Meet the Innkeeper, Marian Burns a True Bar Harbor Insider.
I was born in Bar Harbor and grew up during the “Summer Cottage” – period” Bar Harbor natives all worked on the cottages or for their owners. The names of the world’s wealthiest people were commonly known to everyone. Perhaps, because of the available money, Bar Harbor had the best possible public schooling. We all went to school 2 years before the 1st grade. I won a scholarship to the University of Maine and studied chemistry in the College of Engineering, one of the 1st four women to accomplish that. Women engineers were not employable and I became a teacher, math science in the high schools and later, a learning specialist. I was happily working with difficult high school students – having developed some innovative ways to reach these kids who lacked so many skills. The U. S. government began to dictate what I could do and how I had to do it. I couldn’t fit my teaching techniques into that formula. I had invented and taught (with some friends) an adult course which we called “How to Get Out of a Rut Before it Becomes a Grave.” The college called it “Reaching goals Creatively”. We thought we’d get bored housewives as students but we got mostly career changers.
One day I was driving home from another ineffective meeting. “Are you going to do this the rest of your working career? No. Well what then? OH - I taught a course in changing careers.” I went home and took my own advice: Draw a center line; on the left list who you are; on the right- list who you’re not.
My list had: talk with adults in conversations, do garden design, do interior design, do architectural design, be your own boss, speak French, play jazz piano, and a few more. When I circled the things that went together, I was surprised. “Maybe you could run an inn.” Thinking about it –it made more sense. I knew Bar Harbor, – there was only one B&B there and the owner was my friend who helped me. It took 3 years, but eventually I bought Mira Monte, which had been a “Summer Cottage” for over 100 years - and was going to become a funeral home(The Bar Harbor fire of 1947 burned 200 buildings and had put an end to the “Cottage” era). Bar Harbor was struggling to become a tourist town. The closing was on Halloween in 1981; when I came out of the lawyer’s office, the children were having their annual dress up spooky parade. This is a good omen, I thought – a parade for my closing.
I have been innkeeper here for 34 years. It fits who I am. It hasn’t all been easy, and money is always an issue. Competition is fierce these days, but all those challenges keep me alive. I love the conversations with folks from all over the world. I have been on the board of the Maine Innkeepers Association for 25 years and know hotel and B&B people from all over the State. I served as President of that Organization of 500 lodging establishments. I thought up the Habitat for Hospitality Program and it has raised over $100,000 for Maine Habitat programs since it’s beginning 9 years ago. It fits my ideas of helping - giving a hand up instead of a hand out. I won the “Community Service Award for the State” for that idea. I was “Innkeeper of the Year” for the State of Maine; I won the Bar Harbor Chamber commerce’s highest award; the Cadillac Award in 2010 and was Grand Marshall of the fourth of July Parade. I was right about the good omen for the first parade.
The years of innovative teaching and the years of involvement in the Hotel industry have helped me to understand what my guests want and I LISTEN. Every year I have added or changed something to meet the needs of my guests so that their vacation is “THE BEST”. I believe I am the only innkeeper in Bar Harbor who uses triple sheeting to ensure cleanliness of your bedding. We abandoned the pillow Shams because we just couldn’t keep them clean and ready – they take too long to dry and I wasn’t sure that they always got washed. I know that pillows are an issue – too firm or too soft – we now put 2 soft pillows and 2 firm pillows in each bed. Sure it takes longer to make the beds and there is a lot more laundry – but I hope I have happier guests. We now have one king bedroom with a sleep-number bed so you can choose the firmness of your mattress-each side can be different. We have a guest computer in the front hall – free to use; print boarding passes or check your email. We have a fabulous breakfast buffet each morning which offers a variety to meet the dietary needs of every guest. We have a 5-7 social hour so that guests can meet each other (or take their food to a private place).
I have developed a mission statement that says: to provide CHOICES for guests in a beautiful and relaxing setting. My staff has been with me for several years, and knows and understands this mandate.