BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine — The fog moved in and out, alternately obscuring and then revealing a one-of-a-kind view of Boothbay Harbor. The Topside Inn dominates a hilltop above the village, with white Adirondack chairs lined up on the lawn, waiting to capture that view for the guests.
The view, the ambiance, and the hotel itself are now likely to attract even more guests to the hilltop after the popular tourism website Tripadvisor rated the Topside Inn as the “best small hotel in the U.S.”
“We have received awards before, but being named number one small hotel in the U.S. is pretty incredible,” Mark Osborne, who bought the Inn in 2014 with his partner Buzz Makarewicz, said.
The pair had no idea of the Tripadvisor rating until an alert triggered their phones one evening this week.
“And we looked at our phones and read through the article and looked at each other in shock,” Makarewicz said. “And we were absolutely thrilled.”
“Not only did we get number one in the U.S., we got number seven in the world,” Osborne added.
They said the rating came as a surprise, determined by Tripadvisor based on all the data it collects from users of the site, the people who have stayed at the inn.
The owners described the Topside Inn as “high end” for Boothbay Harbor, with 22 rooms, most of which have ocean views. They say the entire facility has been upgraded and, in some cases, rebuilt since they bought it.
The main house was built in the late 1800s, and there are two other buildings with guest rooms built more recently.
Osborne said their focus is on high quality, excellent service, and friendliness.
“We had guests walk up this morning and say coming here is like coming home. That really means something,” Osborne said.
The hotel serves only breakfast — but an elaborate breakfast, the owners said. And it's one they cook themselves, taking alternate days in the kitchen.
“It allows us to do the food we love and also go see our guests,” Makarewicz said.
“Buzz is really a gifted cook,” Osborne said, “And I always loved to cook.”
The two came to innkeeping from different roots. Osborne said he summered in Boothbay Harbor as a child but was raised in Massachusetts, then worked in the corporate world.
He left that and, in 2003, came to Maine and bought a longtime Boothbay Harbor eatery called the Thistle Inn. He sold that a few years later, went to culinary school for a while, then managed another local resort before connecting with Makarewicz and buying the Topside.
Makarewicz said he studied the hospitality industry in school but also worked in the corporate world until moving to Boothbay Harbor and meeting Osborne.
Both praised their staff and said the relationship between those who work at the inn and those who stay there is vital and is reflected in the comments they see.
“When they say Mark and Buzz or Rebecca the general manager or Greg in our bar ... when they mention us by name, I know we are doing our job,” Osborne said.
As for the Tripadvisor rating, they said the inn was almost at capacity last summer and expect it to be again but hope the top rating for their hotel will bring more people to Boothbay Harbor to patronize other businesses.
“This ranking reflects on the town in general. Just us here in a vacuum wouldn’t create this experience folks love so much. [It is] the restaurants, the botanical garden, the land trust properties, and everything else folks do in town that makes this place so special,” Osborne said.
And that top of the hill view — and the breakfasts — don’t hurt either.