Interview with Don Martine, owner and Innkeeper of the elegant Martine Inn in Pacific Grove, California
1) tell me a little about when, why and how you started your business…
I started my business in In 1984. In 1972 my parents, Norah and Homer Martine and I purchased the Parke home which was built in 1899. In 1901, Laura and James Parke, of Parke Davis Pharmaceuticals, purchased the home. We bought the home for an investment and as a family home. I lived in the home for the first few years, it was both a valuable property and a money pit. I decided that the best use of the home was to operate a B&B. It took several years to get all of the approvals. I fully renovated the grand mansion and replaced the worn out plumbing, installed a new heating system with individual room controls and replaced the old knob and tube wiring. All of the fixtures are authentic, turn of the century antiques, including push button light switches, claw foot tubs, brass fixtures, marble sinks, etc.
The entire process of the design, furnishing, decorating and services for guests is to recreate the experience one would have had if they had been the individual guests of the Parkes at the turn of the century. If I’m going to do something, I am going to do it as well as it can be done.
2) What inspired you to open a B&B?
I wanted a good return on my investment and this seemed to be the best way, to operate a B&B.
3) What’s your favorite thing about operating a B&B?
Constant challenges. Everything that happens in the world, the wars in Iraq, the dot com collapse, earthquakes in San Francisco, everything has changed the dynamics of how to run this business. Nine months ago, it could be called a luxury resort but not now because of the AIG effect.
5) What makes your B&B different from others?
Proximity to the ocean, Cannery Row and Monterey Bay Aquarium. Plus, museum quality antiques, personal attention to detail, MG auto collection, special services such as Victorian silver service, staff selection, training and attitude.
Over the past 20 years, the Martine Inn has staged hundreds of weddings – from two person elopements to groups of 120 guests. Bride and grooms have come from as near as Monterey to as far away as Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, and the European continent.
MG auto collection: I have been interested in cars since the age of three. I am a sports car restorer and race engine rebuilder and have won in vintage and historic car races around the United States.
My interest in MGs began in 1950 when my father, Homer Martine, purchased a 1949 MGTC. This interest was furthered when I watched Johnny Von Neumann drive his 1950 MGTD Special to victory at the inaugural Pebble Beach Road Races … a car that I now own and have on display.
Victorian Silver service: a very significant collection of both flatware and hollow-ware from the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s. You can see spoon warmers, asparagus trays and tongs, merry-go-round cruet sets and flatware silver set Lancaster Rose made by Gorham and introduced in 1896 that has 40 pieces to each placesetting and 86 serving pieces. The breakfast table is set each morning with some of these silver pieces.
6) If there was one tip that you would recommend that business owners follow, what would it be and why?
Don’t cheap it out. Buy good products that will last and you will save a lot of money. Every guest is valuable and deserve the best service. What is your time worth? Know the quality of the suppliers and vendors that you deal with.
7) How do you cope with juggling all of the various balls you’ve got going in the air?
Have to set priorities. A lot of it has to do with attitude. There are always things to improve. Be careful what you choose to give attention to. You are not going to do everything you want to do.