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@Work: St. John Inn

April 13, 2005 – Sarah Close had been looking for the right Caribbean opportunity, so when her real estate agent told her the St. John Inn was for sale, she jumped.
"I was tired of the rat race and the commute, and I wanted a different kind of lifestyle," Close said, adding that she had been living in St. Paul, Minn., when she decided she was sick of the cold weather.
So, Close, 35, and her daughter Devin Braun, now 14, moved to St. John after she and her Pittsburgh-based business partner Kirk Kim bought the property on Nov. 12, 2003.
Since then, she and her daughter have been adjusting to life in the tropics, She said Devin goes off to the St. John School on Gifft Hill every day, but returns home in the afternoon to help with running the cozy guesthouse.
"She can pretty much run the show without me," Close said.
She and her daughter live at the St. John Inn, which means they're on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She said guests think nothing of calling in the middle of the night to supply fresh towels or let them in when they've lost their keys.
Close takes her cell phone on jaunts to Salomon Bay, located an easy hike behind the V.I. National Park Visitor's Center. She said being available all the time has been a big adjustment. She said she was used to having jobs where she could take weekends off. "But I'm not in the position to hire extra help," she said.
She said she's faced many challenges, including the difficulty in finding someone to do maintenance. Figuring out how to get a business license and get her car registered also took some time to figure out.
Learning to budget so she gets through the slower summer season also poses challenges.
The 11-room guesthouse sits off Route 108. It's an older property, but Close said she's worked hard at refurbishment. "I've redone several rooms from tile to bathrooms to the air conditioning," she said. She's also given her office a face lift.
Close has also added a continental breakfast.
"And I haven't raised my prices," she said, noting that affordable accommodations on St. John are difficult to find.
However, Close said she's put the property up for sale because living there in close quarters is too difficult. Additionally, she said it's too much work for one person.
Close said she is a real estate agent and a developer by trade, so she views her involvement with the property as part of that process.
She's not sure if she'll stay on St. John after the property sells.
"We do love it, but it's very expensive and tough to get by," she said.
To reach the St. John Inn, call 693-8688.

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