Scott Jones and Kell Hicklin bought Lambert’s Cove Inn in 2005. They started with a five-year plan; now they are celebrating 10 years of ownership and the Inn’s 45th year in business.
What are your backgrounds?
KH: We both came from Atlanta. My background basically was a bunch of entrepreneurial ventures and distributorships, and I did residential remodeling for a number of years. I went to work at the Center for the Visually Impaired after being there as a volunteer, and then I went to Global Payments, which is where Scott worked, and I was in employee communications.
SJ: I was the vice president of marketing and communications for Global Payments, and I worked there for 10 years. I retired at 45. It was 45, right?
KH: I know, but I always laugh when you say retired.
SJ: Well, we retired from the real world at 45, then we decided to buy this place. We had summered here; a chairman and CEO of Global Payments has a house in West Chop, and so that was our first introduction in 2000 to the Vineyard. We came once a year until we bought this place in 2005. We had kind of planned on staying for five years, we thought if we really loved it we’d stay more, if we hated it we’d sell it in three, but it’s been 10. The business itself is celebrating its 45th year in business. It started in 1970.
So what’s kept you going, if you initially had a five-year plan?
KH: We’ve tried to reinvent the business several times over, which was an important thing to do. Two years ago we introduced the farm concept, and we actually changed the name. It used to be Lambert’s Cove Country Inn when we bought it, and then we changed the name to Lambert’s Cove Inn and Restaurant.
SJ: And then two years ago, when we incorporated the farm, we changed it to Lambert’s Cove Inn, Farm and Restaurant. We changed the logo and did a whole rebranding.
KH: It was time to do something different, to change it up a little bit. You know how important the whole “buy local” thing is to the Vineyard, and we buy as much as possible from local farms for the restaurant. We wanted to be able to contribute to that ourselves, so we introduced chickens into the mix, and we grow the majority of our own herbs and tomatoes, and now we have micro-greens.
SJ: And arugula.
SJ: And lettuce and vegetables. And we have two goats that are about a year old. It’s just been a whole new experience. We do as much as we can.
How was the transition from working in the corporate world to opening an inn?
SJ: It was a very smooth transition, because we were both ready to do something different. We were very fortunate that we were able to do that. Listen, we may have retired from the corporate world, but we didn’t retire. We worked harder here probably than we worked in corporate America. It was something that we felt like we wanted to do. We saw this property when it wasn’t even on the market yet, and we both saw the potential immediately. We both remodeled houses — we could walk into a hellhole and see what it could be. This place just kind of screamed for us. So we packed up everything we owned — an 18-wheeler full of this furniture — and showed up on the Island. I don’t think we had time to transition.
And you had experience with remodeling?
KH: I did residence remodeling for about eight years. I was flipping houses before doing that become a popular thing.
SJ: Before HGTV.
KH: But Scott had the marketing background. We both had done some remodeling, and I had owned a number of small businesses previously. We both love to eat good food, we love to go to great restaurants, we love to entertain, so kind of a combination of all those things is what we felt qualified us to do something like this and to be able to do well and take the chance to leave corporate America.
What has changed?
KH: When we bought the inn, we spent probably the first three years renovating, redecorating.
SJ: Adding a pool.
KH: That kept us busy for a while. It really became a destination spot for the inn guests, but the restaurant has been through a number of different transitions as far as decor. We went from being a place open 11 months out of the year to being open six to seven, and we really want to continue to be a place not only for tourists, but for the local traffic as well.
SJ: Most of the locals see us as an occasion place. If they have a birthday or an anniversary, they come to the Lambert’s Cove Inn. We’ve been trying for the past few years to shake that image, and just say, if you just want to go out to dinner on a Wednesday night, you know it doesn’t have to be a special occasion.
KH: Not just for special occasions anymore!
How many weddings have you held here?
SJ: It’s easily over 100.
