DEEP RIVER — Ask Stacie and Michael DiNello, owners of Deep River’s Riverwind Inn since last April, about the guest from New York City this past summer.
“She had her feet up in one of the common rooms upstairs and she just looked so relaxed,” Michael recalled on a recent afternoon as flames crackled in the 12-foot granite fireplace in the cozy sitting area of the rambling 19th century farmhouse.
“Then she disappeared, but all her stuff was still there.”
They looked and looked. Hours later, their son Pete found her under the canopy of trees on the soft grass of the landscaped garden. “She was sound asleep,” Stacie said with a smile.
Stacie and Mike do a lot of smiling these days. No wonder. It took 10 years for the two to find their dream inn, a quest that took them from Virginia to Maine.
To hear recent guest Annie Redman tell it, it’s little surprise that, since opening the inn nine months ago, the first-time innkeepers have hosted over a thousand guests from all corners of the world.
“They’re just wonderful hosts. It’s the little touches, like putting out fresh coffee in the common areas first thing in the morning and the complimentary sherry. You can tell they get a real kick out of entertaining,” said the Branford resident.
“We were the ones who had everyone over to our house,” said Stacie, who worked in corporate publishing and is in the process of finding a publisher for her children’s book; Michael owned a landscape design company in North Haven for 28 years. “We’ve always loved bringing people together.”
Which explains the appeal of the common areas at the inn. With two on both floors, guests not only can enjoy their rooms, each of which has period antiques and private baths, varies in size and, as Redman put it, “has its own distinctive style and charm.”
They also “can relax and read, or just enjoy one of the fireplaces,” said Stacie as she set a batch of freshly baked blueberry muffins on the counter in the soft light of the homey kitchen as strains of guitar music floated in from the dining room.
There’s also the back patio, which Michael built soon after opening the inn. “In the spring and summer our guests sit out there in the morning for coffee and then we have a fire pit at night and people hang around,” he said.
And the full country breakfast, a three-course affair that might feature pancakes with squash from Stacie’s garden, along with peach butter made that morning, or Michael’s Egg Benedict or a savory slice of spinach and tomato frittata, all made to order and with attentiveness to vegan or other diets.
“We do what’s in season,” Stacie said, adding they make everything from scratch. “In the fall it was all apple breads or zucchini breads because people were loving that so I was making it constantly.”
For Gwen Arcadia of Philadelphia, the “laid back” breakfast was a highlight of her stay last summer. “All of a sudden I was chatting with two doctors from Australia and a nautical mapmaker from Germany was giving me ideas for how to spend the day,” she said.
The inn, it seems, is close to everything, with the Connecticut River and the Rockwellian village of Deep River within walking distance. There’s also the town green next door, where there’s a summer concert series, and the annual Ancient Muster in July, the oldest and largest gathering of fife and drum corps, also known as the “Colonial Woodstock.”
With its wraparound porch providing front-row seats, Michael said, “we’re booked for the muster until 2021.”
It’s that kind of fortuitous location that has the former North Haven residents with a ready response to skeptics about Deep River. “People have said to us ‘why would you buy an inn in the middle of nowhere?’” said Stacie. “Deep River is amazing. This whole area is amazing. And we just happen to be in the middle of it all.”
Just minutes away are the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, Gillette Castle State Park, and the Florence Griswold Museum. There’s also antiquing, as well as hiking in the 300 pristine acres of trails of the Canfield-Meadow Woods Nature Preserve.
Within 10 minutes are no less than three world-class theaters—the Goodspeed Opera House, the Norma Terris Theater, and the Ivoryton Playhouse. The Kate is 15 minutes down scenic Route 9.
“We have repeat customers, weekend after weekend, for the theater,” Stacie said.
At that moment, the phone rang. A few minutes later, Stacie was back. She was grinning again. Someone had just reserved a block of rooms for September.
“It never gets old,” she said, “whenever someone writes a really good review or asks for the recipe for my apple bread, when people who are quite influential in their fields stay in our little B&B in Deep River.”
Sure, after nine months as an innkeeper, she “can get a job anywhere cleaning toilets and making beds,” as she joked. But the hard work, and the 10-year quest, have been worth it.
“We had a dream, a vision, of running an inn where we’d want to stay,” she said. “And we’re doing it. We’ve created a place that holds itself to a high standard of comfort, of cleanliness, of preparing the freshest, most wholesome food.”
Not to mention an atmosphere so tranquil a guest might find herself in restful slumber in the garden.
Lisa Reisman may be reached at email@example.com.