BERLIN — In the most technical terms, the Waystead Inn took about 15 months to renovate and open, but the reality is that last week’s opening was the culmination of an exhaustive search that took years, not months. I
Mark Kauffman, who owns the town’s newest bed and breakfast said he and his wife, Dr. Lucy Vanvoorhees, must have looked at every big old house that was for sale in the region before coming upon the diamond in the rough on Harrison Avenue.
Kauffman has been involved in one way or another in the bed and breakfast industry for the last several decades, mainly on the administrative side, running travel clubs and dealing with some of the country’s more exclusive bed and breakfasts.
Opening one himself has always been the plan, but Kauffman is more than a little picky about what he wanted in a bed and breakfast. That became apparent as he and his wife looked over and discarded potential locations.
In some cases, it was the house itself, but just as many, if not more, were rejected by Kauffman because of intangibles. It wasn’t that the others lacked possibility but rather that they lacked the possibility Kauffman wanted. Unquantifiables are just that but when he stepped into the foyer of the home he eventually selected, he knew immediately that he’d found the right place.
The building he toured, though, was an absolute wreck and Kauffman has enough refurbishing horror stories to last several lifetimes. From the tree that was growing through the back of the house to the cartoonishly large beehive discovered in the attic, the home needed an almost complete overhaul.
Moreover, one of the most critical aspects of the proposed renovation was to use as much of the original pieces as possible, meaning that floorboards, chair rails and other wooden fixtures and accents had to be removed carefully, stripped, sanded and replaced wherever possible.
Although it took the better part of a year and a half, the finished product is a stunning combination of old world craftsmanship and modern conveniences. Among the more striking aspects, and this could easily count as an unquantifiable, is the amount of and quality of the light.
Old homes aren’t usually known for the amount of natural light available, but it was a critical part of what Kauffman believes is important in a bed and breakfast.
Sitting quietly and reading is one of the great attractions for people who enjoy visiting bed and breakfasts. What separates them from hotels is the homey quality that allows one the opportunity to take the time and enjoy their surroundings.
Because of his extensive experience, Kauffman understands that little things such as reading nooks and comfortable common spaces are what distinguishes a bed and breakfast. The entire floor plan and each room’s appointments are geared to that.
With the “bed” aspect of the business taken care of, Kauffman knew the “breakfast” aspect was just as critical. Given how important it is to find just the right person to run an establishment of this kind, it is odd to think that Kauffman ran into that person completely by chance.
Eric Swick has been running or working in some of the premier area kitchens for years, including Ristorante Antipasti, the Marlin Moon Grille and Mickey Finn’s. He also spent a significant amount of time in some of the better restaurants in Washington, D.C.
He and Kauffman have been friends for more than 15 years but hadn’t seen one another in some time. As Kauffman prepared to begin the renovation, he ran into Swick on the Ocean City Boardwalk.
Hiring him wasn’t so much a decision as it was taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself. Kauffman and Swick already had a good personal and working relationship and understood what each wanted and expected both personally and professionally. The fact that they already knew and liked one another made for an easier transition as the opening neared.
Swick doesn’t prepare a menu so much as he consults on it. Since the Waystead Inn only serves breakfast and only to their overnight guests, in the interest of making each guest’s stay as perfect as possible he discusses options with the guests, gets to know what they prefer and lets that knowledge inform his breakfast preparation. He prides himself in striking the balance between serving a filling, satisfying meal and incapacitating a guest with breakfast.
Although for now the Waystead Inn is only open to overnight guests – it does not serve breakfast to the public — Kauffman said he looks forward to cementing his place as a member of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and a local businessman who is interested in the betterment of the town.
To that end, he pinch-hit this month as host of the Business After Hours. It gave Swick a chance to show off of his culinary skills and give everyone else a chance to see the building they had watched undergo an exterior transformation for the last year.
As it turns out the inside, is even more impressive than the outside.