Wanted: Eloquent Innkeeper

A Brunswick inn owner’s call for essays in lieu of résumés revives a trend.

Photo by Benjamin Williamson

From the July 2023 issue of Down East magazine

Is running a cozy 1848 inn in a bustling college town your idea of a dream gig? To get the job at Brunswick’s Greek Revival OneSixtyFive, located on elegant Park Row, near Bowdoin College, you’ll need to write a one-page essay or record a two-minute video, laying out your case. Owner Eileen Horner launched the contest in March, after posting the innkeeper position on job websites failed to produce viable candidates. “I love to write, and I think this is an opportunity to see a lot more into who a person is than a traditional résumé and cover letter can afford,” says Horner, who is offering a salary of $70,000 to $90,000 (depending on experience), and has received a couple dozen submissions so far.

Horner purchased the former Brunswick Inn in 2009, after a stint at West Virginia’s ritzy 1778 resort The Greenbrier. She hosted Bowdoin students when dorms partially closed in the early days of the pandemic, during which time an accidental fire in a student’s room caused pervasive smoke damage at the inn. The incident prompted an extensive renovation that implemented a streamlined aesthetic and soothing blue-and-gray palette in guest rooms. She also began serving light fare in an on-site pub with a European-hunting-lodge vibe (forest-green walls, leather sofa, cowhide rug). Now, she wants to step back from day-to-day operations to focus on marketing. “And maybe go to a yoga class.”

Though Horner’s essay contest is distinct in that it doesn’t seek to confer ownership or collect submission fees, it’s the latest in a string of such competitions touting jobs at charming Maine properties — perhaps none more charming than these three.

Center Lovell Inn
Photo by Mark Fleming

Center Lovell Inn

In 1993, Bil and Susie Mosca held a much-publicized essay contest to find a new owner for their circa 1830 mansard-roof inn. From thousands of submissions, for which they charged $100 apiece, they chose Maryland restaurateur Janice Sage’s. Twenty-two years later, Sage sought a new owner the same way. Once again, thousands of entries poured in, with $125 fees attached. The winner was Prince Adams, owner of a restaurant in the Virgin Islands with his wife, Rose. Prince compared innkeeping to marriage: “A successful marriage requires passion, hospitality, and commitment,” he wrote. “Perhaps the same is true for this venture.” The winner announcement sparked accusations of a rigged contest and a state police investigation that found no wrongdoing. Today, the Adamses remain at the inn, where they curate an eclectic menu with Caribbean flair.

Temple Cinema
Photo by Alberto Lopez

Temple Cinema

Mike Hurley had his 1919 Houlton theater on the market for 10 years before he launched a 2015 essay contest to attract a new owner. He aimed to collect 3,500 submissions at $100 each to cover the building’s cost. When he fell short, he returned contestants’ fees, along with a note asking if anyone wanted to buy the place. Houlton native Charlie Fortier did. In his essay, Fortier wrote about seeing the first Star Wars movie at the Temple twice on opening night and of laughing so hard during a showing of Blazing Saddles he nearly choked on his candy. Facing obstacles including rising costs, Fortier recently sold the cinema to Houlton businessman Fred Grant.

Blue Hill Inn
Photo by Christian Giannelli

Blue Hill Inn

Sarah Pebworth credited her ability to purchase this 1830 Federal in 2007 to an inheritance from her mother. When she was ready to pass it on, in 2015, she hoped to provide a similar opportunity to someone who might not otherwise be able to afford an inn. She announced an essay contest with a $25,000 stipend for the winner if she met her goal of 7,500 entries at $150 a pop. Alas, she did not, and sold the inn to longtime employee Duncan Hamilton. Last year, the inn changed hands again, with Georgians Kim and Clair Maxwell taking over.