Owning a New England inn was a dream come true for Sarah Pebworth. That’s why if it’s your dream, too, she wants you to have a shot at it.
She’s been the innkeeper of Blue Hill Inn in Maine for nearly a decade. But after meeting her now-fiancée, Julie Jo Fehrle, she has decided it’s time to move on, so she’s giving it away in an essay contest (with a $150 entry fee).
Entrants must answer this question: “Why would I love to own and operate the Blue Hill Inn?”
It’s a question Pebworth asked herself when her mother died in 2007. “My mother had passed away when she was 59, and that’s sort of a life-changing experience,” she tells Yahoo Real Estate. “I started to question everything.”
Working in a standard white-collar job in western Massachusetts, Pebworth read “What Color is Your Parachute?” – the classic book about job hunting and changing careers – and it confirmed her long-held suspicion: She would be a perfect innkeeper.
“I dragged my poor real estate agent all over the state of Maine looking, looking, looking,” she says, until Pebworth found the Blue Hill Inn.
“As soon as I saw it online, I knew it was meant to be,” she says.
The inn is located in the center of the coastal town of Blue Hill, population 2,686 (as of the 2010 Census). It’s an easy walk to restaurants and the beach for swimming.
“The inn was built in the 1830s, so that’s the style of the building,” Pebworth says. “It’s upscale without being pretentious or overly formal.”
The building opens to a traditional foyer and has a large, sunny dining room, two parlors, and a wide, open kitchen. Its 11 guest rooms are decorated in the stately, romantic style typical of inns in the Northeast. The inn is part of the National Register of Historic places, and author E.B. White used to frequent it.
“It’s such a special property,” she says wistfully. “There’s so many sweet little details at the inn, vignettes I will remember, like a doily on a silver platter with a crystal vase with roses. I love creating those little images and moments that guests appreciate.”
So why give up the inn?
Seven years ago, Pebworth met Julie Jo Fehrle, who grew up in Blue Hill.
“We have some mutual friends who were neighbors of hers that kept saying, ‘Have you met Julie Jo? You have to meet Julie Jo,’” Pebworth says. “I thought she was one of their colleagues in her 70s or 80s. It turns out they were trying to hook me up.”
They were successful in this endeavor.
But the couple has had to spend long periods apart. Fehrle is based in New York, an eight-hour drive, and is often whisked away to international locations for work. It can be difficult for Pebworth to find someone to take over the inn at the last minute.
“The way I like to run it, especially at the height of the season, is to be present and available,” she says.
Naturally, Pebworth doesn’t just want anyone to take over the inn. She is hoping to allow someone to fulfill the same dream she once held, a dream that helped her find her way after her mother died and led her to a new life with the woman of her dreams.
“The essay contest felt like a good idea for a lot of reasons,” she says. “One is just [that] without my mom’s inheritance, I would have never been able to afford the property and this opportunity to be the owner and the innkeeper. The idea that I could offer that to somebody else was just too much fun.”
The inn is worth quite it a bit. In 2012 it was valued at $1.155 million, and in 2014 the town assessed the real estate alone at $898,000.
The rules are fairly simple: Tell Pebworth why you would love to be the owner and operator of the Blue Hill Inn in 200 words or less (poems and lyrics are allowed, too). Entries will be judged based on “clarity of expression and the passion and forethought they show for the prospect of running a small hospitality business in Maine.” (If you want to submit, be sure to read the rules before doing so.)
Pebworth has already been reading entries and must narrow them down to the top 100. Those will go on to a small panel of impartial judges, who will select the winner. That person will then have an opportunity to tour the property and peek into the books.
Then, sometime next spring, hopefully before the busy season, the inn will change hands and a new owner will begin his or her stint in the long chain of owners of the Blue Hill Inn.
“As I have been making decisions during my time there, I’ve always had in my mind this future innkeeper,” Pebworth says. “So I think about her and try to make decisions that will make her happy. It’s such a cornerstone of Blue Hill. I always want it to be the village’s inn.”
(All photos, except where noted, from the Blue Hill Inn)
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