Widgets Magazine

Innkeeper Wilfred Joseph of The Arbor View House on Hospitality, Good Spirits, and the Journey to the North Fork

Q: How did you come to the North Fork? A: Well, it’s really how did we come to the North Fork? I know you’re interviewing me, but I have a wife, Veda, who is an important part of the story.

Veda and I came to the North Fork separately. She came with her sister Sylvia, Innkeeper of Quintessentials Bed and Breakfast. One of their friends had this beautiful house in Greenport, and they would visit on weekends. The house was on a bluff and had a pool and it was beautiful and peaceful.

I came out here to do Yoga with a friend on Shelter Island. We enjoyed the North Fork and kept coming. I started seeing Veda out there when I would go to Shelter Island for yoga, and after a while I started coming with her to Greenport on weekends, and then summers. We are very social and hospitable people; we loved to throw parties at places in the city and out here.

Q: You’ve been out here full time for 15 years now, in East Marion? How did you get there full time after spending weekends and summers in Greenport? 

A: I took a yoga vacation to the Caribbean, and decided I wanted to change my life completely.

I was a national sales executive for a computer company, and I wanted to make a change. Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. day my friends and I would get together and talk about our hopes and dreams for the next year and five years. Every year I had as part of my long term dreams a place where people would come for good, healthy food, meditation and yoga and have it as a business. But it didn’t happen; that went on for 10 years.

In 1991, I left the computer company and became a contractor. I owned some real estate, was doing renovations. Around 1992 Sylvia was thinking about buying the home she made into Quintessentials, so she asked me to take a look. That was it, I looked I saw and I was conquered. She asked me to be the general contractor and take it on, and I agreed.

It was big job, took a year to complete. In that year I discovered the North Fork. I got to really spend time here, going through the nooks and crannies.

Q: When and how did you open the Arbor View House?

A: Five years after doing those renovations, Veda and I looked across the street and saw this property. We thought: ‘that looks nice,’ so bought and renovated it. And opened this place. That was 1999.

Q: I realize every Bed and Breakfast is its own unique architecture, food and experience. What’s the Arbor View House experience like? What’s particularly Arbor View?

A: There are a few things. Our philosophy is that if you have a Bed and Breakfast, you have to do two things really well: beds, and breakfast. We take great pride in both.

And we really enjoy hosting people. We eat with our guests, communal family style. Veda is a really good cook and baker. She bakes cakes and breads; loves cooking and gardening, I think those are the two things she would do all the time if she could.

Champagne-7561

We offer a non-traditional breakfast. Sure, we sometimes offer scrambled eggs and bacon, occasionally pancakes and waffles. But we always include Caribbean food, including food that is not traditionally breakfast food. For example, we offer Chana, a chickpea dish with West Indian flavor - a little spicy.

A typical breakfast would include a fruit salad, coffee, tea, juice, biscuits, muffins, a cucumber/tomato salad, corned beef hash, fried ripe plantains, and scrambled eggs: and so breakfasts are a little unusual—it’s more of a brunch than a breakfast. We do accommodate those who have dietary restrictions.

We’re also famous for our concierge services. Before guests come to us, we send then information on the activities on the North Fork. We make reservations for them at the best restaurants, wineries and provide guidance on hiking trails or birding sites and beaches.

Other than breakfast, we’re happy to be hosts any time a guest would like. If people invite us to join them in a glass of wine or hang out, we’re happy to. But we’re simply available, not intrusive.

Q: Is there anything about the Arbor View House—the building—that really makes it different?

A: The house has a great deck and view of the garden, and in the summer we eat on the deck in the back, another way of acknowledging our wonderful weather. I think maybe three times in the last five years we’ve had to move inside because of rain. I always laugh about how special the weather is. A day like today I come outside and stand on the deck and look at the sky, and the air is crisp and clean. I smile and say yes, Another Sunny Day In Paradise. We call that “ASDIP”.

One of the challenges of having a B&B in an old house is the rooms tend to be a little smaller. However, our house has larger rooms, and a private bath in each. No going down the hall.

The best thing about the house itself, though, is the way it feels to be in it. People walk into the house and one of the first things they say is that the house is very peaceful and comfortable. For several years I thought it was our hospitality, butI’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the house itself.

Although we’ve never seen any ghosts, the house has good spirits. This house is old—it goes back to 1790, renovated in 1867. The house itself was owned by Captain Vail of the then-famous Vail family. Vail as in the Vail Levitt in Riverhead. There are still some Vails here.

Q: So you play host and concierge for people in a beautiful, comfortable, historic house and feed them delicious, signature food. Wonderful, but other North Fork B&Bs have their own lovely versions too. Is there a particularly Arbor View service?

A: Yes. One special one is part of our Romantic Getaway package: an aromatherapy bath that appeals to the six senses: love songs, beautiful and soft rose petals, warm bubble bath, champagne and chocolates, fragrant aromatherapy oils. Sound, sight, touch, taste, smell. And the sixth, the sense of well-being.

Aromatherapy bath

We have two rooms with king sized beds with whirlpool tubs. That’s where we host the Romantic Getaway.

Q: You said earlier that you really got to know the North Fork when you were renovating Sylvia’s house—Quintessentials. What do you most love about the North Fork?

A: You know, I’m not an artist. Before I’d moved here I had heard artists talk about “the light” but I didn’t understand. I liked the North Fork for all the obvious reasons, the openness, the beauty, the farmlands, the vineyards, the access the water, the cute villages. I still can’t believe that so close to the city is a place as rural as East Marion.

But now that I live here I have come to really appreciate the light. It’s one of my favorite things. I never understood. But one day, around 4 o’clock I was crossing the street, and I looked west, and I got it: the greens were greener, the blues were bluer, the colors were really intense. I just stood in the middle of the street, staring. I hadn’t realized how much of the time the light we see is filtered. Here on the North Fork the light is brighter because it is so clean. That day I just really saw the light.