Clients will have to find their way to Paul and Jean Offer’s private dining room in Tyne Valley without the benefit of the couple’s ‘The Doctors Inn’ sign out front.
Like many of their trees, their sign succumbed to Hurricane Dorian.
With plans already in place before the hurricane to cease dining room service in December, they’ve decided they can finish out their 38-year run without the sign.
The dining room service started by chance, about 35 years ago, Paul said. They had been operating a bed and breakfast at the time, providing only breakfast service.
Then a couple on their honeymoon arrived by bicycle one afternoon and were looking for a sit-down meal. Rather than sending them off to Summerside, the Offers invited them to join them for spaghetti and meat sauce.
The Offers purchased what was known as Dr. Stewart's place in 1979 and opened The Doctors Inn Bed and Breakfast two years later.
“I’ve been doing it for 38 years; it’s enough,” Jean said, of their decision to close.
“I enjoy it, but I get tired.”
Both Offers said it is the people, including many diners who returned year-after-year, that they will miss.
As a private dining room, they accepted only one group a day, usually no more than six people in a sitting, although some regulars bumped that number up a bit.
Their dining room has been the scene of a proposal, anniversary meals, boisterous family gatherings and small group functions.
The service used to be open six days a week, but they’ve cut that in half in recent years.
A mainstay of their service has been their market garden. While they had to source the meat and fish and chicken, almost everything else that went onto the plates came from their garden, meaning the menu changed with the seasons.
While Jean fussed over the wood stove, Paul stuck primarily to the cooler room in the house, serving as the guests’ waiter in his trademark kilt.
“It’s a theatrical part for me: I can’t act, but I can interact like crazy, and that’s the part that I have always enjoyed,” Paul said.
“It’s private and people can enjoy themselves more. They don’t have to worry about people staring at them and stuff like that,” Jean added.
The couple closed their Bed and Breakfast in 2011 after being told they could no longer serve eggs that came from their chicken coop. The egg decision was subsequently overturned, but by then the days of the inn were done. Their private dining room service would’ve closed sooner, too, if a directive that the kitchen and dining room for their guests had to be separate from their own had not been overturned.
Paul Offer laid out one of the key reasons for offering private dining in the first place: “We would like to be able to treat people the way we would like to be treated in a restaurant.”
Asked for his definition of a proper dining experience, he said, “Where you could enjoy everything at your pace, and have everything cooked properly, and not deep-fried.”
“We’ve got groups that have been coming every year for a long time,” said Paul, noting many of them have expressed regret that the dining room is closing.
They can take some consolation, though, that the Offers will continue to operate their market garden.