Joe Sterner and David Brinton
Several years ago I had the pleasure of writing about Mary Ford and Judy Hedrick who, in 2003, bought the old Three Maples Bed & Breakfast at the corner of Warrington and Old Landing roads. They changed the name to The Homestead at Rehoboth, and became known for their pet-friendly accommodations. And indeed, when dogs, cats, birds (and even the occasional gerbil) feel the need to kick back and get away from it all, they head for The Homestead. Pets are strongly encouraged to bring their humans, and better yet, if those humans are housetrained, they are allowed to stay right in the same rooms with their beloved pets! Aside from the minor scuffle and an occasional growl (not necessarily from the pets…), things go smoothly.
It was with some sadness that I learned that Mary and
Judy were moving on, and that the Homestead’s winning concept might be relegated to history. But just when it seemed that all was lost, two boyish-looking guys from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania swooped down and snapped up the historic Civil War-era property. They kept the concept, and that decision proved to be a good one, as bookings have already far exceeded their projections.
Joe Sterner grew up in York, PA, graduating high school in ’93. The following May he met David Brinton, who was celebrating his 18th birthday—illegally—in a bar. (Goodness! I’ve never heard of anyone ever doing that….) The guys exchanged phone numbers. David’s friend urged him to throw the number away, but he did not comply. Ironically, four months later Joe and David ended up sharing an apartment with that very same friend. As Richard Fish used to say on Ally McBeal, “Bygones.”
This month they will celebrate David’s birthday and the 20th anniversary of his not trashing that phone number. After they settled down, Joe continued to wait tables while David earned his degrees in Hotel/Restaurant Management and Travel and Tourism. Unlike Mary and Judy, who spent long hours in the library figuring out how to run their new-found B&B, Joe and David hit the ground running with degrees and real-world experience.
David landed a job with Sheraton, but soon found a better opportunity in the IT department of a direct mail and business consulting company. It was a good fit, and he kept their computers and software up and running for ten years. Joe took a job with the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, providing support with the application for and the funding of student loans.
But neither of the guys strayed too far from the hospitality industry. On their off-hours, Joe and David worked part-time for Sylvia Arkin Caterers in the Harrisburg area. The business primarily serviced Jewish events, and the guys learned everything there was to know about the various rules and traditions that surround Kosher meals, not to mention proper table setup, serving skills, and etiquette in general. “We remember Sylvia to this very day whenever we have to set up a meal or an event for our guests,” smiles David.
When she retired, they continued to cater events and brunches. “Doing it on our own sparked an entrepreneurial spirit for both of us,” explains Joe. “We realized we needed to work for ourselves.” To that end, Joe taught himself web design and began to create websites for Internet marketing companies. He ran that business successfully for 10 years, eventually selling it in anticipation of their move to Rehoboth Beach.
The guys had a vacation home (David corrects me, “doublewide”) in Long Neck for a while, but their plans were put on hold while they dealt with a health issue that came up for Joe. Both guys were faced with the spectre of mortality as Joe underwent major heart-valve surgery. They had always dreamed of owning their own B&B “in their golden years,” but the experience drove home the fact that, in Joe’s words, “Tomorrow is promised to nobody.” Though he recovered fully, extensive travel was not in the cards, so in October 2012, barely six months after the operation, they seized the day and responded to an ad: “B&B for sale.”
Hale, hearty and looking at least ten years younger than their actual ages, Joe Sterner and David Brinton settled on the purchase of The Homestead at Rehoboth in September, 2013. Pets are still urged to bring their owners, and the guys have firm plans to expand an adjacent building into an attractive wedding venue (Joe is licensed to officiate!). Three new rooms are to be added to the top floor, and the front porch will be enclosed to make it off-season friendly. Around the time of the Civil War, the original building was the main house for a 200-acre working farm, and many of the outbuildings still exist on properties up and down Warrington and Old Landing roads.
So after 20 years together, Joe and David have survived some daunting physical challenges. But all’s well that ends well, and we’re fortunate that it brought them here to The Homestead at Rehoboth; the perfect spot where pets can bring their parents on vacation.