[Interview by Mallory Peterson]
Talking with Joe Lespier of the Annapolis Inn in Maryland was a real delight. To say he puts his heart into his work and life is an understatement. He does a great deal of service for guests by keeping his historic inn in its original state and serving a large breakfast each morning. In addition, he gives back to the community by opening his inn to the local Naval Academy and sponsoring its Midshipmen. A stay at the Annapolis Inn seems like it would be a trip well worth having. I know that next time I am in Maryland I will be sure to make a stop to see this historic home and meet its welcoming host again.
I am a firm believer in the Amish saying: when there’s room in the heart there’s room in the home.
Q: What’s unique about your inn?
A: It’s a very upscale piece of property. Historic buildings like this are usually owned by foundations or institutes and kept as museums. People can visit them but that’s it. We are private owners and it’s a bed and breakfast where people can stay and not just visit the property.
Q: What is your signature breakfast?
A: Eggs Benedict is a classic that a lot of guests like. But a signature of ours is French toast that we put an Italian accent on. We don’t use regular bread, we use Italian Panettone. We enhance it even more with special ingredients that you won’t find other places. It’s really delicious and people are always asking for the recipe.
Q: What saying or motto do you absolutely live by?
A: I really believe it’s my responsibility to try my best to make sure the guests have a great time. I can’t do much about the weather but what I can control is my responsibility. Coming to us is like coming to a car wash, shift into neutral and let us take over. We don’t mind doing the planning for guests. We often have guests call and ask us to make all the decisions for them. We pick the restaurants and even tell them what to eat as well. I think people have ‘option anxiety’ sometimes and don’t like making any decisions on vacation.
Q: What would you say is the best thing you’ve done for your business?
A: I think the best thing I’ve done for the business is also the best thing I’ve done for myself. Being so close to the Naval Academy we participate in the program to sponsor Midshipmen. We become their home away from home and regularly have about 25 boys to sponsor. These kids really appreciate and need you. Many of them don’t feel like they can talk to their parents about certain things but they can talk to us.
Before I did this program I really didn’t like kids this age, I felt they needed to grow up and stabilize their lives and then maybe we could talk. My career was in human resources and after so many years of dealing with people’s problems I didn’t want to deal with anyone under 35.
My opinion has drastically changed; I can’t imagine turning my back on these kids. It’s unbelievable to see how much you can accomplish with food and love. The boys appreciate you so much and stay in touch for years to come. On Christmas day I get calls from all over the country and the world, I’ve even received calls from astronauts. Guests who stay with us will see the Midshipmen around the house and are really impressed and moved by these young kids. People are proud to be a part of this and often leave checks for the kids or for us asking us to do something special for them. It adds so much to the guest’s experience.
I am a firm believer in the Amish saying: when there’s room in the heart there’s room in the home. You never know what the future holds for these kids so I will never turn away someone who needs a sponsor. I feel so proud to get pictures of them later in their lives. I never thought I would have an influence in the world to this degree but I see them in Iraq or working in the Pentagon and it hits me that I’ve impacted the rest of their future.
Q: What would you do over if you had a time machine?
A: Nothing, I have no regrets. I love making an insignificant weekend become the most important weekend for guests. We’ve had people come who are struggling to hold on to maybe their marriage and they come here to get away together and I can play a role in changing their lives. The best things that happen in my life never had anything to do with the business plan.
Did you know?
The Annapolis Inn was built in the 1700’s when much of the land still belonged to England. Even the home’s building materials were brought over from England. The home was built and belonged to President Thomas Jefferson’s personal doctor. Today the house still stands and is the Annapolis Inn.