MOUNT DESERT — When the Asticou Inn opens for the season – the target date is June 19 – it will have a new general manager, Scott Crowley, and a new executive chef, Emily Damon.
For Damon, it is a homecoming of sorts, even though she has never worked at the inn. Her great-grandmother, Emily Phillips, was born in the Asticou’s Cranberry Cottage. And it was Phillips’ grandmother, also named Emily, and her husband, A.C Savage, who built the Asticou in 1883.
“There’s some great family history here, so it’s kind neat to be at the helm of the kitchen,” Damon said. “It’s very heartwarming.”
She is well known locally as the former chef and owner of several popular restaurants.
Crowley brings more than 20 years of management experience in the hospitality industry to the Asticou. He was at the Ritz–Carlton in Naples, Fla., for more than a decade, then managed hotels in several other places, including Cape Cod. Most recently, he was general manager of the North Conway Grand Hotel in New Hampshire.
Crowley’s family often vacationed in Maine when he was growing up, and he said he has always been drawn to the Acadia area.
“I’m at the point in my life where I wanted to be in a place where I could have all of the things I’ve come to enjoy, which are the ocean, mountains, lakes and beaches,” he said.
Crowley learned that the Asti-Kim Corporation, which owns the Asticou, had launched a search for a new general manager.
“I looked into the history of the property and the potential that I think it has for improvements and growth and what it could do when it comes to making an impact in the community,” he said. “I came up for an interview and looked at the property and just fell in love with it.”
He said the Asti-Kim board’s “goal and vision for the Asticou is really in line with my background and my service standards.”
Crowley started his job as general manager in early March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was shutting everything down. So, planning for this year’s tourist season has been greatly complicated by all the uncertainty about when the hotel can open and under what conditions.
The Asticou is a popular location for “destination weddings,” and a number of them had been booked for this summer and early fall. Now, several of those bookings have been canceled or rescheduled for next year.
“If you have the hotel booked but you don’t know if your guests are going to be able to travel, it’s very difficult to plan,” Crowley said. “It’s been sad to see people having to postpone their lives.”
The Asticou typically closes the second week in October. But with the season starting later than usual this year, Crowley hopes it can go a little longer.
“The goal is to stay open until the start of November and see if we can capitalize and allow people to come and enjoy the property,” he said.
As for Damon’s role as executive chef, Crowley said, “I am so excited to have her on board. With her cuisine and her knowledge of the area and the kind of guests we have, she is really going to be invaluable.”
Damon is the former chef-owner of Northeast Harbor restaurants 151 Main Street, House of M and The Watermark. She was executive chef at the Islesford Dock restaurant for the past two seasons. And for the past several years she has been the head of food service at Mount Desert Elementary School, where she became known as “Chef Emily.”
“It appears that that name has caught on, and I wear it with great pride,” she said. Her near-term plan is to continue feeding the school’s students and staff while working at the Asticou.
“It’s manageable,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine leaving the kids quite yet.”
As for the Asticou’s restaurant menu, Damon said, “My style of cooking is focused on healthy, fresh, straightforward food, utilizing anything we can from local growers and fishermen.”
Last week, the Asticou began offering take-out dinners on Fridays and Saturdays.
“We’re doing curbside pickup and offering delivery to Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor to showcase Emily’s cuisine and to help people who have been cooking at home for two months,” Crowley said. “We wanted to show what we’re capable of when we are able to open the restaurant and hotel for guests to come in.”
Crowley and Damon succeed the Acadia Corporation management team that ran the Asticou for the past five years. Acadia Corp officials decided last fall to concentrate exclusively on their retail stores in Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor.
“We have a very good relationship with the Acadia Corporation,” Crowley said. “I’ve gotten a lot of good information from them, and they are assisting us with various things. It has been a really good turnover.