These inns on Martha’s Vineyard are a must-see
The Hajjar family puts down roots in Edgartown, all while honoring their children
Raising a family can be a bit like tending a garden. It starts with the careful planting of seeds in a prepared environment. And as the roots begin to take hold and the tender shoots venture into the sunlight, a dedicated gardener takes care to protect them, nurture them as they develop, and finally support them as they begin to test their own strength. As they put forth their individual blooms and fruits, only then can the gardener stand back just a bit to admire the independent and singular contribution they are poised to add to the landscape.
For Chuck and Anne Hajjar, the husband-wife team of hoteliers of distinction in Edgartown, their properties are simply an extension of their family—literally. The proud parents of four unique and dynamic children, the Hajjars decided when they opened their first boutique property on the Vineyard in 2015, The Sydney, it would proudly be named in honor of their only daughter. Subsequent properties in the charming village were renovated, constructed and ultimately unveiled with the introduction of The Christopher, an addition to The Sydney and finally The Richard, all honoring the youngest of the Hajjar children. “I would have never imagined my life would include a career in the hotel business,” confesses Anne, who, as a trained mental health therapist, worked with battered women earlier in her life. “But I truly love this work. I am able to indulge my creativity as well as craft a successful business model. And the best part is that my children are witness to the entire process, and I think it has shown them how empowering the combination of hard work and passion can be.”
Hajjar’s creativity and passion are immediately evident upon entering any of the unique properties. While she worked with a handful of interior designers on the various inns, it was Hajjar’s deft touch and interpretation of her children’s personalities through the décor that sets these three destinations apart from all the rest.
“When we acquired The Christopher, we had just returned from a family vacation in St. Barths and I was still feeling the effects of our special vacation. I wanted to create something completely fresh and different from anything else found on the Vineyard,” Hajjar recalls. Once guests push open the massive front door of The Christopher they are immediately transported, just as Hajjar had envisioned. Deep hues of turquoise and indigo, paired with phyletic, tribal-inspired wallpaper, greet visitors with an 18th-century colonialism associated with the islands of the West Indies. “I had the kind of global traveler who was used to a cosmopolitan sophistication in mind when we came up with the design,” Hajjar explains.
Working with Boston designer Annsley McAleer, principal of Annsley Interiors, Hajjar was able to immediately distinguish the property from the usual and expected New England beach vernacular found throughout the island. Hand-blocked prints, Ikat patterns, and saturated color pairings ground the space of the antique 15-room inn and provide the true getaway Hajjar had envisioned.
When transforming the original eight rooms of The Sydney on North Water Street (formerly the Fallon Inn and now known as the Captain Charles Williams Fisher House at The Sydney), Hajjar teamed up with Hingham designer Robin Pelissier to apply the delicate and feminine persona of her youngest child and only daughter. The sophistication that defines everything Hajjar touches is still evident, but unlike The Christopher, The Sydney (whose name translates to Jewel of the Island) just seems lighter on its feet, in the same way a gathering of adults is suddenly lightened when a young ballerina, oblivious of serious discussion, dissects a cocktail party before toddling off to bed. A newly constructed building, designed by Patrick Ahearn, FAIA, was built behind the Captain Fisher House in 2018 and completes The Sydney’s offer of 14 additional guests rooms with private baths, all graced with the dulcet and convivial touches evocative of its namesake; this time with the design credited to Boston-based designer Rachel Reider.
Next on Upper Main Street, The Richard was born. True to established precedent, this 16-room property is a personification of the unique characteristics of its eponym, a name long associated with royalty. “My son Richard is a very unique individual. And he certainly knows what he likes,” explains Hajjar. “He enjoys the finer things, and always has a bit of bling, so The Richard is a strong, regal property. And Rachel and I added the bling!” Grays, blacks and other neutrals provide a traditional background while silver and brass metallic accents spark the energy to keep the overall design from being overly strong or imposing.
Marla and Juliana Accursio-Gibbs are the capable couple that oversees the operations for the Hajjars. Since they have been the resident innkeepers at The Christopher from the beginning, (they have been involved with each of the renovations and new construction of the other two properties) they reiterate the successful embodiment of the children’s personalities as applied to the separate inns. “The Richard definitely has a different vibe than the other properties, and it stands out just like Anne and Chuck’s son,” says Marla with a twinkle. Marla and Julie not only oversee much of the operations of the properties, but they also fulfill a sort of fairy godmothers’ function, not only for the family—who they consider to be like their own—but also for the lucky guests that spend their precious vacation time with them. As soon as you enter The Christopher, a wave of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (to rival any that might otherwise be famous, including Amos and Mrs. Fields) fills your senses. The cookies seem to always be present (more of that fairy godmother magic) and will often be tucked into a guest’s satchel as they leave for a bike ride.
“The girls are a godsend!” effuses Anne. “I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. I head over to the inn on a daily basis with a list of things to accomplish, and before you know it, the time has flown by as we find ourselves laughing and dishing about everything and anything.” Hajjar also speaks with great regard about the symbiotic synergy inherent to her relationship with Lark Hotels. Lark is a hospitality management group that emphasizes a world-class philosophy of customer care and service for every guest that experiences one of their properties. Their claim of offering boutique hotels for today’s traveler barely seems to scratch the surface. As Hajjar explains, “They just have very high standards, and as a property owner, it is great to find a corporation that prioritizes the quality of a guest’s experience as much as we do.” The Accursio-Gibbs exemplify the caliber of staff Lark sources to oversee their properties. In fact, the Hajjars’ experience has been so profound that they have recently acquired two new properties in Newport, RI from Lark themselves. A third property was also recently independently acquired. Anne will oversee the renovation of the properties, and Lark will provide their expertise in the operational support.
Hajjar is proud to offer distinctive hospitality to the Vineyard. She feels the newly renovated and constructed properties provide value to the local community. “I know that many people might balk at the thought of more visitors to the island,” she says, “but I think these beautiful hotels attract visitors who will stay and get to know the community at a much deeper level than a day tripper. I know that it can be controversial for some, but I truly believe in what we are doing.”
Indeed, Hajjar has transformed the landscape in the quaint village of Edgartown with the immaculate inns and will continue to, as her latest acquisition includes the storied Edgartown Inn. A favorite of many locals for decades, Hajjar’s vision for this property is less transformative, and with the help again from Rachel Reider, she intends to honor the history in subtle ways. The community will have to wait until the second half of 2019 to see what she has up her sleeve.
This gracious hostess has much to be thankful for, but she says there are two things that she hears from her guests that make her infinitely happy. “I love it when people tell me they feel like they are staying in their own home. And when they say they can’t wait until they return the following season.”
And, as far as the fourth child of the Hajjars, by no means was he forgotten. Chuck and Anne’s initial foray into the hotel business began years ago in Boston with the Charlesmark Hotel, named of course, after their first born.