Q: Have you always been on the North Fork? A: No. I was living in Santa Cruz CA, and had been traveling for the five years prior to visiting Greenport. I came into town to meet an old friend’s new finance and for an event for my godson. So I was just coming for a few days.
I fell in love with the north fork area and three days easily became three weeks. I started looking for a house to rent for a big party I wanted to throw for my incredibly special uncle’s 8oth birthday, when I came across Ruby’s Cove, and I bought it instead.
Q: Wow, that’s a big, improvisational commitment. When was that?
A: That was 2008. I could not leave this house for some reason. I just knew I had to be here for part of my life. It was as simple and strong as that. From the first moment I entered the house it just felt like another layer of skin.
Q: Did you come from the hospitality industry?
A: Not really. I worked in a retreat center on a little island in Hawaii called Molokai, and otherwise I always seemed to be hosting friends and travelers at my home, have always seriously loved cooking and entertaining and knew what kinds of places I loved staying at when traveling.
Ruby’s Cove was created to be a place that I would love to come to if traveling, and it is. I’m just a traveler who bought a B&B.
When I got here it was already an operating B&B called the Victorian Lady, it was more a Victorian design. I changed the colors, made them more bold and created a 1920s/30s era feel. I fell in love with furniture that I found at estate sales and auctions and received some really great pieces from the amazing locals in the area. I had friends and family come from all around the world and help me arrange and decorate, it was like one big art project.
Q: What do you most appreciate about Greenport?
A: I love the easy accessibility to everything when you live in Greenport. I love being on my bike, being close to ferries, surrounded by water. And the people-- I’ve met such creative kind people, such great souls who’ve helped me out a lot.
Q: What’s Ruby’s Cove like?
A: I think it’s a great escape from your regular life. There’s no TV, there’s a big wrap around porch, there’s great conversation or wonderful quietness, depending on what you choose. People say ‘I just feel like I stepped into an easier time.’ People have said this place is 'like an upscale hostel’. I love that.
Q: Yeah, I loved staying in hostels when I traveled Europe, and I love that feel—a place it’s easy to be on your own or with your group, or to meet strangers and share stories; a place with friendly, interactive space that also offers privacy. Do you have a hostel-type of guest?
A: Yes and no, the people who come here are so diverse and just about always turn out to be a perfect fit. One awesome commonality in the people who come here is that they are generally youthful, whether in their 20’s or 80’s. They like to go do stuff and explore—young minded, good hearted and enjoying life. They seem to be people who enjoy beauty and love being both active, but they can also relax.
Q: How is Ruby’s Cove different from other local B&B’s?
A: The later breakfast, the predictably laid back vibe, the bikes and the location.
I serve a late, big breakfast at 10 am; most other places serve earlier. Sure, there’s coffee, yogurt and fruit from 7:30 am on, but the big deal is at 10 am: Chili Rellenos, Ruby’s Red Rum Runner French toast, handmade chicken asiago sausages, season specialties—a feast. I do all the cooking myself. I love cooking. It’s a different menu every day. Ten a.m. turns out to be a really good time, people sleep in, or go for a run, ride, or swim, and then come back and settle in for the meal.
I have a barn full of bicycles that my guests can use for free, they take them over to Shelter Island, or to the nearby wineries. The Greenport Harbor Brewery’s right next door, people love that.
Those are key features: the food, the bikes, the brewery, the accessible places.
Q: What do you enjoy most about this improvisational career—about being the Keeper of the Cove?
A: I love that this is a really gorgeous home and stunning surroundings; I love interacting with people who are out to have a good time, and helping people discover the area.
I feel good when I’m the person helping a traveler find the right place to go, the best experience. After all the traveling I did, that means a lot to me.
Photographs of Donna and of Ruby's Red Rumrunner French Toast by Nicole Horton