November 14, 2013

A Word with the Boss: Camden Harbour Inn owner’s attention to detail pays

Raymond Brunyanszki leads the hotel to membership in the exclusive Relais & Chateaux association.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Raymond Brunyanszki is originally from the Netherlands and came to the U.S. nearly seven years ago to buy the Camden Harbour Inn with his partner, Oscar Verest. They renovated the inn and this year, it was accepted into Paris-based Relais & Chateaux, a marketing association of about 500 luxury hotels and restaurants worldwide – the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk is the only other member in Maine. Hotels and restaurants pay application and annual fees. The association pays anonymous visits and requires detailed financial and operational information before accepting a property. The inn employs 25 people year-round and 40 in the summer and sells about 4,500 room-nights a year. The restaurant serves about 16,000 customers a year. Brunyanszki declined to provide revenue figures or disclose his income.

click image to enlarge

Raymond Brunyanszki’s Camden Harbour Inn in Camden now belongs to the exclusive Relais & Chateaux association.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Q: What’s the history of the inn?

A: It was built in 1874 by a local carpenter, apparently as a private residence, and he turned it into the Mountain View Inn because at that time it was not very desirable to be near the harbor because it was smelly. Right now the harbor is much more desirable and the name was changed in the 1970s. When we bought it, it was really run down. I recall in late 2006 that I was telling people I was buying the Camden Harbour Inn, they would say, “Where is it?” – and it was one of the biggest buildings in Camden! They had done the utmost to hide the views from the inn, and you didn’t even see the ocean anymore or the harbor. It had 22 rooms when we purchased it and we immediately decided to aim for a higher-end property and create our own market so we would not compete with the other properties in town. We reduced the amount of rooms initially to 18 to give every room a water view and also bought a restaurant that the owner didn’t want and moved it to the Camden Harbour Inn. It was located at the mill in Camden. We didn’t want to add more (restaurant) seats (to the market) because Camden already has a lot of seats, particularly in the winter. We changed the look and menu. It’s a complete new design that fits the high-end market. 

Q: How did you find the inn and decide to buy it?

A: We were here in 2003 for a leaf-peeping trip. It started off with an article in a Dutch newspaper about a four- or five-state tour through New England, and I liked the article so much that I cut it out and put it in a drawer. A few years later, I was cleaning out the drawer and saw it and said, “We should do that.” We were thinking about what we were going to do (professionally) and we were walking on the beach in Ogunquit and talking about it. He said, “I could really see myself living here,” and I could see that as well. So we started looking at some smaller properties in southern Maine, but we realized that we weren’t going to make much money at that – the real estate (market) was high and the competition on room rates was more in southern Maine, so we looked up the coast. The inn was not seriously on the market, but a Realtor told us about it and we were able to purchase it. We went from (looking for) a small property where we could take winters off and go somewhere warmer and now we have 20 rooms and a restaurant and a year-round business. And we have so much fun doing it. 

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