Inn Owners Reflect On 50 Years Along Main Street

COURTESY FRED & IRENE CARBONE - A picture outside the Bay Motor Inn from 1968. The young boy holding the beach ball is the brother of current inn owner Irene Carbone.MICHAEL J. RAUSCH/ENTERPRISE - Bay Motor Inn owners Fred and Irene Carbone.

A drive on Main Street in Buzzards Bay was an entirely different experience 50 years ago than it is today. Just ask Frederick W. Carbone and his wife, Irene P., owners of the Bay Motor Inn. Ms. Carbone’s parents bought the inn back in 1965, and she spent many of her summers as a teenager helping her parents run the Main Street mainstay.

“When we arrived in 1965, Main Street was booming,” Ms. Carbone said.

After all, Main Street was the only way for Cape-bound travelers to reach the Bourne Bridge. 

“All the stores were filled. It was completely bustling,” she added.

A sampling of the businesses that once populated downtown Buzzards Bay include an A&P grocery store, the Old Cape Cod and Domino Club nightclubs, Playland amusement center, the Oyster Bar, Elizabeth’s clothing store, the Buzzards Bay movie theater, and Baker’s Five & Ten.

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The Carbones said that, over the years, they have seen a considerable change in the landscape in downtown Buzzards Bay. Mr. Carbone noted that the street has undergone a shift in personality, such that it is “a destination now for gasoline, convenience stores and coffee.” They pointed out that some of the businesses were lost to accidents, such as the Domino Club, which burned down in the mid-1970s. Others, like Grossman’s lumber yard, went bankrupt. The Carbones said that the big reason Main Street lost business, however, was the decision to first put in the bypass that runs parallel to Main Street, followed by the state’s extending and connecting I-495 with Route 25. Both roads, they said, gave tourists ways around Main Street and its businesses. 

“They diverted all the traffic, and we felt like the lost stepchild,” Mr. Carbone said.

But while many businesses were forced to close up shop, the Carbones have been able to keep the Bay Motor Inn open. They said they truly enjoy what they do and the people they meet. They also like that the work is seasonal, six months on and six months off. They suggested that for Main Street to become successful again, the town has to figure out how to better highlight the Cape Cod Canal.

“It’s a jewel. They don’t know what they’re missing here, with all the boat traffic. There should be some kind of system where they can stop, get out, walk to town, eat. Become a Mystic Seaport, become a Newport, Rhode Island,” Mr. Carbone suggested.

Frederick and Irene Carbone have owned the motor inn since buying it from Irene’s parents, John and Irene Murphy, in 1995. Ms. Carbone said that her father was an entrepreneur who owned a Mister Donut in Brockton and a nursing home in Quincy. She said that in 1965 he went to Bourne for the express purpose of buying a business, any business.

“He didn’t really care what it was,” she said.

After looking at a couple of prospects, including Frates Clam Shack, which used to be where Percy’s currently is on the border of Wareham and Bourne, a realtor showed him the Bay Motor Inn. At the time, the place “looked like a funeral home,” Ms. Carbone said. She said that her mother refused to even get out of the car to look at it.

The realtor finally convinced her father of the business’s potential and he bought it. The Murphys operated the business for 30 years until they sold to their daughter and her husband.

The Carbones acknowledge the efforts that the town has made in upgrading the look of downtown Buzzards Bay through the recent streetscape project, and they support the construction of Keystone Place, the senior assisted living facility that is being built behind the Buzzards Bay Post Office. Asked about a development project being proposed for 25 Perry Avenue that would include a destination hotel and conference center, the couple said they would not feel threatened by such a development. Rather, they would welcome it as helpful to their business.

“We’re still going to get families, repeat business,” Ms. Carbone said.

“They feel like this is more relaxing, more personal,” Mr. Carbone said of their regular clientele.

The couple said they have a lot of repeat customers, people who return year after year. They said that, in the last five or 10 years, adults who vacationed at the Bay Motor Inn as children have started coming with their youngsters. Those people include Cambridge Police Sergeant James B. Crowley, who was at the center of the false arrest case involving Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates that led to the “Beer Summit” with President Obama at the White House. Mr. Crowley started coming to the Bay Motor Inn with his parents and brothers 40 years ago, Ms. Carbone said.

The Carbones’ regular clientele also includes fishermen who fish the canal and golfers who can easily access courses in Bourne, Falmouth and Plymouth. Each season, they also host a Bourne Braves baseball player, so they get players’ parents staying as well. They have also had their share of celebrities.

Gerry Callahan of “The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show” on WEEI-FM, and sportswriter for The Boston Herald, stays at the Bay Motor Inn every summer when he participates in the Pan-Mass Challenge. Mr. Carbone proudly showed a photograph of actor Peter Scolari of “Bosom Buddies” and “Newhart” fame, who stayed at the inn with his family some years ago. Ms. Carbone said Mr. Scolari’s grandfather had a house in Taylor’s Point.

“He’s a real, regular, down-to-earth Joe,” Mr. Carbone said.

Other regulars include James Bennett, who, for 20 years, has traveled from New Jersey every weekend from September to mid-October to attend King Richard’s Faire in Carver. Mr. Bennett stays for three or four nights each visit, and dresses in period costume when he visits the fair.

“We love him, love him,” Mr. Carbone said.

They also mentioned one couple who have been going to the inn for 24 years in a row, every year on their wedding anniversary. The couple always requests the same bungalow, number 15. Ms. Carbone said that this year is their 25th anniversary, but the wife now suffers from multiple sclerosis, and the husband recently called to say she had taken a turn for the worse, so they will not be coming this year.

“I told him if she has a good day, to come up; you can have your room for free,” she said.

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