You can’t talk about Cape May B&Bs without talking about The Queen Victoria, which has been a pillar of Cape May hospitality since 1980. We chatted with innkeeper Doug McMain, who purchased the B&B in 2004 with his wife Anna Marie, to find out what it’s like operating a year-round accommodation in Cape May, the strangest phone call they’ve ever had, and what an innkeeper eats for breakfast.
What made you to decide to run a B&B in Cape May?
We stayed in too many bed and breakfasts and got hooked on the idea of owning a charming historic property in a beautiful beach town. The idea of having our own little business, out of the corporate scene, had tremendous appeal. It turns out that The Queen Victoria is not quite a “little business,” but we’re still thrilled with the decision we made fourteen years ago.
How do you manage to stay open year-round?
We choose to stay open year round for a few reasons. The first, I think most people would be surprised how many visitors we get during the winter. There is rarely an evening that we don’t have guests. Secondly, the phones are ringing every day, all year round, with people making reservations. Somebody has to be here for that purpose alone. Beyond that, we have a wonderful staff, which we would probably not be able to keep intact if we closed for several months each year. We’re proud to offer nearly 20 of these people year-round, full-time jobs. Basically, we take the “long view” when considering our finances throughout the year. It would be very short sighted of us to simply close our doors each month that we aren’t showing a positive cash flow.
Tell us about the strangest phone call you’ve ever had.
One that has always stuck with me is a call I got on our emergency line at about 5:30 in the morning, as I was leaving our home to head into the inn, asking if we had a room available for the night. I wasn’t sure what night he was asking about, the one that was nearly over, or the one to come. It turns out he meant immediately for the previous night. I ended up renting a room to him and his wife for two days. Nobody saw them again until they checked out, so I assume they were simply on a completely different schedule than the rest of us.
What was one of your worst blunders in the kitchen?
I suppose dropping the breakfast dish as I was taking it out of the oven one morning tops the list. Destroying the breakfast you are supposed to serve five minutes later definitely disrupts the flow of the morning.
What’s the #1 thing you recommend people do when they visit Cape May?
We recommend MAC’s Combination Trolley Tour, to give new visitors to Cape May a good sense for the history of our fair town, and also a glimpse into the past in the Emlen Physick Estate.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Cape May?
We have too many favorites (and friends who own them) to give you only one. Here is a short list (in no particular order): Freda’s Cafe, Washington Inn, Louisa’s, Fins, Sapore Italiano, PSI, Georges Place, and the Ebbitt Room.
We’re throwing a tea party. What type of tea do you recommend, and what foods should we serve guests?
Harney’s Paris Tea, without a doubt. Personally, I’d suggest our “Amazing 6-layer Gluten Free Bars” (not the sexiest name, but the best thing you’re likely to ever taste), “Melt in your Mouth Shortbread Cookies,” and “Chunky Bacon Tomato Spread” with crackers. We serve all of these, of course, and they are all in our cookbook.
Did you make your own bed this morning?
Absolutely. Anna Marie and I start our day that way every single morning.
What do you eat for breakfast?
We’re in a bit of a rut, but a great one. We typically enjoy one of the recipes that we serve our guests, which is called Spinach Portobello Frittata. The name describes it well, but it also has asparagus & lots of cheese. (Nearly everything tastes better with lots of cheese!)
Where do you go to get away?
We love to go wine tasting in Virginia.
And do you stay at a B&B?
Finally, what’s the funniest thing you’ve found left in a room?
A full suitcase. It is hard to imagine leaving your full suitcase in your room when you leave. It turns out that you can simply take a suitcase to the US Post Office (unwrapped), put a label on it and mail it. Who knew?
For more information
The Queen Victoria is located at 102 Ocean Street in Cape May and is open year-round. For more information about the B&B, please visit queenvictoria.com.