Dana recalls. So Dana, a developmental psych professor, and Jay, a photographer, packed up and moved from Pittsburgh to Stonington last year. While Dana runs the front-of-house, Jay manages the kitchen, dishing out what he calls a “continental-plus” breakfast: daily quiche, French toast casserole, and creative numbers like egg salad and heirloom tomato crostini. And though breakfast is guests only, Durst and Brown have started doing open-to-the-public lunches and evening small plates, so anybody can enjoy what is arguably the inn’s best feature: an idyllic deck over Stonington Harbor, where lobsterboats and schooners cruise past. $170–$275, June–November, with discounts in the off-season.

The Trellis House

10 Beachmere Pl., Ogunquit. 207-646-7909.

Laurence Plotkin and Glen Porter’s renovated Trellis House does coastal modern with fearless panache. Photographs courtesy of The Trellis House

Innkeepers Laurence Plotkin and Glen Porter have New England roots and impressive résumés that include, most recently, stints in high-level corporate recruiting for a Massachusetts tech firm. But when their vacation place in Ogunquit started feeling more like home, Plotkin says, the pair realized, “We wanted to live and work in this little town that we loved.” Buying an eight-room B&B off Marginal Way was phase one — the real work was a top-down renovation that turned a stuffy 1907 summer cottage into an airy and stylish seaside escape, full of bright colors, bold patterns, and fun accents like gleaming vintage ice buckets and a sun-bleached–starfish mirror frame. Breakfasts, served on a wraparound porch, are decadent (lobster benedict, anyone?), and the flip-flop–friendly, come-as-you-are vibe is palpable — emanating, as it does, from the corporate-refugee hosts. “This work can be intense and demanding,” Porter says, “and yet there is no stress.” $239–$369, June–September, with discounts in the shoulder season. Two-night minimum, with single-night gaps available. Closed November–April.

A private island lodge, great for groups, has comfy bunks and a huge stone fireplace. Photographed by Greta Rybus

Red River Camps

Debouille Public Reserved Land. 207-435-6000.

Jen Brophy was living in metro DC in May 2009, when her dad called to tell her the main lodge at Red River Camps had been struck by lightning and burned to the ground. He thought he was explaining the demise of the historic sporting camp where she’d spent her childhood, but Jen surprised him. “When are we going to rebuild?” she asked. Brophy always figured she’d take over her parents’ rustic camp someday, maybe in her 40s, but by August, the then–29-year-old had left her job as a wetland engineer and returned to Aroostook County’s remote and wooly Deboullie township. Today, Red River has a handsome new lodge, overlooking one of Deboullie’s dozen-plus ponds (the lodge keeps canoes at most of them), along with a host of 21st-century infrastructure upgrades (solar power, LED lights in the cabins that look so much like lantern mantles, people keep burning them with matches). But the wildflower-strewn camp still looks much as it once would have to Brophy’s longest-tenured guests — some of whom have been coming for nearly 60 years. “This place just gets into your blood,” she says. $80–$140 per person. Meal plans available. Closed November–April.

Photographed by Greta Rybus

Acadia Yurts

200 Seal Cove Rd., Southwest Harbor. 207-460-7453. 

Aaron Sprague and Karen Roper’s MDI yurt camp offers many of the comforts of home. Photographed by Kristin Clements

“We get a lot of people being like, ‘I want to camp, but I want to not-really-camp,’ ” explains Aaron Sprague, yurt evangelist and co-owner of Acadia Yurts, on MDI’s western “quiet side,” where Sprague and partner Karen Roper maintain seven of the Central Asian–inspired tents (and one tiny house) in a peaceful stretch of woods well off the main roads. They’re rented by the week (in peak season) and have heat, A/C, kitchenettes, full bathrooms, and comfy beds. There’s even a separate tent where Roper — a yoga instructor and massage therapist — offers private sessions. Just three seasons in, the pair (who still hold down day jobs) have already expanded from their initial four yurts, although they’re not looking to grow much more. “The larger we get, the more people we have to hire,” Sprague says, “and Karen and I like it just the two of us.” ► $1,050–$1,500 per week, June–September, with significant discounts in the shoulder season. Closed December–March. (Tiny house rents for $675–$900 per week or $100–$130 per night with three-night minimum.)

