No rush to sail from Home Port

09/02/2010 12:00 AM |

Cheryl and Peter Castiglione in front of Home Port B&B in Peconic, which they’ve owned for six years. While the couple plans to sell the business eventually, they say rumors that the B&B is closing after 30 years of operation are not accurate.

“I really think this place needs to be shared,” said Home Port B&B owner Cheryl Castiglione.

That’s why she and her husband, Peter, want to know that when they eventually sell the Victorian home on Peconic Lane the next owners will continue its 30-year history as a B&B and not convert it into a private residence.

Contrary to rumors, the B&B is not closing, nor are the Castigliones in any rush to end their proprietorship. They have been there six years and Mr. Castiglione admits that when the time to move does come, “I’ll cry my eyes out.”

They were on a visit to the North Fork about six years ago, exploring the possibility of opening a B&B and hadn’t seen anything that struck them right until they stopped at Home Port, then owned by David and Ellen Carbonell. Dr. Carbonell, a therapist, commuted regularly to Chicago, while his wife operated the B&B.

“As soon as we pulled in here, we fell in love with it,” Mr. Castiglione said. The Carbonells opted to sell and return to their home state of Illinois.

Mr. Castiglione does his own commute to Glen Cove, where he operates the couple’s McDonald’s franchise, and his wife takes charge of the B&B. They met when they were both crew members at a McDonald’s. They lived in Nassau County before moving out east.

“I like to stay home and I like to cook and I like to be everybody’s mother,” Ms. Castiglione said, describing the perfect B&B hostess.

“We make a good team,” her husband said.

“It’s almost bittersweet,” he said about the eventual plan to sell. But what’s motivating the Castigliones is that their son lives in Colorado and their daughter is relocating to California, so they want the freedom to travel more. But when they do sell, they don’t plan to go far, because both have developed a love affair with the North Fork.

“I am not running out of here,” Ms. Castiglione said. “I’m hoping someone’s going to just come out and feel the way we feel.” Good at reading people, she said, she’ll know when it’s the right buyer and the appropriate time.

The Home Port has a long and interesting history. Once the private residence of portraitist Edward August Bell, it later became the home of the Rich family; Southold resident Jim Rich recalls visiting his grandparents there. Thirty years ago, famed decoy duck carver Jack Combs and his family turned it into a B&B.

“I love this house; I love its tradition,” Ms. Castiglione said.

Original pieces from the house, then known as The Hermitage, have made their way to the Southold Historical Society collection, Ms. Castiglione said. Among them are a large black stove and a corn crib that once sat on the Home Port grounds. The house boasts five fireplaces, one wood-burning, two propane-fueled and two that are currently closed but could be reopened, Mr. Castiglione said.

Out back there’s a patio surrounded by lush gardens, a shed where Mr. Combs once carved his decoys and a small outhouse. Indoors, the various owners through the years have kept original moldings and there’s even an original oil lamp in the dining room, although Ms. Castiglione said they don’t light it because it would blacken the ceiling.

Sitting outside on a large wraparound porch under a magnificent 1872 weeping beech tree, the Castigliones discussed their home and the special bond they’ve developed with their guests, many of them repeat visitors.

New visitors are sometimes initially shy about staying in a private house, Ms. Castiglione said. But she reminds them that just as they may feel an initial strangeness, she, too, is opening the house to people she hasn’t met before. Typically, by the end of a stay, guests often follow her into the kitchen as she’s preparing breakfast. Some even offer to help with dishes. You develop a quick sense of which guests want to talk and which prefer to be left alone, Ms. Castiglione said.

“Everyone is so nice,” she said.

Just as the Castigliones have remained faithful stewards of the Victorian manse, they hope the next owners will bring the same love and respect to the house and take the same pleasure in sharing it with guests.

“It’s going to take a few years to find the right buyer,” Ms. Castiglione said. Meanwhile she’s making plans for her continued operation of the B&B, showing no signs that her days as hostess are coming to an end anytime soon.

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