Renovations on the Harvest Inn in Peconic are officially complete, roughly one year after new owners Stacey and Steve Isaacs purchased the North Fork property and business. Since moving from Manhattan during the pandemic, they’ve reopened the boutique hotel to great success, and after three decades of marriage, they’re learning just how well they work together.
Before the pandemic, the Isaacs were content Manhattanites, but as the virus raged on, they decided it was time to, at least, keep an eye open for new possibilities.
“I had not been wanting to leave Manhattan; COVID kind of changed things,” Stacey explains. “Steve is a labor lawyer and has a lot to do with law enforcement and other things, and he was out there as an essential worker every single day. So the two of us thought it was time to get out of there (but) didn’t know where we were going to go.”
When their daughter Shelby and her now-fiancé visited after a recent North Fork trip, with stunning photos in-hand, no one yet new what exciting possibilities lay ahead.
“They showed us pictures of the North Fork, which I hadn’t been to in about 30 years, and I did what I always do when someone shows me beautiful pictures,” Stacey says. “Jump online to look at what the real estate is, what’s selling, what it’s like out there. As soon as I did that, I saw that the Harvest Inn was for sale.”
Stacey and Steve then discussed if this was an opportunity they’d be prepared to seize, and they decided to scope the place out. They stayed at the inn for one night, introduced themselves to the owners, then made an offer the next week.
“Stacey has always wanted to run a bed and breakfast. She’s a trained chef, she’s an acupuncturist, she’s into Chinese medicine; I’m a lawyer and have been doing this for 30 years,” Steve says. “So we said, maybe it’s her time to take the lead on what we may want to do. And with Zoom and many things being online, I was able to transition my law practice from the city to out on the North Fork.”
He continues, “It was an opportunity to do something that we’ve thought about. … Circumstances led to us finding a place that we knew we could make our own and put our little stamp on it.”
However, before they could leave their mark on the North Fork, the quaint, bucolic area would leave its mark on them, easing them into a slower pace and a clearer mindset.
“Usually, I’m the one who adjusts faster to things, but in this instance, Steve adjusted way faster than I did. I love it here, but I also love the city,” Stacey says. “We are very different people, and this is one of the few spots where we could both be happy, other than the city.”
Other than his law business, Steve’s passions aligned nicely with the North Fork lifestyle: the two dogs he trains, his position as board member and horse trainer for Pal-O-Mine, his volunteer work with the Wounded Warrior Project, and even his recent recruitment to the local fire department.
“It’s a different way of living than we’ve ever lived before — among the wineries, and the farms, and the cows and all that,” Steve says, adding that he and Stacey are quickly becoming experts on the area, building relationships with local breweries, restaurants, golf courses, art galleries and such. “There’s so much to do, that it’s not really a one-stop vacation.”
As part of his new innkeeper position, this newfound expertise and networking is vital. He can make itinerary recommendations, help place reservations and get guests excited about the beautiful area they’re visiting.
“As a lawyer, even though you help people, nobody really wants to speak to a lawyer — they’ve got problems, they’re not happy — but as an innkeeper, everybody finds me much more charming,” Steve says. “Greeting people here, they look forward to seeing you.”
Stacey is the master chef of the operation. Among her offerings are three-course breakfasts paired with healthy juice shots that are infused with Chinese medicinal ingredients. “We have a decadent breakfast that’s healing,” she says.
“She’s had some people that she introduced to herbal remedies and other ways to eat healthy, and watching her talk to them and get them interested — because not everybody always accepts that — really has been an interesting thing to watch,” Steve adds. “Our strengths are in different areas, but they seem to have all come together.”
With how seamlessly Stacey and Steve’s unique skills complement each other’s abilities, some may find it surprising that this is their first business venture together since working as criminal defense attorneys for the Legal Aid Society when they met decades ago.
“This is our first venture together,” Stacey confirms.
“We’re married 30 years,” Steve says, jumping in to clarify.
“Alright, so that’s the first venture,” Stacey agrees, adding that their two adult children, Ryan and Shelby, would be their second successful venture.
When it came to renovations, Stacey and Steve started off with a simple plan: give the Harvest Inn a literal new coat of paint. They then quickly realized that each room was in need of a new TV, a Samsung smart TV with Netflix, and that meant each room (and the grounds outside) would need access to high-speed WiFi. Having bought an inn during a pandemic, they decided to replace all the linens, from sheets to towels, then the mattresses had to go, too (replaced with the same mattress brand used by the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group).
“I think we ended up keeping maybe three pieces of furniture in the whole house, because it was just the domino effect,” Stacey says. “Everything is white, light and modern. That’s how we like it, and it turns out that’s how everybody else likes it, so it turned out well.”
Other upgrades to the Harvest Inn include a lighted koi pond, bike rentals and an amenities closet packed with water, beach passes, umbrellas, beach towels and chairs, all free of charge. The Isaacs have also begun featuring local artists and have displayed paintings from William Ris Gallery and photography by bayman Chris Hamilton throughout the boutique hotel.
“We work hard, and one of the things we do enjoy is traveling. And when we’re traveling, we look for things that we can’t always find everywhere else,” Steve explains of their renovation philosophy. “When we came here, one of the things we thought was: ‘If I was going to come here, what would I like it to be?’ While the structure is beautiful, and the guy who built it 20 years ago did a phenomenal job, there were just things we wanted to modernize and upscale.”
Now that they have one successful year of running the Harvest Inn under their belts, Stacey and Steve would like to begin offering even more personal services soon. The two ideas they’re hoping to get started in the coming months include wine tastings with light bites, and North Fork farm tours that lead to health-minded cooking classes.
“Serving wine and cheese is not saving the world, and having somebody sleep here and have an enjoyable breakfast — obviously there are more serious things in the world,” Steve says. “However, making somebody’s life and weekend a little bit better — because everybody works hard and everybody has these stresses — (and contributing) a little bit of joy and de-stressing to people … I think it’s a nice feeling.”
He adds that reading reviews, hearing positive feedback and getting return guests have been incredibly uplifting, and the feeling is especially fulfilling achieving success alongside Stacey.
“The rewarding part is the seamless transition of working together and having the faith in each other that, yeah, this is something we can do,” Steve says. “And it’s something that we have, in our opinion, thrived at very quickly.”
Stacey adds that, for her, the special occasions are especially rewarding — playing a key role in people’s engagements, weddings, anniversaries, reunions and other memorable moments.
“We’ve had lots of friend trips out here, like people who are looking for places to reunite with their college buddies, and they all happen to meet here, because we’re so easy to get to on the ferry from Connecticut and Boston. So for people who went to school all over the place, it turns out that this end of the world here on Long Island is a great meeting place for all those people,” she says. “There are so many happy occasions, and the fact that we get to be a part of them, and they actually feel like family by the time they leave, is a great thing.”
The Harvest Inn is located at 40300 Main Road, Peconic. For more info, visit theharvestinnnofo.com.