Historic Portsmouth inn fulfills restaurateur's dream

Sunday News Correspondent
March 11. 2018 1:02PM
Amanda McSharry and her husband, restaurant owner Jay, are the owners of The Sailmaker's House. She said the quiet location in the heart of downtown is what attracted her to the property, which was most recently known as the Inn at Strawbery Banke. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)

PORTSMOUTH -- In the three months since Jay and Amanda McSharry opened The Sailmaker's House, they have already welcomed guests from around the globe.

Restaurateur Jay McSharry, who owns Jumpin' Jay's Fish Café, The Franklin, Moxy, Dos Amigos, Vida Cantina, The Red Door and other businesses on the Seacoast, said he has always wanted to own a hotel.

"It's an exciting time to be part of Portsmouth," McSharry, a University of New Hampshire graduate, said. "It has grown up and matured so much but keeps its rich history. I am happy to have brought the inn back to life working with Amanda."

For 27 years, the historic building on Court Street was The Inn at Strawbery Banke.

The McSharrys, who have two children under 20 months old, said the time was right for them to enter the lodging market. They worked with the Small Business Administration and Optima Bank to finance the deal.

Amanda and Jay McSharry opened The Sailmaker's House in downtown Portsmouth in December. The inn is a short walk from Strawbery Banke and the waterfront. (COURTESY)

"We love what other hotels and inns are doing in Portsmouth, and we are focused on what we do and to do it the best that we can. Our goal is to attract people to Portsmouth. We see our biggest competition as other nearby markets on the Seacoast of New England - Portland, Boston and Newport," Jay McSharry said.

So far, The Sailmaker's House has attracted mostly leisure travelers, but they have seen some business travelers. That includes a local company that bought out the inn for a four-day annual meeting and retreat.

The Sailmaker's House is designed for the self-sufficient traveler but can accommodate just about anyone's needs. That means people who enjoy the freedom of Air BNB rentals can check in at any time and enter their room with a secure key code.

Those who want more of a concierge service can make special requests for dinner reservations or take advantage of one of several packages offered to guests. One winter package includes ice skating at Labrie Family Skate at Strawbery Banke, followed by hot cocoa at Fezziwig's Food and Fountain or a cocktail at The Nice.

Amanda McSharry says they can book wedding parties, host family reunions and provide a peaceful retreat for those attending corporate meetings. They are also partnering with a wine delivery service, and with advance notice, a card can be waiting for guests celebrating their anniversary or birthday.
At left, The Sailmaker's House in Portsmouth has 10 rooms for guests. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/SUNDAY NEWS CORRESPONDENT)

The Sailmaker's House, decorated with a nautical theme, has 10 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. Artwork in the common area was created by painter Lisa Noonis of Kittery, Maine.

Amanda McSharry said she plans to transform the outside garden area this spring.

The new name for the inn stems from a previous owner, Amanda McSharry said.

In 1822, John Holbrook purchased the house and lived there with his family.

Holbrook was a sailmaker who owned a shop that stood across the street from the Moffatt-Ladd House on Market Street. There is a large picture of the shop in the common area of the inn. 

According to city records, the 4,500-square-foot inn was built in 1800 and sits on a 0.19-acre lot. The McSharrys bought the property in June for more than $1.13 million, according to city records. They opened the inn in December.

Valerie Rochon, president of the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth, said there are only three other small inns or bed and breakfasts in the city, while there are 16 hotels.

"So that is pretty exciting," Rochon said about the opening of The Sailmaker's House. 

While there have been visitors from around the world, most of the inn's guests come from New England, the McSharrys said, mostly from Massachusetts. 

During a recent Destination Portsmouth Annual Tourism Summit, Rochon said about 25 percent of tourists who visit the city are from other countries.The New Hampshire Travel Council estimates more than 39 million travelers visit the Granite State each year.


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