From May to mid-October, Susan Starr rises early each morning at the Open Hearth Inn with a mission in mind.
Making muffins. Lots of them.
Each morning involves making three to five dozen muffins for the guests staying at the Route 3 inn. On very busy days, the tally goes to six dozen. All told, that translates into approximately 9,000 muffins a year.
And she’s been doing this for almost a decade.
Which is to say that Starr was well qualified to write “Memoirs of a Mad Innkeeper: The Muffin Recipes Revealed,” which was published by Maine Authors Publishing last fall. Ellsworth artist Jessica Harris illustrated the book, which contains more than 40 different muffin recipes as well as stories of life as an innkeeper.
Running an inn is not how Starr and her husband, Chuck, have always made their living, however. They each served more than two decades in the military, working as warrant officers in Army intelligence.
After getting married in Munich while stationed in Germany, they spent most of their military careers working in the Washington, D.C. area — but also had ties to Maine.
The couple and their two now-grown sons spent summers here, and Starr said they always envisioned living in Maine after retiring from the military. As fans of “The Bob Newhart Show,” they also liked the idea of running an inn. In 2004, they purchased what was then known as the Open Hearths Motel at the corner of Route 3 and the Oak Point Road.
Though they were also new to the business of innkeeping, the Starrs decided that first year they were in business that they wanted to offer breakfast fare to their guests. Initially, Starr went to the grocery store to get muffins there, but soon decided to try making her own.
“I started trying simple recipes to do from scratch,” she said.
As Starr got more practiced, she began to customize and create her own recipes. With most guests staying multiple days, she said she strives to introduce as much variety as possible to avoid the risk of being boring. That also means going beyond traditional muffin types.
“They can get blueberry muffins anywhere,” said Starr of her guests. “But not white chocolate muffins with dried cherries and macadamia nuts.”