Meet the Innkeepers
St. Augustine is known as the oldest continuously occupied city in America. To earn a title like that takes commitment to, and passion for, a particular place. Anthony and Marilyn Sexton carry that same dedication and enthusiasm for their bed and breakfast, the Victorian House. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
Anthony and Marilyn always wanted to be innkeepers, but that dream did not come instantly. Armed with a desire to own a bed and breakfast before the age of 50, Anthony and Marilyn set out to reach their goal. Anthony’s background is in Dairy Science and he ran one of the nation’s largest dairy processing plants. His wife, Marilyn, worked in commercial real estate. Both of these careers served them well as they moved forward in pursuing their dream.
“We were both fortunate to work long careers with the same company, so we had lots of time off where we got to travel a lot,” said Anthony. “That’s where we really developed our passion for bed and breakfasts.”
Anthony and Marilyn traveled all over the country, as well as abroad in Europe. While they were away from home, they would stay in local bed & breakfasts. This allowed them to do some research and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Through their travel experience, their love for b&b’s grew. In total, they spent 10 years doing research and taking classes, even spending some time in St. Augustine. In 2011, they bought the Victorian House – when the time came, they jumped in with both feet.
“It was absolutely amazing! We came into it Thanksgiving weekend,” said Anthony, “Jumped right into it, right into the fire and loved every second of it, from that day since.”
There is a lot of history in the Victorian House. The Myers family originally owned the house, and their great-grandson is the curator of the Lightner Museum. The Victorian House is also one of the oldest houses in St. Augustine. It was built in 1895 and restored in 1983, nestled on the corner of Cadiz Street and Aviles Street, two of the oldest streets in America. Anthony says, “You don’t get a cooler address.” Aside from having an amazing breakfast, the Victorian House is known for being centrally located with outstanding hospitality. The Victorian House is just a short walk from the Castillo de San Marcos and a couple blocks from Flagler College.
Anthony says the average innkeeper spends about five to seven years with their inn. Not true in St. Augustine. “From 30 years in the business, down to just a couple of years,” said Anthony. “It’s the oldest city, and we also have the most experienced innkeepers.”
Anthony is passionate about encouraging and training others. His advice to new innkeepers is to do the research. For the past two years, he has been teaching classes on innkeeping through the Florida Bed and Breakfast Inn Association, where he is a member of their board. He hopes that, by educating new owners, they might be better prepared for owning their bed and breakfasts.
One of his favorite things about owning the Victorian House are the guests. He says it’s very rare that you find a job where people appreciate what you do.
“You get to meet such a variety of people. It truly is the coolest job you could ever imagine,” said Anthony.
Within one week, Anthony has had guests stay at the Victorian House who were from Australia and others from England. He loves meeting people from all over the world every day. It’s very rewarding he says. Another rewarding aspect of being an innkeeper in St. Augustine is being a member of the St. Augustine Historic Inns. “From the minute I had my foot in my inn I had other owners in here saying ‘What can we do to help?’” said Anthony.
While Anthony doesn’t know what the future holds, he knows he and Marilyn are not going anywhere anytime soon. They love St. Augustine and hope to see the city, as well as the Victorian House, prosper another 450 years.
Article by: Danielle Brooks Photograph