Painted in a picturesque blue, the Blue Gull Inn is a charming sight to behold and was named after the Blue Gull birds that sit on the gabled roof. Built in 1868, the inn offers all the comforts of home plus a huge front porch to enjoy the blooming dahlias.
Renee and John Eissinger are the innkeepers/owners and have six well designed rooms with delightful themes.
Q: How long have you been in business?
Fifteen years. You never know what is going to come up. It is a continually changing business
Q: Why did you decide to go into innkeeping?
My husband, John worked for JCPenney Company and we had been transferred back east to Chicago. We had been there a couple of years and they changed everything while he was in upper level management. It was a good time to get out. We knew we needed to come back to the west coast where we had family.
We thought about doing a campground or something fun. I talked to my mom and she said, “Have you ever thought about doing a Bed and Breakfast as all you do is just fix breakfast?” We started looking into this idea. (Renee & I laughed when she told me about her mom saying how simple it was to run a Bed and Breakfast.)
I grew up in Lake Tahoe. I was familiar with vacation rentals and other accommodations. We somehow decided to buy a house in Port Townsend. At the time we bought the home, all our family was here. Starting the business went very smoothly for us.
We knew it was meant to be even though we had no experience. It was a good thing we had no experience because we might not have gotten into it if we knew how much work went into it. It is kind of all consuming.
To begin with we were not big breakfast people. When we started the business, I needed to learn what to fix for a dozen people at a time. I found great recipes on www.BedandBreakfast.com and BBonline.com. It was amazing to learn how much I need to fix for guests.
I have three daughters and we all love to cook. We have fun coming up with new ideas and trying different recipes. When my daughters come for the holidays they are always throwing something into the mix of what to make for the guests.
I grew up with grits. We came up with a cheesy grits with sausage. We, also, have standard dishes like the South-of-the-Border Green Chili Quiche which serves six to eight people. It comes out perfect every time. You can add anything to that dish.
Q: Where are the majority of your guests from?
The greater Seattle area such as in Kirkland and Bellevue. We do get guests from about an hour away in Silverdale and Sequim. We cater to adults. Guests are looking for a romantic getaway. We can’t have children under the age of fourteen.
Q: What’s the best thing you have done to help your business grow?
We found a company that set us up with a really good website. They listened to me. It was the website we wanted as our first website was horrible.
The second thing we did was get hooked up with Reservation Nexus. Being able to do the online reservation made our bookings take off though at first we never thought we wanted to do it. Now, we wish everyone booked their reservations online.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome in the industry?
We are not really social people and we still are not, so we wondered what it would be like to open our doors to complete strangers. We have found we had something in common with every person who has walked through our doors.
The biggest challenge by far for me has to do with the computer. I had no idea about the whole advertising market, maintaining websites, make sure you post and doing Google Analytics. I can read my email and I can take reservations.
My son in-law is a computer wiz and he set up a Facebook page for us. If I don’t post on it, he will go post on it for me. My daughter does some of the blogs on our website. She can do links to different places in town.
Q: Biggest lesson learned in the industry?
We can’t please every one. It is a life lesson. We were overextending ourselves and trying to get every customer. We still have a life. We need to take time for ourselves. You can’t grab every customer. We started hiring an innkeeper so we can take a vacation once a year. When we go on vacation, we come back again charged up.
Not to be a perfectionist is another thing that I had to learn as I am a OCD perfectionist. If my cookies did not look picture perfect, I scrapped them and started over. It dawned on me that no one notices the not perfectly wrapped candy. I realized it’s just me that noticed and I don’t notice those things when I go somewhere. I eased up on not straightening every corner on the bed ten times along with keeping cookies which were not picture perfect.
Q: What motto do you live by?
Treating people like your best friends and like your family. I understand the gourmet food but what people remember are how they are treated. I listen to them. I treat my guests like family. I have connected with so many people who have hobbies like I do or kids like mine. I talk to them on a personal bases. I talk to them like I’ve know them all their lives. I want people to feel comfortable. We have two son in-laws who have been in the military so we offer a military discount as they do so much work for so little pay.
We do not have TVs. I don’t want that feeling in the house for a vacation. I want people to feel warm and comfortable. We have cookies and goodies. We have WIFI and people bring their computers to watch movies. Many women love having no TV as their husbands would spend their time in front of the TV. People have walked out when they find out there is no TV and we are okay with it.
Our location is great. We are within walking distance of everything. We have a beautiful backyard with a fire pit and we offer marshmallows to our guests. We had a couple stay here that the man loved the ginormous woodpile.
Q: What is unique about your inn?
We have 3 electric fireplaces. We have a cast iron tub that my daughter just loves when she is here. It is about six feet long. Once you get it heated up, it stays warm for a long time.
We want everyone to have the feeling like they are at home. Many of our older gentleman guests like to feel comfortable in our inn. We are not Victorian with small chairs. We make it livable. Our furnishings are what we call Country Victorian as they will comfortably seat a full sized man.
Q: What would you do all over again if you had a time machine?
I would like someone to help with the hiring and letting go of the help. Most of our help is teenagers as we do not have enough work to hire an adult who needs a full time job.
I would be a firmer employer. I don’t like confrontation. We hire local high school teenagers because we are busy in the summer and don’t need someone who needs full time work. I would be assertive and a better employer.
We have had teenagers that we have given one more chance and haven’t had the nerve to let them go. I would change that.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
Q: Any little known facts about your inn or your town?
It was suppose to be what Seattle is. We were going to be the all important shipping lanes and the railroad was suppose to go through here instead of Seattle This town almost went bust and off the map. Someone got the bright idea to reorganized it as one of the only three Victorian seaports. It has the old, tall, wooden ships that come in and there is a wooden boat festival.
Q: Any fun guest stories you want to share? Such as unique guests, crazy situations or celebrity guests.
We have a couple that comes every year except for two years which were missed because of a death in their family. They come for Valentine’s Day every year. They stay in the same room and they write in a journal that is in the room. They write a page about how much they love the house, the room and how much they love each other. I have the pages they have written for the past 15 years. Everyone who comes and stays in that room gets to read their romantic love story.
We had an author from New York who was inspired by the journal entries. She stayed in that room and wanted to write a story about it.
We had a young couple, who the man was being deployed to Iraq and came for the four day leave before he had to leave his wife and it was kind of heartbreaking. We sent them off with a hug.
We had a family that came from the Midwest. I have never baked so much to keep them in cookies. They had the whole house for four days and had a wonderful time doing puzzles and moving around the furniture.
We had a car club with antique cars. They parked their cars right outside so we got great pictures. They were very enjoyable.
We get people from all over the world. One man from the Middle East came for wooden boat school. It was right after 911 and he made sure we knew he was from Israel.
A young woman from South Africa about 21 years old called to stay for 12 nights which I thought was a scam. It turned out, she was the CEO of her own little organization that helped abused women. She came out by herself to take a workshop for social workers to learn how to help women through role playing and theatrics.
Someone called to book rooms for George Micheal. I couldn’t do it. He would have the whole house to himself and I thought he might want something with a little more security. I was floored. It would have been too much for me. I would have passed out but it was exciting to have an inquiry from his manager.
Did You Know?
There are tunnels that catacomb all along the waterfront of Portland. They are known as the “Shanghai Tunnels.” Beneath the city, they allowed for a hidden world of gambling parlors, saloons, and whisking people away.
A restaurant called the Undertown Coffee and Wine Bar has a legend of being part of the Shanghai Tunnels. The tunnels were used to kidnap people. People would be put onto boats and shipped off to Shanghai and there to be sold into slavery. It is located in the down town area of Port Townsend.