The New Exquisite, Unique "Kirby House" Offers Great Wine, Fabulous Fare, Beautiful Decor & Old-World Charm For All To Enjoy
When people go on vacation they are usually looking for something unique – a rare find or discovery, a memorable event, an adventure – something that marks their time away from everyday life as truly amazing.
When Jay Paul Deratany visited The Kirby House while filming Saugatuck Cures, a movie he wrote, in the fall of 2013, he found all this and more.
Deratany fell in love with The Old Grand Dame, as the building at 294 W Center St. in Douglas is affectionately known. He decided to buy the house and give it a modern look that blends artistic cosmopolitan style with vintage architecture. Renovations started in February 2014.
If the historic 1890 Victorian-style Sarah M. Kirby House could talk today, she would tell stunning stories of days in service as everything from a community hospital to a real estate office, an antique store and a bed and breakfast.
The Kirby would chuckle and fondly recount memories of area residents born in her rooms during service as a hospital, or many a person down on one knee in the joyful occasion of a marriage proposal, or proud families gathered on her lawn and large porch in celebration of gay, lesbian and straight weddings, showers, birthdays, anniversary parties and other significant life events.
The Kirby started collecting beautiful stories of people’s lives again when it reopened as a boutique hotel last August, and this week with the opening of J. Paul’s wine lounge and restaurant.
To call The Kirby House a bed and breakfast or a hotel is an understatement.
The renovated Kirby House is about someone who put all of their dreams, creativity and driving passion into creating their vision for an upscale boutique hotel that is different from anything in the area.
“I had gone to The Kirby years earlier as a guest and I had loved it,” said Deratany, an award-winning Chicago-based attorney, human rights activist, play and screenwriter, and film producer who has owned a home on the hill for more than a decade.
“While filming there I appreciated the beauty,” he added.
The old home had been abandoned and was badly destroyed. “Probably a little impulsively, I felt it needed to be restored,” he said. “It was a little outside of my comfort t zone, but I had been coming up to Saugatuck/Douglas for 25 years and I knew the Kirby had quite a following. I decided to just do it.”
He was drawn to the magic that The Kirby creates and was inspired to rehabbing it and bringing back its glory.
Although much more updating and renovating/remodeling to meet codes and requirements was needed than he had anticipated, it is now exactly what Deratany hoped – a beautiful place to have a glass of wine and a bite to eat, and much more.
He envisioned having writers’ retreats in the fall, hosting many weddings and special events of all kinds.
J. Paul’s wine lounge and restaurant opened to the public April 19.
Now the public is invited to a May 2 Grand Opening.
The three-part day will feature a group photograph of anyone who was born in the building in the morning. Culinary experts also will create enticing refreshments and wine pairings, and an evening ribbon-cutting ceremony will include some very special guests.
“I think the whole area, with the upcoming growth in Michigan wines and specialty beers, could be the next Napa – in Western Michigan,” he said.
“We have some great wineries. I think in a few years we’re going to be a nice destination. Our own Midwest Napa!”
Former school teacher and General Manager Mindy Trafman has been in the restaurant industry for 30 years. She has opened and operated some of the nation’s most popular restaurants, worked in backstage catering with clients such as the Rolling Stones and Pavarotti and then went on to open the highly acclaimed Con Fusion restaurant and Cru Cafe and Wine Bar.
She developed a deep love for wine and travel and advanced her studies, sharing her passion and teaching classes at Chicago’s Loyola University.
It was just after her 50th birthday that Deratany called on her to quit her job, sell her house and come run The Kirby for him.
It’s all in the timing.
“He’s a very passionate man and a very inspiring person”, she said of Deratany. “When he believes in something he goes for it, no matter what field it’s in.”
Trafman says The Kirby is “a little bit different space for the neighborhood.”
The quiet, rustic charm of the area – just a quick walk to Oval Beach, which Conde Naste’s Traveler Magazine named as one of the best 25 shorelines in the world, now offers a luxurious respite in this small hotel, thanks to recent zoning status change to commercial from residential.
“It has all the luxuries of a nice, upscale hotel you might find in the city,” Trafman said.
The Kirby now offers many modern conveniences, such as iPod docking, Wifi, plush and silky robes, foam bathmats, fine bath products and upscale amenities from New York. When customers come in, they get a personal guided wine and cheese tasting.
The new hotel, restaurant and wine bar is a really modern, funky place, she says.
“We’re going to have indoor and outdoor seating underneath the stars, lush gardens, seven rooms and custom-made furniture. You will get the sophistication of a Chicago or New York hotel with the quaint, quiet atmosphere and beauty of a Michigan sunset.”
The Kirby is restored to a proud building in the community where guests can expect to celebrate amid unmatched hospitality and a different level of luxury.
“Going the extra mile is a given,” Trafman says. “With us at The Kirby, it’s going the extra mile – and then several blocks after that!”