The Wake Robin Inn: A Celebration Destination
If you’re one of those people who’ve always dreamed of running a country inn, Michael Loftus & Shaffin Shariff would like to talk to you. Ten years ago, the two men (who were then a couple) moved from Chicago to Lakeville, CT, to overhaul the woebegone Lake Robin Inn, a one-time girl’s private school on eleven acres across the road from Lakeville Lake. Though Loftus had worked for Hilton for many years and they had done their due diligence, buying the 1899 Wake Robin was an act of faith. “It was the build-it-and-they-will-come philosophy,” says Shariff. “We had the idea of running a traditional New England Inn.”
But like so many starry-eyed innkeepers before them, they soon realized that the tourist market could be fickle and that bad weather brought cancellations during the all-important leaf-peeping and ski seasons. So they decided that the best way to keep their 38 bedrooms full was to turn the Wake Robin into what they call a “celebration destination.” Says Shariff: “We decided we would not be an inn for a romantic getaway.”
Instead, the Wake Robin caters to groups (both formally and informally), relying on the traffic from Lime Rock Park race track (“It’s more the drivers and crews than the fans who stay with us,” notes Loftus) as well as parents from the nearby Berkshire, Hotchkiss and Salisbury prep schools. They also do weddings (under a tent on the lawn or in their ballroom), family reunions and corporate retreats. “It’s especially nice for weddings because everyone staying here is a guest and at least 80 or so people don’t have to worry about drinking and driving,” says Shariff. They learned to accept that their inn itself was not the raison d’être for guests to visit but making them feel welcome and comfortable was paramount. “We’re not a four-star inn, but we get five-star ratings,” says Shariff.
Now, after ten years, they are ready to move on, and they have just put the inn on the market at $4,795,000. Is this a good time to sell with the nearby White Hart Inn and Troutbeck Inn & Conference Center also for sale? “Yes, we think we have a really successful formula that new owners can take over and improve upon if they want to,” says Shariff, who wants to spend more time with his two school-age sons whom he’s raising with his husband, Kevin Vetter.
Meanwhile, the inn is almost fully booked through the end of 2011, and they promise not to disappoint any brides or their employees by closing down. “A lot of innkeepers think it’s all about them but we know better,” says Shariff, who says they are willing to stay on as consultants to new owners. “We have been good stewards of the Wake Robin and we are ready to hand it over and make sure it is in good hands for many years to come.
Wake Robin Inn
106 Sharon Rd (Rte. 41), Lakeville, CT;860.435.2000