ROCK HALL — When the facade of the old Tallulah’s building, now Cinnamon by the Bay, was painted, Deborah Reese finally felt like the place was her own and that she was an official member of the community.
“I really felt like it became mine,” she said in a telephone interview Monday. “Once I got the outside painted, I felt like now I’m part of the street as Deborah.”
That pride of ownership and a community-minded nature is what drives the newest lodging offered in the Bayside town. Borrowed from a friend’s idea for an antique shop called Cinnamon Bay Antiques, Cinnamon by the Bay celebrated its official opening Nov. 2 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Reese, a Severn native who said she had been thinking about moving to the Eastern Shore for about 17 years, first purchased the business about a year ago. She officially moved to Rock Hall in February when she began “putting her vision” into the space.
“I knew somehow I wanted to be on the Eastern Shore, but not Ocean City,” Reese said. “So I just started going on road trips.”
Reese first found Rock Hall by reading about the town in a magazine. She said when she drove into town, she knew immediately it would be a fit for her.
Cinnamon by the Bay is not a bed and breakfast or a hotel, “mostly because I don’t cook,” Reese said.
“I’m not a bed and breakfast, that’s for sure,” Reese said.
By Reese’s own description, the business most resembles an Airbnb. Instead of homeowners renting out their spaces while they are out of town (as was the original purpose of Airbnb), Cinnamon by the Bay provides six suites — Reese lives in one of them and her son in another — with sleeping areas and individual kitchens for guests to utilize during their stay in Rock Hall.
“I like living on Main Street with the activity that comes and goes,” she said. “It works really well for me.”
Each space has a name — Traveler, the Inspiration suite and Pleasant Living, for example — and there is a beach-side cottage separate from the building on Main Street for those who want to stay adjacent to Ferry Beach.
While some renovation work is still ongoing, Reese said she had her first guest stay in the cottage in June. The Main Street location is now officially open.
Prior to owning Cinnamon by the Bay, Reese worked as a system engineer and a technical consultant for a software firm. As she approached retirement, Reese said she began picturing a “two-fold vision” for her life.
“One was I wanted to kind of be in a place that was small where I could walk or bike to any place I needed to go like the grocery store or drug store, or coffee store,” Reese said.
The second idea was creating a space for domestic violence victims who are seeking shelter.
“I’ve always kind of had a heart for domestic violence victims, so I wanted an opportunity to be able to help them, but I felt like I wanted some income as well,” Reese said.
In her former home in Severn, Reese said she had a fully furnished apartment constructed to serve as a safe space for women to go if needed. The idea for Cinnamon is that, eventually, guests who pay to stay there will provide Reese with the funds to reserve some of her suites as safe spaces for women to stay.
“I could offer them a reduced rate, or free no charge, for them to get out and get safe,” Reese said. “The Airbnb side would kind of pay for it.”
Reese said she has not partnered with any agencies in Kent County to offer this service yet, mostly because the business is still getting established.
Pandemic aside, Reese said cleanliness is an important factor to her in operating Cinnamon by the Bay. However, with COVID-19 in mind, she is following a five-part enhanced cleaning process provided by Airbnb and based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Essentially, Reese said, after guests check out, while wearing full personal protective equipment she will go in, remove all trash or linens and then fully clean using disinfectants. Further, Reese said she has two entrances helping her enforce social distancing.
COVID-19 also has impacted Reese’s plans for the front of the building on Main Street. Originally, she was set to install an arcade for children, which will be run by her son Greg.
“When we got to Rock Hall, we asked around town, ‘What do people need?’ ‘What do they want?’” Reese said. “Everybody, almost unanimously said something for the kids.”
Reese said construction has not started on the arcade — mostly due to the front of the store being a small space where it would be difficult for children to practice social distancing. She said she still plans to build the arcade, eventually, but those plans are on hold right now.
“We are still going to do it, I just don’t know when. Which is a shame because that was important to us to have something for the community,” Reese said.