Inn of Acadia

384 St. Thomas St., Madawaska. 207-728-3402.

Inn of Acadia - Maine Inns
Inn of Acadia - Maine Inns

Photographs courtesy of Inn of Acadia

First, it was a nunnery. Then, it was a senior-care facility. Now, the humble two-story building on a quiet residential street, across from Madawaska High School, is the sleekest hotel in Aroostook County, where plush bedding, boutique-y design, local art, and amenities like LCD flat-screens and rain-dome showerheads don’t always come standard. Owner Jonathan Roy converted the building, which his family has owned since its senior-care days, in 2013. A year later, he brought on chef Samantha Berry to run the third-floor Voyageur Lounge, which plates up Acadian specialties (great poutine, naturally) and hearty pub fare from burgers to jumbo lobster ravioli, all of which patrons (and locals) enjoy against the frequent backdrop of live music. $96–$139, July–September, with discounts in the off-season.

West End Inn

146 Pine St., Portland. 207-772-1377.

Victoria Lee Hood’s Maine hospitality roots extend back to her grandparents, who ran a Route 1 restaurant in Kittery in the 1960s. Photographed by Michael D. Wilson

The trick to running a standout B&B in Portland’s West End is to embrace the stately, historic wow factor without letting all that Victorian Yankee severity squelch comfort and style. Victoria Lee Hood, who left the financial tech industry to take over the West End Inn in January, nails that balance with a sense of cultured cool. The handsomely restored 1871 townhouse, designed by John Calvin Stevens, is filled with striking artwork from Hood’s own collection — prints from China, paintings from Provincetown — and she says guests tend to linger around her smartly curated library, paging through the poetry of Eileen Myles or back issues of the history journal Lapham’s Quarterly. The six guest rooms similarly blend contemporary design with poster beds and period fixtures. A cooked-to-order breakfast menu changes daily, and Hood relishes mornings in the kitchen. “It’s nice to wake up at 5 a.m. and bake,” she says, “instead of getting ready to go to the trading floor.” $189–$289, June–September, with discounts in the off-season.

Margaretta Inn

330 Main St., Machias. 207-255-6671.

Photographed by Johanna Billings

It was Sherry Radeka’s daughter, Ashley, who suggested buying and remodeling the former Margaretta Motel in 2014. “Think of the fun we’ll have,” Sherry remembers her saying. Now, Sherry and husband Michael co-own the inn with Ashley and her husband, Ryan Maker. The old décor, Sherry says, was “stuck in 1972,” necessitating a remodel “right down to the studs.” With new furniture, fixtures, and heated bathroom floors, the once-dated property now feels like a nice executive-stay hotel (few and far between on the far Down East coast). While the rest of the family still works outside the inn, Sherry, a former school administrator, runs the Margaretta full-time. Among her more thoughtful touches: handsome little cards with weather and tide forecasts, placed every morning in each of the 12 rooms. $110–$125, July–August, with discounts in the shoulder seasons. Closed January–March.

Lincolnville Motel

4 Sea View Dr., Lincolnville. 207-236-3195.

Hello? You might find Lionel Richie perched by the globe and turntable in your cabin. Or maybe Puccini. Or the Talking Heads. Photographs courtesy of Lincolnville Motel

A hip little throwback to the glory days of the Maine motor court, the Lincolnville Motel is making budget roadside lodging fun again. Proprietor and Camden native Alice Amory, 38, left Maine to work in fancy New York kitchens, but after almost 20 years, she tired of the scene, and in 2015, the cluster of cute little Route 1 cottages captured her imagination. After months of tearing up carpets and knocking down plaster ceilings — and, seemingly, a few hundred gallons of white and azure paint — she put a “Vacancy” sign out front, along with a light-up globe and record player in each room and a giant inflatable swan in the pool. Those kinds of details (along with the lack of TVs and WiFi limited to a sunny shared library) give the place a none-too-precious retro feel, and the private sun decks are a bit of luxury you might not expect for the price tag. $95–$175. Closed November–April.