KH: We do literally very small family functions, up to several hundred guests. We’ve got a lot of venues to suit the different-size parties, and now with the pool out back, we can do receptions out by the pool. The great thing about the weddings that we host is that a lot of times people will start planning a year or so in advance, and because we’re so involved in the planning process, we get to know the couples and a lot of times their parents very well, and have ongoing relationships with them. Actually our first wedding, the couple we worked with, we had dinner with them the other night. So the couples we work with we continue to see, and help them celebrate their anniversaries, or they bring their kids back.
So what makes this place such a romantic retreat?
SJ: I think it’s the ambiance. It’s the music, it’s the lights, it’s the decor, it’s the charm of the property, it’s the look of the house, it’s the front door. It’s just a combination of all of the elements that we think are important — lighting, sound, touch, smell, feel. When someone steps in the door, it needs to smell pleasant, and they need to hear a relaxing song playing in the background, and the lighting has to be just right. Those things are important to us. I walk into the dining room three times a night and adjust the lighting based on the lighting outside. We have marks on all the dimmer switches, like where it needs to be at 6, where it needs to be at 7, where it needs to be at 8, so that the lighting can change and adjust and stay the same inside even when it’s changing outside.
KH: But it’s not just a romantic retreat. It’s groups, it’s friends — we’ve moved it more in that direction. It’s a destination location for inn guests with the pool and the tennis court and the beach and Ice House Pond, but then it’s also a restaurant.
SJ: It’s a casual, elegant dining experience.
KH: That’s nice.
So what’s with the goats?
KH: We just thought it was an element to add to the whole farm aspect. They’re basically just eating — they do eat brush, and anytime we pull weeds we give it to the goats for dessert. Eventually, this fall would be the time to hook them up with a nice young goat down the street, and then they would have babies.
SJ: We had to bottle-feed these goats every four hours for 10 weeks. The alarm clock just went off every four hours of the day and night so we could feed these goats. We went to see them, and Kell and I both fell in love with them — they were shivering, it was pouring down rain and they were this big. We put them inside our coats and carried them home. We bottle-fed them, and they ran around here like they were dogs until they were old enough to go into their own pens.
What’s the goal?
SJ: Goat’s milk and goat’s cheese.
And what’s with the hens?
KH: They lay all of the eggs that we serve our inn guests for breakfast. In the off-season we sold them to the local grocery store. We don’t eat our chickens because they all have names.
SJ: Well, Kell names the chickens.
KH: We’ve also started doing a tremendous amount of composting. So all of the scraps the chickens eat, which they just love. We also have lots of composting going back into the gardens. That has cut down on trash pickup and it’s helped with the footprint.
SJ: It’s always been our goal to lessen our footprint here. Everything that we possibly can compost, we do. When we leave this place, we want to leave it better than we found it.
What’s one thing people probably don’t know about owning an inn?
SJ: We didn’t know anything about owning an inn. What was our biggest surprise?
KH: We really, and I can say this from the bottom of my heart, we’ve met some people that we’ll stay in touch with forever. Without the inn we would never have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world that come back here year after year and that we stay in touch with. It’s been wonderful.
SJ: The first four years we were in here 24/7, we greeted every guest that came through that door, and hugged them all goodbye when they left. That was part of the charm of this business.
KH: One of the great things, because we’re so hands-on — we will be doing housekeeping one minute, hosting the restaurant and greeting guests when they check in, or working in the garden, or cleaning the pool — the day never gets boring, because there’s always something different to do. You’re going every minute of every day; it starts early and ends late. I guess that keeps us going.
How do you deal with a very secluded location?
KH: It’s a blessing and a curse, I feel like. You’d be surprised how many people come here for a drive-by, so when they come to the restaurant they’ll know how to get here, because they think it’s out in the middle of the woods. But once they find it, they don’t have any trouble finding it again, and that’s what makes it magical. Especially for people who have been to Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, it’s like being in a different country.
What’s your vision for the future of the inn?
KH: If we continue on this same path, we obviously would every year expand the farm aspect, because we really do have a lot of potential in that regard. And the more we grow personally, the more the business benefits.
SJ: Yeah, the farm-to-table will continue to increase.
So you’ll have 20 goats?
KH: If I have anything to do with it, yes.
SJ: The whole place would smell to high heaven.