Bed Check: A truly mom and pop B&B

Close to the water, the Mill Street Inn has three large common areas and three guest rooms.
Close to the water, the Mill Street Inn has three large common areas and three guest rooms. (Nancy Trejos/The Washington Post)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 13, 2010; 11:24 AM

There are two kinds of people in Cambridge, Md., Skip Rideout told me over breakfast: The "come heres" and the "from heres." But everyone ends up a "belong here."

Skip, a "come here" who opened the Mill Street Inn four years ago with his wife, Jennie, made sure that I felt like a "belong here" during my one-night stay at their adorable bed and breakfast in the sleepy but charming Eastern Shore town that most people bypass for Ocean City.

Over Jennie's scrumptious pecan waffles with fresh fruit (Skip had picked the pecans off one of their trees), the couple treated me more like a daughter returning home from college than an unknown woman traveling alone.

I've stayed at many B&Bs, and the innkeepers are almost always kind and welcoming. But the Rideouts took attentiveness to a new level. When I contemplated my dinner options, Skip not only recommended a restaurant but drove there so that I could follow him in my car. He even found me a parking space. And rather than let me eat breakfast alone, he sat across from me, chatting and sipping coffee, while Jennie served the food.

When you stay at the Mill Street Inn, you really do feel as though you're staying in someone's home. The living room is filled with pictures of the couple's two grown children. Their Labrador mix, Molly, scampers about. "If you hear footsteps at night, it's just me taking Molly out," Skip warned me.

Sure enough, on my way to bed, I ran into him in pajamas and robe, returning from a walk with Molly. I'd been admiring the book collection in the living room: lots of Mark Twain, William Faulkner, John Updike and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Skip didn't seem to mind that I was snooping around. "Turn the lights off when you're done," he said before returning to bed, just as my father does when I visit my parents in New York.

The Rideouts are lifelong Marylanders, but they are Cambridge come heres from Rockville, where both were educators for many years. After they retired, they sold baked goods, jams and jellies at two local farmers markets. "I was the pie lady," Jennie said.

After falling in love with Cambridge during a few visits, they decided to leave behind the hustle and bustle of suburban Washington. They bought and restored the 1894 Victorian, pouring all the earnings from their Montgomery County home into it, and opened for business in 2006.

Cambridge has been hit hard by the economic downturn, and a couple of B&Bs have gone out of business, leaving the flashy and luxurious Hyatt Regency the major player in town. But the Rideouts are hanging on.

They've got a lot to offer. Located just half a block from the water, the house is spacious, with three large common areas, all with fireplaces, and a front porch where Jennie serves tea or wine in the evening. The living room has a table for chess players. The TV is in the den, and there are DVDs available for guests who want to stay in.

I could see why some guests would want to do that. The three guest rooms all have their own bathroom. I slept in the Winifred, which is furnished in yellow floral and has a comfortable sitting area next to large windows that make the room especially sunny. The Rideouts left wine and chocolates for me to enjoy as I curled up with a book in the comfy armchair.

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of Molly barking and the smell of coffee and homemade apple muffins. And in that moment, I really did feel like a belong here.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company