Gables II becoming Darius InnZendt sisters undertake ownership
Sisters Christy and Becca Zendt, who recently purchased the Gables II Inn, may have not found any ghosts there. But while rummaging through their building they did find an old notebook that belonged to former owner Darius Dodge.
It was labeled as an accounts ledger, but holds much more, Christy Zendt said, such as formulas for elixirs that Dodge concocted and sold in his drug store there in the mid-1800s. Fascinated, the sisters decided to rename the rambling, cedar-shake building on Dodge Street “The Darius Inn.”
Christy Zendt took this Block Island Times reporter on a tour of the inn. The first floor has five little suites, including one with two rooms, and the second floor has six bedrooms. There are two shared baths on the second floor, but Zendt unfolded a set of blueprints and spread them out on a white chenille bedspread in a second floor front bedroom. As she pointed out where three new bathrooms will be installed by pushing back walls and utilizing storage space, light poured in the room’s windows. There are not one, but two ocean views in that bedroom, which overlooks the rooftops of the shops across the street and the ocean beyond.
The inn has a large front porch facing Dodge Street, perfect for rocking away a hot summer afternoon with a cold drink, and it also has a second floor porch on the west side that rises above Dodge Street. Both porches are perfect vantage points for watching the July 4 parade.
How did two women just starting out on their lives and careers — Christy is 27 and Becca is 26 — take on ownership of an unheated inn with an eight-to-12-week window of profitability?
Christy Zendt was living in Texas when she first arrived on Block Island for a vacation five years ago and soon after, heard that Ann Law was searching for an innkeeper at the Avonlea. She left her job in a Texas art museum (she has a degree in art) and went to work for Law.
Sister Becca, who has a degree in psychology, worked with autistic children in Los Angeles, but has since spent summers working at Law’s Blue Dory Inn.
Prior to taking a job at the Avonlea, Christy Zendt had some experience as an innkeeper in Savannah, Georgia. “We have both [she and sister, Becca] wanted to do something like this for the last seven to ten years,” Zendt said. “I’m fascinated by hotels and my sister likes to travel.” She will be doing the innkeeping, and Becca will tend to the business end. “We wrote a big business plan and found an investor,” Zendt said, explaining that they did not just jump into the business blindly but had researched other business plans for small hotels.
Both sisters are interested in art and designing, gardening, people and cooking, all useful in running an inn. Both of their parents are educators in careers that will allow them time to help their daughters in their new endeavor. Zendts’ mother has already stripped wallpaper in the inn on her spring break, and their father will be enlisted to put in a vegetable garden as well as to strip floors.
The inn has a barn out back, which was used as a workshop in recent years. Zendt hopes to utilize it eventually for art workshops, such as chair restoration. “We found hundreds of old chairs [here]…and we could have everyone work on a chair,” Christy said. Becca Zendt is a certified yoga instructor and plans to have yoga retreats. They hope to winterize the building to stay open longer for these weekend offerings.
“Both our parents are apprehensive,” Zendt said about their endeavor. “I know innkeeping has a high burnout rate.” The inn will definitely only be profitable, she explains, if the sisters count their hours and give themselves salaries. There are no immediate plans to hire anyone besides possibly a cleaning person. “We both embrace it as a lifestyle, it’s what we want to be doing.”
The Darius Inn is listed on Twitter and at the Block Island Chamber of Commerce. Zendt invites everyone to come to a tag sale of surplus furnishings found in the building on Saturday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to noon (which will also be repeated throughout the rest of the week).