About the Inn & Innkeeper


Innkeeper

From PRIMETIMECAPECOD.com, written by Johanna Crosby...

Julie Valentino is one of those multi-faceted people with a flurry of interests. Besides working in the food and beverage industry for over 25 years, she was a realtor, property manager, and owner of an antique and consignment business. She always had a yen for home design and dabbled in refurbishing and selling houses. At 48 she has found a mid-life career change that combines her passions and talents as the owner of a Cape bed and breakfast inn. "I love old properties and restoring them," she says during a recent tour of the completely renovated Cape Light Guest House in Hyannis. Her vivacious personality is well-suited for the people-oriented business. "You have to be a good host," she says. "I love meeting people from different countries and cultures. I get to learn about where they come from." She opened the doors of her guest house during the July Fourth weekend. Since then she's welcomed more than 100 guests from all over the United States, England, Ireland, Italy and Australia and treated them to her Italian brand of hospitality and love of cooking. The Milford native has had a lifelong love affair with Cape Cod.

After graduation from high school in 1981 she landed her first summer job at a Hyannis food stand. Over the years she vacationed on the Cape and always dreamed of owning property here someday but could never afford it. She started researching the real estate market three or four years ago when prices, unfortunately for Julie, were at their peak. But that didn't dissuade her from finding a property she could turn into a B&B. She finally found what she was looking for: a rambling six bedroom Cape in Hyannis within walking distance to Nantucket Sound. Although there are seven other bed and breakfast inns in the neighborhood, Julie was convinced there was room for one more. "There's a shortage of rooms," she says, in the Hyannis area. "A lot of the mom and pop places had sold out." To get off on a good footing she introduced herself to the other owners. They enjoy a friendly competition, often sharing referrals when they're filled up. "Each one (inn) is totally different," Julie says. "What makes your place different is your personality." Her maiden season was a success despite the sagging economy and a rainy, cool summer. "I got to hang out my 'full' sign six or seven times," she says proudly. The inn is open from April through November. The extroverted innkeeper is a firm believer that B&B inns have a built-in appeal. "People come here for the Cape Cod charm," she says. "They want to stay in a place that is reflective of the Cape, not a chain hotel on the highway." She's sampled over 150 Cape B&Bs as a guest herself over the years. "When I travel that is what I prefer to get," she says. "B&Bs are unique. You get a home-cooked breakfast and the prices are moderate. Each one is a totally different experience. "The experience she's striving to offer her guests are all the modern amenities of an "upscale boutique hotel" in the charming and comforting surroundings of a vintage 1920 Cape. But reaching that goal took a lot of hard work. After closing on the property in January of 2008, Julie started a five month renovation project with the help of a carpenter friend. The house had been a long-time rental property and was in a state of disrepair. Besides installing a new electrical system and heating system, she added a new roof and had the original pine and fir floors refinished. Julie, who studied interior design at Newbury College in Boston, had great fun redesigning and updating the inn. "I changed the footprint of the house," says Julie who took on the redecorating job herself. Her plans included converting a small bedroom into a master bathroom, adding on a second floor deck with a balcony, and transforming the carport into a cabana with an eight-person whirlpool and sitting area. She set up her own living quarters in a two-room wing. Each of the three B&B rooms features a different decor. The Sunset Suite is a romantic setting enhanced by a queen-sized bed with an antique, hand-carved mahogany headboard and a 1909 bridal painting in its original antique frame. The adjoining master bath features a pedestal sink, a glass-enclosed shower and a period armoire. The Garden Serenity Suite is a peaceful Asian retreat with its minimalist furnishings, including a queen-sized platform bed. The Waves Room has a beachy cottage look, decorated with crisp white and blue accents and custom built-ins and an antique full-sized brass bed. "In a B&B the bed has to be special," says Julie. She enjoys catering to her guests by offering customized service, like providing luxury linens, including 800-thread-count towels.

The furnishings in the rest of the inn are contemporary, but Julie plans to redo in a more traditional look. "I like the Cape Cod cottage style with modern technology," she says, technology such as flat screen TVs. The other draw of her inn is her home-cooked, Italian buffet-style breakfasts. Normally, she serves hot meals on the weekends and cold during the week, but she is conscious of the needs of each guest. If someone makes a request, she'll try to oblige, or if she just feels like cooking more for her guests she will. "I love to cook and I'm a great cook," says Julie who worked in restaurants in the North End and learned culinary tricks from the chefs. She heads to the kitchen at 7 a.m. where she whips up hearty, homemade fare drawing from her cultural heritage, including frittatas, home fries and French toast made with Tuscan bread. Breakfast is served buffet-style from 8 to 10 a.m. in the inviting dining room. Julie, who is married but runs the inn herself, shares her home with Gus, a friendly apricot toy poodle named after her uncle Augustino. "Most of the guests fall in love with him" she says. Her family was in the bar business. Her grandfather and uncle owned a popular hotspot in Milford the late '50s. She began working in the food and beverage industry straight out of high school and never stopped. "It's in your blood," she says. "You either have it or you don't." She learned the art of fine dining at an Edgartown inn where she worked her way up from dishwasher to busboy, waitress and hostess. "I fell in love with the service industry," she says. "I learned you can take great pride in this business." Julie also worked as a waitress, bartender and bar manager in a number of establishments in resorts areas in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Florida. "I had great training," she says. A highlight of her career was working as a waitress in a '50s revival style restaurant in Manhattan. "I was the only (staff) person who wasn't an actor or singer," she recalls. "People would ask me what I'm doing and I said I'm a waitress." One night she got to perform by serving for actor Richard Gere. She spent many winters working in private country clubs in Palm Beach "I always wanted to live in a vacation area," she says, and enjoys the snowbird lifestyle. Her ultimate goal is to build a successful enough business at the inn so she can afford to spend her winters in a warm climate. "I don't think it's a unique dream," she says smiling. "But I'm trying to make it come true."

Waves Room Cape Cod Light House Sunset Room
Waves Room Cape Cod Light House Sunset Room

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