Rakhi and Rick Patel love new adventures. After being in the motel business for a while in South Carolina, Rakhi decided she needed a change of pace. Their family moved to St. Augustine to be a little closer to family. Rakhi told Rick that she did not want to be in the motel business anymore. She wanted to explore the food industry, possibly owning a franchise. Rick had other plans in mind.
Without telling her anything, Rick decided to purchase a centrally located bed and breakfast in St. Augustine. Then two days before they were supposed to take ownership, he told her what he had done. Rakhi says she knew nothing about owning a b&b.
“I told Rick, ‘No way, I’m not doing this,’” said Rakhi. “ I don’t know how to do this.”
Rakhi and Rick officially took ownership of Centennial House July 2, 2013. On her first day as an innkeeper she was able to shadow the previous owner. Rakhi remembers that she spent the whole morning standing in a corner in the kitchen.
“I didn’t even come out because I didn’t know anything,” Rakhi said.
Even though she was reluctant to step into this new role, she proved to be ready for the challenge. Eventually, Rakhi learned how to handle breakfast as well as everything else about owning an inn.
Centennial House is known for having one of the best locations in St. Augustine. They are centrally located in the downtown historic district. The inn got its name from the previous owners. It was originally a personal estate. When the owners moved out it was divided up into apartments that college students rented. After several years of no maintenance or upkeep, the city wanted to tear the building down. The original owners were not ready to give up on the house so they decided to turn it into a bnb. The house was built in 1898 and when they turned it into a bed & breakfast it opened in 1998.
“It was the 100 year anniversary of the building,” said Rakhi, “That’s how they gave it the name Centennial House.”
Every detail is important. Having owned a motel and bnb, Rakhi and Rick know the difference between the two and pride themselves on making their guests feel like they are at home.
Rakhi and Rick are originally from India. One of her personal touches to the inn is her home cooked breakfast. Rakhi always makes everyone’s breakfast and she tries to incorporate elements of her culture into the menu earning them a reputation of having one of the best breakfasts in St. Augustine. Centennial House is also known for being one of the most hospitable inns. Rakhi says owning a motel versus a bed and breakfast is totally different.
“You have to keep up with everything….you have to make sure everything is on time,” says Rakhi.
Rick always wanted to have more than one bed and breakfast and in 2015 they had the opportunity to expand their collection. Rakhi and Rick just recently acquired their second intimate inn, the Alexander Homestead. It too is centrally located in the downtown historic district. Rakhi and Rick are excited about the future. They have plans for some major renovations to both inns. At the moment, Centennial House is undergoing a new paint job that will be followed by new floors as well as some room renovations.
One of the many things Rakhi likes about being a member of the St. Augustine Historic Inn Association is that there is no competition between innkeepers. She says there is a sense of camaraderie and a willingness to help one another out. It doesn’t matter if there is another bed n breakfast right next to theirs because each inn truly does offer something different.
To book your stay at the Centennial House, click here.
Article and Images by: Danielle Brooks Photography