Jay and Mary Ann Gorrick had a lot of experience entertaining big groups at the Jersey Shore. The couple, who are from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., had a house in Lavallette, Ocean County, and often cooked big meals for their daughters and all their friends.
"We always had a lot of people at our Shore house," says Mary Ann Gorrick, 66. "We figured we'd get paid to have 12 people for breakfast."
In 2000, the Gorricks - Jay, 66, retired from IBM, and Mary Ann, a retired schoolteacher - bought an 1893 Queen Anne-style Victorian in Cape May and turned it into the Inn at the Park, a bed-and-breakfast that is also the couple's full-time home.
It wasn't exactly in guest-ready form, though.
"If you can see it," Jay Gorrick says, "it's been changed."
The property, formerly called the Henry Walker Hand House, had been a private home, a guest house, and a beauty parlor. (The difference between a guest house and a B&B? Guest houses don't serve food, and each room doesn't have a private bathroom.)
Today, the building has three distinct areas: the main B&B, which has been meticulously restored; the couple's living space, which had been the first added-on beauty parlor (a curio is used to cover a mark in the wall where a sink once hung); and the cottage suites, which had been the second added-on beauty parlor.
The Gorricks, who were high school sweethearts, renovated the kitchen first thing. Because the couple serve breakfast in the morning and hors d'oeuvres to guests at cocktail hour, the kitchen had to be up to the same codes as a professional restaurant kitchen. (It's also regularly inspected.)
Out went the plywood countertops, the portable dishwasher, and the old stove. In came granite and industrial-strength appliances, reconfigured to give as much counter space as possible - and to make sure that the range hood actually sucked fumes out of the kitchen, instead of cycling them back in.
Instead of one refrigerator, there are three, and an island was added in the middle of the kitchen floor to give Jay, who does most of the cooking, more counter space.
"I couldn't see, so I couldn't cook," says Jay Gorrick, who is also certified in food-handling. So they also added more light to the kitchen, which has openings to both the B&B's parlor and their living room.
Where the kitchen ends now is where the house used to end, and it also serves as the boundary line between their work and home spaces, even if there is no physical wall between the two.
As for the guest rooms, they had "vestiges of bathrooms," Mary Ann Gorrick says, so the couple redid two bathrooms and added four in the main house.
They also ripped out any beauty-parlor remnants and changed the layout in the back addition - where most families who book at the B&B are lodged.
The Gorricks dismantled the old laundry room, which now houses the third refrigerator, and turned part of their living space into a new laundry room, complete with an industrial-strength washer and dryer, so they could handle a B&B's worth of linens and towels.
At first, there was contemporary furniture in the sitting room, where the Gorricks entertain their own guests as well as guests of the B&B; antique furniture was added gradually. They mixed in some of their own history, too: Mary Ann's wedding dress is displayed on the landing, next to a stained-glass window, and a picture of her grandparents sits on the mantel.
Their favorite spot, though, is the front porch. It's shaded by trees and plants and offers a front-row view of Washington Avenue and all the bikers, walkers and Shore traffic that goes by.
Their personal living space is completely contemporary and well-lived-in, even if their work life spills over.
"It's more than a three-month operation," Jay Gorrick says.
Cape May has robust spring and fall seasons, as well as a jam-packed summer, and keeping the Victorian in shape is a challenge.
"The weather is very hard on the building," Mary Ann Gorrick says.
The couple looked all over the New England and Mid-Atlantic Coast before picking Cape May. Why? Because of the food. "We'd drive 100 miles down and 100 miles back to eat at the Washington Inn," Mary Ann says.
Jay's job at IBM was near the Culinary Institute of America, so the couple went to free demonstrations and classes, and they market the Inn at the Park to foodies and oenophiles. They added a cold-storage wine cellar, too.
"We like being near the ocean, and I love the guests," says Mary Ann. The B&B also gives them plenty of space when children and grandchildren come to town - though it rarely shuts down.
"If we're here," she says, "we're open."