ELIZABETHTOWN — You hear the phrase every time you watch performance-based reality TV — “that certain something” — usually referring to an unexplainable quality that leaves a lasting impression. If such a thing exists in hospitality, the Elizabethtown Inn has it.
The Inn recently reopened under new ownership and management, that of Nico and Christine Maraise. The couple are both South African natives but have lived all over the world, most recently in France.
When Nico was offered the job as president of the Elizabethtown Prismaflex, he moved to Wilmington, but Christine stayed behind with the couple’s children to finish out the school year. With children having graduated, Christine was preparing to make the move when the couple learned of the sale of the Elizabethtown Inn and decided to take the plunge.
To say the purchase was a coincidence might be an understatement.
“You could say Hunter Cole started the Elizabethtown Prismaflex, so it’s pretty ironic that we’re living in his house now,” Nico pointed out.
After purchasing the property, the couple moved in, taking two of the six bedrooms to use as their bedroom and living space. Furniture from all over the world fills the house, including an antique German piano belonging to Nico’s great-great-great grandfather that sits in the foyer.
Outside, a deck has been added to the rear of the home, and parking spots, stepping stones, and a sidewalk have been added to the front, along with landscaping all around. A bell that was located on the rear of the property was moved near the gazebo.
“We’re hoping to be able to host weddings, and we thought it would make a nice touch to be able to ring the bell when the couple is wed,” Christine explained.
Though the couple has not owned a hospitality business before, one would never know it to visit the Inn.
“I’ve been training for this my whole life,” Christine remarked with a smile. “I’ve always cooked, cleaned, and done laundry; now it’s officially my job.”
If it is indeed a job, she does it with such ease that it’s hardly noticeable. Sunday night, the home was a beehive of activity, as family members dropped by to pick up packages, a friend dropped in to visit, a tour was given of the newly manicured grounds, guests came and went, and one couple visiting from Florida gave an impromptu concert.
“I feel like I’m back in Europe,” Nico explained upon returning inside and hearing Florida resident and Inn guest Nancy Lehners sing “Edelweiss” accompanied by her husband Richard’s accordion. The tune was followed by the Italian-inspired song “That’s Amore,” as well as numerous other warm and relaxing numbers. Laughter, music, greetings, and warm conversation flowed, while Christine served from hostess trays lemonade and assorted cheesecakes and guests lounged in European chairs or on the settee in the spacious foyer.
At one point during the evening, Christine placed her left hand on her lower right arm and rubbed it.
“I’ve got chills,” she said, wiping her eyes. “This house has been blessed — blessed with music. Music is what does it, you know.”
Whether it’s music, the gift of hospitality, or “that certain something,” the former Hunter Cole home is continuing its long tradition of being a place people love to be — a home.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.