CAMDEN — Ellen and Casey Reynolds, both 36 of Rockport, had been considering business ideas for “years” when the opportunity to purchase a historic Camden lodging came across their bow.
Ellen said Beloin’s, which has been in the same family since it opened in 1939, presented that opportunity. As the new owners of the iconic waterside property the Reynoldses have decided to change its name to “Drift” reflecting their mutual passion for the water and the property’s proximity to it.
“We were playing with a lot of different water inspirations,” Ellen said, musing that they were looking for something that stood out from traditional nautical inspiration, “Drift reflects the motion of water.”
She added that the property abuts the woods, making drift an inclusive descriptor.
“The woods are a big element,” she said, explaining the six-acre property which is home to ten cabins and six motel units is a mix of woods, open space and a stunning water view. Because three of the motel units are duplex, Drift technically comprises 19 units, she said.
While significant renovations and updates are underway, Ellen said the couple plans to open Drift in time for the 2019 season.
The couple and their two young sons moved to Rockport from Hope last year, and Casey grew up in Camden. Ellen grew up in Illinois where her family owned a restaurant that was also a bait shop and offered boat rentals.
Both hold degrees from Maine Maritime Academy, though they did not attend at the same time.
Casey’s degree is in Marine Engineering with a business minor, he has worked as an engineer aboard Araho a fishing boat owned by the O’Hara Company in Alaska for the past 14 years.
In addition to her childhood background in hospitality, Ellen studied marine ecology at the University of North Carolina and earned a master’s degree in international logistics at Maine Maritime Academy.
Casey spends about half the year in Alaska, and Ellen said that he has no immediate plans to make a career change, the pair is undertaking the business together, however she will act as manager. She added that she foresees hiring two full-time staff, and envisions having salaried staff that will be employed year-round: during the summer to assist with maintaining and managing operations, and through the winter for odd jobs and administrative work requisite to running the business.
The Reynoldses closed on the purchase of the property October 16.
“We are in a mode where we are oscillating between feeling really excited and a little terrified,” she said with a laugh.
While the Reynoldses had been batting around the idea of a business for years, the opportunity to buy the nearly 80 year old lodging felt like an opportunity to have a “viable business here,” Ellen said.
“This is something that will allow us to engage with the community in such a positive way,” she said.
She added that the attributes of the property and business model make it even more appealing to the couple.
“The location is just incredible, we’re still in Camden and located right across from the state park which allows people to enjoy the outdoor opportunities here,” she said.
Drift, nee Beloin’s, is one of a handful of remaining lodgings that is right on the water. Ellen described the experience of being in the cabins as the tide laps at the nearby shore as akin to being on a boat. The property has 800 feet of shore frontage, she said.
“It’s really a unique experience, we’re excited to keep a little time capsule going,” she said.
The current owners of Beloin’s are retiring, but have retained a property in Camden that they will continue to visit.
“They have been really helpful and really kind,” Ellen said.
Ellen explained that in 1939 when Agnes Beloin opened the business it was initially a roadside restaurant. Later, Beloin added four cabins that were placed near the road.
“All of the cabins [on the property] were moved from other places, they all have different floor plans.” Ellen said. She added that she believes the hotel unit is three cabins that were married together at one point.
Later, the original four cabins were moved closer to the water where six additional “found” structures would join them. The couple plans to replace a storage shed with a small lobby/ office space as they continue to work on the property.
“It’s really a classic 1950s style motel,” Ellen said.
Ellen said that Casey has been home for the first portion of renovation, though he will be back and forth with the demands of his job.
The two have obtained building permits for the first two cabins which they are presently working on together.
The first cabin they started renovating was a veritable history lesson: from decades old linoleum beneath existing flooring to period wallpaper, and they continue to make discoveries as they go along.
Ellen said she saved pieces of the vintage floor and wall coverings as they worked with the hope of creating art that will adorn the rooms with both decoration and a nod to each room’s history.
She added that she and Casey are not strangers to tackling the renovation of older buildings and their inevitable needs. They plan to do much of the work themselves but also have enlisted several contractors that are presently assisting with the initial phases of the undertaking.
The property is additionally a guest favorite, something that the Reynoldses are already finding out. Ellen explained that they authorized the owners of Beloin’s to give out their mailing address to guests and that they have received postcards filled with heartening and interesting messages.
“Mostly people write introducing themselves and sending well-wishes. We have heard from several long-term visitors who have favorite cabins or times to visit. One woman explained that she has been coming for 49 years,” Ellen said.
Along with the storied lodging came 80 years worth of meticulously handwritten guestbooks.
“They’re records of everyone who has ever stayed there,” Ellen said. She added that the books are complete with notes about preferences, family structure, and other small details that would assist a guest in feeling comfortable and accommodated during their stay.
There are many repeat visitors, too.
Ellen reflected on the guest books, and on taking the reins of an iconic local lodging.
“The former owners really mastered the art of juggling people in a way that makes them feel comfortable and taken care of,” she said.
And that is just what the Reynoldses hope to continue.
Ellen said the couple invites past guests or anyone with questions to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenna Lookner can be reached at email@example.com