Checking Inn at the End of the World
Tucked away in the gallery district on the eastern side of Provincetown, nestled between hedges and a white picket fence, sits the buttercream-colored Inn at Cook Street.
Originally built and inhabited by the prominent nineteenth century mariner family of Sylvanus and Louisa Cook, the Greek Revival style home is intrinsically tied to the history of Provincetown’s development. History and renewal converge here, as new innkeepers Spencer McCormack and Dustin Ross know firsthand.
Spencer and Dustin acquired the Inn at Cook Street at the beginning of the summer season from the previous owners, who went out of their way to ensure a smooth transition. “Patrick and John Jay really set us up for success by sharing their own best practices and established expectations amongst all those familiar with the Inn,” Spencer reveals. “At the same time,” Dustin continues, “we want to build upon all that they worked so hard to create–preserving those elements and features that give the Inn at Cook Street its distinct, recognizable qualities; but also we want to allow the property to reflect our own personalities.” Spencer agrees, “So much of an inn experience is about the relationships formed between the guests and innkeepers–we are welcoming you into our home, and our hope is that while you are here, you come to think of this as your own home away from home.”
With eight guests rooms, the Inn boasts two cottages, two private suites with bedroom and living room combinations, and four private Queen or King guest rooms, all with private baths and some with fireplaces and sundecks. A distinct highlight are the private entrances from the gardens–leading to two of the suites, the two cottages, and one of the bedrooms. “These are great options for those who prefer greater privacy or seclusion, or opting to maintain greater social distance,” Spencer says. “The rooms are still very much part of the Inn, but you can escape to your own private retreat when preferred.”
The serene gardens are a key feature that gives the Inn a unique charm and create a classic Cape Cod backyard feel. “So many of our guests comment on the tranquility of the backyard and gardens,” Dustin relates. “After being out and about amongst Ptown’s entertainment, outdoor activities, or art scene, you walk back here and immediately relax into the tranquil atmosphere.” According to Spencer, the lush landscaping and koi pond provide a calm that can be hard to find in other locations. “It’s hard to believe you’re only a 10 minute stroll from all the excitement Ptown offers,” he says.
As for the area, Spencer explains that, “From right outside our door, we have an unobstructed view of the open waters, and we are one block away from the Bay beach with public access. It’s one of the few streets in Provincetown where you look from the Bradford end all the way down past Commercial and you see the beautiful bay views. It’s pretty magnicifcent.”
As the summer comes to a close, the Inn will remain open to allow guests to take advantage of all Ptown has to offer in the Autumn season. “Halloween is huge here in town,” Dustin explains. “So I expect we will have a house full of visitors during that time–hopefully in fabulous costumes. But we also just extended the season until the New Year. Ptown is no longer just a summertime destination as more and more unique events keep people returning throughout the year.” Even though it will be too cold to swim, a handful of the restaurants that remain open year-round are within a close walking distance to the Inn: Fanizzis, The Mews, Ciro & Sal’s, and Spindler’s.
In addition to a longer season, the Inn at Cook Street offers its guests a full breakfast each morning, prepared by Dustin. “Mornings are the most fun for me, as I love creative and varied offerings that can feature local and seasonal ingredients. In general, I think breakfast is underrated as a meal. The fact is whether it’s circumstance or the time of day, breakfast brings people together in a way that other meals do not,” he says. Spencer, who jumps in to help in the kitchen each morning, is quite proud of this aspect of their service. “I will tell you with all sincerity, the quality of the food and creative preparations exceed what you find in many restuarants. Early on, we decided that instead of offering an afternoon happy hour or cheese plate that people may or may not partake in, we would apply those resources to elevating the morning meals. To see the guests’ reaction has been a really wonderful surprise.” Dustin has been brainstorming a handcrafted menu in his head for years, and is excited to see it finally come to life. “One thing we’ve played with is what we are calling the Cook Street Cape Buns,” Dustin details. “They’re kind of inspired by the Kouign-Amann pastry, where we bake puff pastry with a mix of butter, sugar, and this aromatic spice called Mahleb, which expresses similar qualities to cinnamon or cardamom. We bring it out probably once a week to share with people and it always goes over well.”
“We have created many breakfasts around conversations we’ve had with guests planning their visit; we’ve tailored breakfast menus for the whole Inn inspired by phone conversations I’ve had with a guest,” mentions Spencer.
Providing guests with their best also extends far past the culinary suite; they have options for making sure that your time at the Inn is as untroubled as possible. When booking through the Inn’s website, take advantage of a recently added feature called “Worry–Free Booking”, where for a small increase in the rate of a room, you can get a 100% refund if your plans don’t work out. “Consider that option if you prefer the comfort of knowing your room is completely refundable if something happens that prohibits you from traveling,” Spencer explains. In today’s day and age, that’s a relief for many.
Of the many hats these two wear, Dustin sports the Media cap. “I tend to take on some of the promotional and marketing pieces. We’ve started building our Facebook presence with a new profile since we took ownership. We started an Instagram account, as well as an email newsletter, ‘The Cook Street Commentary’, that goes out to our mailing list several times a year.”
For Spencer, it’s the Man-About-Town cap. “I have guests for which I step in to help secure dinner reservations. Someone might call and say ‘It’s my husband’s birthday. Could you coordinate flowers for the room?’ So we’ll call a local vendor and have them deliver a floral arrangement. Somebody even emailed yesterday about wanting a birthday cake for when they come in.” Such genuine acts of service and friendly rapport set the Inn apart. Spencer–often the concierge–is more than happy to tailor requests and individual preferences. “If you aren’t able to find what you want through our website reservation system, call the Inn. I’m always excited to tell people the favorite features and amenities of the different rooms.” Oftentimes, Spencer clarifies, “if the website shows that a room is occupied for certain days, you can call the Inn directly and I can look into the system from my end, which sometimes reveals options not availble online.”
As innkeepers, Spencer and Dustin are well aware of the responsibilities that come along with such a role. “When we first started referring to ourselves as innkeepers it did elicit a sort of, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s who we are. That’s our title.’” Spencer says. “There is a sense of pride associated with the profession, conveying a much more personal experience.”
“I feel so fortunate because although this is our first season, we have so many guests that came in as strangers and have left as friends,” reflects Dustin. “I know it may sound like a cliché, but it’s so true.”
Rachel Walman is the assistant editor at Cape Cod Life Publications.