On May 10 when Tripadvisor, the popular online travel company, announced the winners of its annual Travelers' Choice awards for hotels, Boothbay Harbor’s Topside Inn was named the “Best Small Hotel in the U.S.” and seventh in the world in that category. And it was named third in the U.S. for “Most Romantic.”
“The Best of the Best Awards are calculated based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected in 2021 from travelers around the world on Tripadvisor,” explained company spokesperson Casey Brogan.
“It’s not an editor’s selection or survey; it is based on authentic traveler feedback, so winners are essentially the most-loved hotels of the year,” Brogan further explained.
The award follows the 2020 “Innkeepers of the Year” award from Hospitality Maine for Mark Osborn and Brian “Buzz” Makarewicz who have owned the inn since 2014.
Osborn is a past owner of Thistle Inn and previous general manager of Linekin Bay Resort. Makarewicz graduated from University of Massachusetts/Amherst with a degree in hotel management. The couple applies their education, management experience and ideas gained from travel to create the award-winning experience for their guests.
Over the past eight years, they have continued to transform the 1865 structure that was Captain Cyrus McKown’s home, adding private entry doors and porches and removing walls to create more spacious rooms, even turning a first floor guest room into a small bar based on one in Paris.
While off-season construction has created new areas at the inn, the atmosphere Osborn and Makarewicz describe as “refined, but feeling casual” involves more than the building.
Guests have logged exclusively five-star reviews for the past two and a half years on Tripadvisor and the comments refer to all aspects of their stays, not just the spectacular view. Guests use “majestic” and “magical” to describe their stays, praising the breakfasts, the service and the location.
In fact, breakfast recipes were requested so often, Osborn and Makarewicz published a cookbook, “Over Easy & Over the Top: A Topside Inn Cookbook.”
The owners said they used 2020 to renovate the buildings and re-opened in May 2021, navigating the difficult logistics imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes the Tripadvisor award for that year even more noteworthy.
With the public dining areas closed at an inn that was known for its breakfasts, “...we couldn’t just do frozen muffins and a container of orange juice,” Makarewicz said. The owners made a quick pivot and instead provided hot breakfasts delivered to each room for private dining.
Asked why they think guests rate the inn so highly, Osborn said, “We put the guest first and we can always do a little bit better.”
Makarewicz explained, “There’s a relaxed feeling but everything we do is intentional” – even the music and indoor temperature.
Rebekah Messer is the inn’s general manager. When Topside Inn is fully staffed and occupied, it has one staffer for every three guests; the staff is reminded to see everything from a guest’s point of view, without being intrusive.
“We will be as involved in your vacation as you want,” Makarewicz tells guests. “We’ll help you do as much or as little as you’d like.”
Osborn and Makarewicz also bring back ideas from traveling. A resort they visited in the Ecuadorian rain forest provided guests with umbrellas. Now, each room at Topside Inn has an umbrella in a stand by the door.
Osborn said, “We want people to experience Maine while they are here.” The owners try to reflect that in the food and in the way they promote the area.
Makarewicz added, “We love the recognition for us, but we also love it for the whole town. We’re not in a vacuum here; people need to enjoy the town, too.”
Topside Inn is open from May through October. For more information, visit https://topsideinn.com/