Call it fate, call it inevitable.
Why would someone, used to living in cities such as New York or Chicago, working in IT management for an international corporate law firm, leave it all behind, move to a little town and open up a Bed and Breakfast? Well, if you’re Eric Levinson, the owner of The Hummingbird Inn, it was kind of meant to be.
After all, everything appeared to be leading in that direction, from wanting to be a chef and taking classes at the New York Culinary Institute, to lots of traveling, meeting interesting people, and experiencing new cultures. It also helped that he was blessed with an intense love for entertaining and, more importantly, a partner who shared his dream. Then in 2013, it all changed. While on vacation, a drunk driver ran a light. His partner didn’t survive the accident. It was then that Levinson started to question whether he wanted or even could continue to pursue their vision.
This is where fate stepped in. Levinson noted that the sympathy cards he was receiving seemed to have a theme—hummingbirds. Which was odd, because he had no connection to the bird. “So, I was like, what’s the deal with the hummingbirds? I looked it up and it turns out there’s this lore which says that hummingbirds are thought to take on the spirit of people who move on. People who are very full of life and energy and positive. That really described who he was. And so, I just adopted the hummingbird as a remembrance.”
Eventually, Levinson returned to searching for the perfect location. His sister suggested Easton. “As a kid we used to go to the beach all the time, and we’d go through Easton. I’d never been back here. So, in my mind, Easton was, you know, motels, fast food, and 50.” Despite that, he agreed to look.
Of the homes, he had scheduled to see, the John S. McDaniel house was one Levinson wasn’t interested in. “But, I figured, if I’m going to fly out and spend all this time, I might as well walk two blocks and check this one out.” The stately Queen Anne Victorian with a striking wrap-around porch, and six en suite rooms turned out to be perfect. If there were any remaining doubts two signs assured him he was making the right choice. The first happened during the home inspection, when on the back chimney, he found a terracotta plaque of a hummingbird. After closing on the house, and the former owners had moved all of their furniture, Levinson found the second sign. “In the dining room, on the mantel, the only thing that was left there (and is still there) was a pewter candle snuffer. The snuffer has a hummingbird on it.” Was there any doubt that in 2017, the John S. McDaniel House, was renamed the Hummingbird Inn?
“What’s interesting,” says Levinson, “is the number of people that have come here who have similar hummingbird stories, and they say, ‘I knew when I saw the name that it wasn’t just somebody who enjoyed hummingbirds, but there was something else behind that. People come here because of the name.” As evidence, Levinson points to a wall by the registration desk. It’s named ‘the hummingbird wall.’ “It’s all custom and handmade or commissioned artwork that my guests have sent me. They tell me, ‘I saw this piece’ or ‘I had this done,’ or ‘I made this because it was such an amazing experience.’ and they send it to me.”
Making sure that his guests have an amazing experience is what drives Levinson. “I like meeting people and doing the cooking and the hospitality part, but the connections that I make, and I have so many repeat guests. They send me cards, we text, and we talk all the time. So, when they come back, it’s not like guests. It’s just like having old friends, come over. We hang out and go to dinners and do stuff.”
There are many good reasons that guests feel valued. One is that Levinson puts up a state or country flag denoting where each of them has come from. “When they leave and checkout, I’ll have them stand on the porch under their flag, and I take a picture, and it goes in this little video [digital photo frame]. I call this my family album.”
Other ways that Levinson takes care of his visitors is modeled from all that he learned from the extensive traveling he has done in his life. “So, everything that I’ve done here is really, I guess from my own selfish perspective. Is that something I would like, or how would that work? Because then, if it works for me, and I’m not guaranteeing it’s going to work for everybody, but it seems most people appreciate the same type of thing.” Most critical, he feels, is that each room has its own bathroom. “I’ve stayed in places where you share a bathroom, and I’ve stayed in places where you may have bathrooms that are not in your room. And both of those experiences were not positive for me.”
Something else he’s enjoyed in his travels is a good breakfast. “So, here you get a choice of two entrees and a choice of three sides.” And if you’ve got restrictions, i.e., gluten-free, vegan, etc., he has options for you as well. “My goal is always to try to make sure that somebody who’s got restrictions doesn’t feel like they’re getting less of a food experience.”
But there’s more. If it’s winter, there’s ‘Parlor Time,’ where guests can hang out by the fire and play games. If it’s warm, the festivities move outside where ‘Porch Time’ means a built-in sound system blasts out great music, cool drinks are served, and warm conversations are had, assuring that you’ve made new friends during your stay.
Before leaving this list of amenities, an important one needs to be mentioned. Dogs. Yes, dogs are allowed, thanks in part to Troubadour, aka, Tru, a 15-year-old Rat Terrier, full-time resident of the Inn, who will not only warmly greet you, but also keep you company in the parlor. As the notice by the front door says: “All guests must be approved by the dog.”
In case you’re wondering who you will meet if you book a stay, Levinson tells us that it will be people who come to Easton for special events, such as happenings at the Avalon, weddings, waterfowl festival, etc. Some no further away than Kent Island, Salisbury or Denton. Oh, and unlike other B&Bs, Hummingbird doesn’t have a multiple stay minimum (for most occasions).
By now, you may be trying to figure out how you can justify staying at the Inn, even though you’re a townie. Maybe consider the annual Murder Mystery Weekend? But the good news is that you don’t have to be a guest to take part in all the fun. Think you’d enjoy the breakfast? Give him 24 hours advance reservation, and if he has room, you’re invited. How about the summer monthly all you can eat crab feast? Or you can join the celebration at the New Year’s Eve or Halloween parties. Looking for a place with a great outdoors for a wedding, reunion, or party? You might have found it. “It’s much more fun than just checking people in and out and making breakfast,” says Levinson. “I mean, I love that, but I like that this is a great space and a great house, and I’m going to make the most out of it.”
Call it kismet.
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