Coming to Winthrop? Stay a While at the Town’s First Bed and Breakfast

Friday, December 23, 2011
By Transcript Staff

Enjoying early morning coffee at Winthrop’s Harrington House – the town’s first B&B are (from L-R): Judie Vankooiman, Maggie Morris, Wendy Millar-page, and Todd Sacco all of Winthrop enjoy Saturday morning coffee.

At the Winthrop Yacht Club almost a decade ago, Maggie Morris, former owner of Moonstruck Cafe and Luna Boutique, was talking to her friend and business partner Cindy Levins about her search for a home.

“Why don’t you buy that house?” Levins said, pointing across the street to a pink, Victorian residence.

Six months later, she did. Morris, who now owns the house, converted the antique abode into a bed and breakfast which she named the Harrington House.

“I bought this house nine years ago and I always knew it would be a bed and breakfast,” she said.

The Harrington House has been resting at 2 Terrace Avenue in Winthrop since it was built in 1889. “Nanette Harrington lived here through the 70’s,” said Morris. “She had long gloves and used to have garden parties. She was very classy. That’s why we called it the Harrington House.”

Morris and her fiancee Joey Carroll put as much time into uncovering the history of the home, as they did money. “We bought the house in 2003 for $465,000 and had to put in over $100,000 in renovations,” Morris said. “It needed a lot of work. We gutted the kitchen and completely redid it, we created a real half bath in the back, and upstairs we completely renovated our master bathroom.”

Happy to be in a partnership with someone who loves to entertain, Morris believes part of the Harrington House’s charm comes from the warm atmosphere she and Carroll provide. “He’s a comedian,” Morris said about her fiancee. “He loves to greet and talk to people. Before, the house was too big for us, and now it feels full.”

Harrington House boasts six bedrooms, three of which are available to rent, and two and a half baths. All of the rooms are furnished with antique furniture that has been passed through Morris’s family. And as a personal touch, Morris put a journal in each room so travelers can document their stay, and leave comments.

“People feel like it’s really homey,” Morris said. “ I really try to make sure they have a good experience. My reviews are a lot about the food. My granola is all handmade…and I do fresh fruit and make fresh baked goods every morning. And every day I bake fresh cookies for afternoon tea.”

Hesitant to give up her love for owning the Moonstruck Cafe, Morris has incorporated a coffee shop feel by hosting morning coffee on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. for people who used to frequent Moonstruck.

“It gives that kind of feel of community and stopping in and getting the news of the day. Now it’s weekly but I feel that I can still extend that sense of camaraderie,” Morris said.

Morris and Levins had to close the cafe in October due to the slow economy. It originally opened four years ago, and they later combined it with the clothing store, Luna Boutique, but people aren’t spending money like they used to, according to Morris, who then spent three years attaining her license for a bed and breakfast.

“It was a big endeavor,” she said. “I was told bed and breakfast licenses didn’t exist. I worked with the town council, health inspector, and planning department, and wrote a bed and breakfast byline for the town. I got my license in mid-September and i had guests the next day. I was full all the way through Thanksgiving.”

Morris markets the $80-$90 a night bed and breakfast online, via Facebook and other social media outlets. With the draw being the close proximity to Boston, Morris believes that guests feel like they’re in a community when they stay in a bed and breakfast.

“The kind of traveler we get are people that are really open,” she said. “They want to get to know the people and the town, it’s a real communication. I tell people how to get here and I provide them with a lot of information. Most of our guests are coming here to visit Boston. They stay out all day and come back and go to local restaurants.”

Formerly on council for the Taste of Winthrop, Morris is familiar with Winthrop’s 35 eating establishments. “We have everything,” she beamed, pleased to be able to generate business for the local economy.

But she also wants things to pick up at the Harrington House. “My expectations are things I would really like to make sure happen, like being full during the high season, working with the community to market Winthrop as a destination spot, and have the ferry run year-round. People from all over the world are amazed by what we have. This community is so beautiful,” Morris said.

Guests have come to stay at the Harrington House from all over Europe, Australia, England, Slovania, Germany, and Canada.

“The coffee shop was dependent on neighbors, but this business attracts people from all over,” Morris said. “The big draw here is the water and the restaurants. Ryan Syr, the chef who owns Bistro at Home, currently makes the cookies and muffins. We would like him to cater dinners, or host cooking classes.”

Morris is eager to host more events such as a book club (which will start in January), and garden parties in the spring.

Excited to already have repeat customers, Morris hopes that people appreciate the cozy, family feel that the Harrington House is meant to provide.

“I’ve gotta check the scones!” Morris said as friends arrived for the Saturday morning coffee event. As they greeted each other warmly and sat around the dining room table, it looked like a picture fit for Morris’s slogan, “Come stay with us and be at home.”

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