“It’s a place of respite, relaxation. A peaceful, family-oriented, beachy chic kind of retreat.”
That’s how owner Suzanne Walsh is describing her new hotel Shelter Island House, situated in Shelter Island Heights.
“We’re kind of figuring out, not who we are, but how we want to brand ourselves,” she said.
That could also be something Suzanne is doing for herself as well. A recent defector from the Boston rat race, last year left a high pressure job in commercial real estate to pursue a dream, buying and opening a hotel.
“I spent a lot of time on Shelter Island growing up. I’m from Nassau County, Garden City originally, but have been summering out here all my life. Last summer I ended up spending a little more time out here and decided it’s such a wonderful place to live, it could be a really good workplace balance,” she said.
She and her sister, Janet Rogler, a Garden City High School educator and mother of three, pooled their resources and went shopping for a hotel.
“She’s been to business school, she’s pretty savvy with numbers and we defined our roles pretty quickly,” Walsh said. “I wanted to be the front person with the customer service and deal with the day-to-day stuff and she would be behind the scenes, working on finances, kind of the key person working on marketing.”
Together they bought Shelter Island House in January 2015. It was then known as “La Maison Blanche,” but a trip to the Shelter Island Historical Society inspired them to restore the hotel’s original name and brand it as a way to enjoy an authentic Island experience.
“We decided we’d do what we know best, which is provide the Shelter Island experience to people who have never been here or have been here, but don’t know the best beaches, the best restaurants, the best scenic stuff, the best hikes at Mashomack Preserve, where the locals hang out, the best time to go to the grocery store,” Walsh said. “All that stuff you can package up, but can’t communicate to people. We have them stay here and see the beauty of Shelter Island the way we did growing up.”
Shelter Island House offers 10 rooms, as well as the Osprey Suite, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. Amenities include a swimming pool, indoor and outdoor lounges, a coffee-bakery gift shop, ping pong, complimentary bicycles and massage services. Two petanque courts adorn the hotel’s front lawn. Petanque is the French version of Bocce. Sunset Beach is just a five minute stroll from the hotel.
The hotel’s restaurant, The Tavern, offers a full bar, as well as indoor and outdoor dining. Ownership of the restaurant is shared between the two sisters, in partnership with Avi Bevilacqua and Keith Bavaro, of Salt Waterfront Bar and Grill. Bavaro also happens to be Walsh and Rogler’s stepbrother. Chef John Weston, former Executive Chef of Harvest in Montauk, was also brought on board and will offer s New American style menu.
So what is the Shelter Island House experience? Walsh mulls the question, as she surveys the beautiful plants, flowers and trees that decorate the property. “It really defines two sisters, who not only love each other, but work well together and want to preserve this property and Shelter Island,” she said.
Shelter Island House is located 11 Stearns Point Road, in Shelter Island Heights, NY. For more information please visit www.shelterislandhouse.com or call 631-749-1633.