The Brandon Inn reflects on the past year, looks to the future 


BRANDON — A little more than a year ago, March 8 to be exact, Darcy and Joel MacClaren assumed ownership of The Brandon Inn and the storied history of hospitality at that sight dating back to the 1700s. 

“The current building was built in 1892 after the original was lost to a fire that devastated most of downtown in 1880,” said Joel. “Nonetheless, the current building remains one of the quintessential New England country inns. That’s what the majority of our customers keep coming back for.”

“We’ve been very careful not to run from the classic New England country inn concept,” he added, when discussing the renovations they’ve overseen thus far. “Really, it was the bathrooms first. We knew we couldn’t be competitive in the market or give the standard of service that we wanted to without updating the facilities to make them ADA compliant.” 

“The past year has been an amazing journey for Joel and me,” said Darcy. “Joel has focused on improvements in our guest rooms and infrastructure, while I have enjoyed our beautiful gardens, porch, and pool area where I get to put my own spin on each season and holiday.” 

Darcy and Joel MacClaren

Last Summer brought a facelift to the aforementioned pool, which will be open to the community for swimming lessons this year during the third week in June. “Brandon doesn’t have a pool,” said Joel, “it’s unfortunate, but we can’t allow larger access to the townsfolk because we don’t have the ability to offer the locker rooms or bathroom access that would be required. I’d like to have a gym too.”

Of course, there is also the Neshobe Café, which opened in October—and was designed by Brandon’s own Nancy Leary Design—in a portion of the Inn that had most recently been a somewhat forgotten sunroom and was, in days gone by, a library for the Inn and the sight of a former dress shop. 

“The place looks great now. I’m quite pleased with how well it matches the building,” said Joel. “The ladies of Park Street come in on Wednesdays to socialize. We’re building momentum, but it’s still a bit of a work in progress in terms of finding an overall personality.”

MacClaren says the Inn is fully booked on weekends from now until the end of October, citing customers as wide-ranging as cyclist tours, wedding guests, families who use the inn as a home base for their skiing excursions or who are coming to take their kids to one of the local summer camps, plus a variety of events, clubs, and conventions—most recently a boisterous group from Quilting in New England, who had been among the MacClaren’s first guests after taking the reins. “

The inn hosted the OVUHS junior prom in its ballroom recently. “We were expecting 70 students, but it ended up being close to double that after the juniors chose to invite the seniors, who lost out on their prom last year due to COVID restrictions,” he said. “It was a blast. We cooked dinner for them and they had Bill Moore as DJ.”

Staffing was cited as one of the main challenges Joel and Darcy have faced over their first year. “I’d like to open the Pub more frequently, but it’s been hard to find the staff to make it happen,” said Joel, adding, “We’ve employed about 16 OVUHS students in the last year. They’re all great, but it can be a challenge at times trying to write a schedule. We’re always hiring.”

Still, he remains upbeat and positive. “The past year went well. All the groups we had last year are coming back and we’ve tried to stay true to the funky, individual flavor of the rooms. I thought about adding suites, but families seem to really like the setup as it is. “

As for fitting in with Brandon at large, Joel says, “It’s been remarkable how quickly I’ve gotten to know the people in town. Brandon needs the inn and the inn needs Brandon.”

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