Innkeepers Gayle and Jack Birkmier want you to feel right at home when you walk into Willow Hill Bed and Breakfast — mostly because it is their home.
The Birkmiers bought their Southold home in 1972 and raised five children there. A homemaker at heart, when her youngest left the nest Birkmier was itching to fill it with people once again.
“We had this big house and I didn’t want to sell it,” she said. “So, I convinced [Jack] to make it into a bed and breakfast.”
The couple opened Willow Hill Bed and Breakfast in 1991. At the time it was one of only six on the North Fork, she said. Now going on 23 years in business, the couple said the local industry has changed a lot. But one principal has always prevailed at their inn — and that is that homeyness is key.
Visiting Willow Hill is more like staying at a family member’s home than the boutique hotel-style bed and breakfasts that have become more popular on the North Fork in recent years.
The walls are lined with photos of the couple’s children, grandchildren and the Birkmiers’ own wedding photos.
“We are homey,” she said. “I don’t pretend to be anything more than that. We invite people in to share our home.”
The three-bedroom bed and breakfast is a unique find on the North Fork. Unlike most area inns, Willow Hill allows guests to stay for one night only. Typically guests must book a room for at least two nights.
“Some people can’t stay more than one night,” Birkmier said.
Children of any age are also welcomed.
“I have 14 grandchildren, I can’t turn kids away,” she said.
It is also one of the lowest priced B&Bs in the region at just $150 a night.
“We wouldn’t pay more than that to stay somewhere and we won’t raise our rates,” she said.
The bedrooms are near a detached bathroom that guests can share and the inn features free Wi-Fi.
The Birkmiers offer up a country breakfast with your stay. Menu items include traditional fare like pancakes, eggs and fried potatoes.
“Jack loves to cook for people,” she said. “He stuffs them.”
On occasion Gayle, who hails from New Orleans, will cook up her famous pain perdu which is like a French toast and translates to “lost bread” in French.
In the past 23 years the Birkmiers have seen a lot of change in the area’s bed and breakfast industry.
“The wineries have grown so much,” she said. “It has helped business.”
The Main Road bed and breakfast is within walking distance of a half dozen vineyards and located less than a mile from downtown Southold, which has shops and restaurants.
There are also plenty of areas in the home where guests can cozy up by the fire for a night or read a book in a comfy chair.