By Lauren Nesbitt-Baggerman
Some days, wouldn’t you like to just slip into the past, and get away to those simpler times? Stroll down the road to Grandma’s, and dig in to the best pie, the warmest chocolate, the sweetest lemonade? Snuggle down for the best night’s sleep you’ve had in ages? Well, we all know that time travel isn’t quite a reality yet, but it is more than possible to escape to just such a place, and it’s not so very far away.
Welcome home, to Stafford’s Bay View Inn, on Little Traverse Bay, in Petoskey Michigan. Here, hospitality comes with a little touch of your childhood, and if you stay just once, you become a part of the family. Built in 1886 as a summer hotel, this gem has been welcoming guests ever since, but it was with the arrival of Stafford C. Smith, fifty-five years ago, that the Bay View Inn became like a touch of home.
“Stafford’s family often had dinner there,” says his wife, Janice Smith. “His grandfather purchased a cottage (in the area) and Stafford’s family had the use of that cottage for the month of July. When it came time for him to get a summer job, it was only natural that he chose to work at the Bay View Inn.”
It was meant to be: Janice herself had been hired to host in the dining room. The two met at the inn. Married the following year, they became innkeepers together, purchasing the Bay View Inn for their own. Through the years, combining the impeccable Victorian ambience with stellar personalized service, Stafford and Janice have built an extended family of guests and staff. Says Janice, “Many of our staff have been on board for several years, and as guests return to the inn, they look forward to being greeted as family.”
But hospitality is more than making you feel welcome: it’s being able to relax when you get away from it all, here. They long ago decided to preserve the charm of Victorian Americana. There are five types of accommodation, and each offers its own unique charm: some rooms offer views of the bay, a sitting area, fireplace and whirlpool tub for two. Others offer views of the garden, and still others are individually decorated in period antiques, wall coverings and bedspreads. The inn specializes in luxurious yesteryear. ( For a full glimpse, just take the virtual tour! )
The calm of simpler days beckons. “Our guests truly enjoy getting away from the ‘hubbub’ of life, to the tranquility found at the inn,” says Janice. “That is one of the reasons we continue to keep televisions out of the guest rooms, and maintain several open public spaces in our lobby.” But don’t assume that the inn doesn’t offer all the perks. Their motto, ‘timeless tradition, modern conveniences’ can reassure you that these well-appointed rooms will have all that you’re looking for.
And then, what childhood family memories don’t include the food? “Many families have created a tradition to visit Stafford’s brunch for a reunion, or birthday,” Janice says. “To them, coming to Stafford’s is as if they are coming to ‘grandma’s’.” Experience has led the inn to keep those award-winning traditions alive. She says, “Our Sunday Brunch specializes in traditional dishes. Many of the chefs have tried to change menus, only to be met with disappointment.”
Amenities alone would never account for the enduring success of the inn. Their signature? Personalized service. Returning guests will tell you it’s their favorite part of a Stafford stay. “For the staff and managers, it is their being able to perform their work as though they owned the inn,” Janice says. “They clearly understand that they are the key both individually and collectively to continue to make Stafford’s one of the most respected and long standing hospitality centers in this region.” As the saying goes, it’s all in the family.