The Butler did it. And boy, did he do it well. At 244, North Main Street in Southampton is a wonderful bed and breakfast, , but that is not the story; the story is its proprietor Chris Allen, who spent 20 years as a formal Butler.
Serving some of the wealthiest of the wealthiest for more than 20 years, Chris lived on the threshold of where anything being possible can become mundane. So what does a Butler actually do when he works for a widow of an actual British Lord? In his work uniform, a tuxedo, his day starts off at 6:30 a.m. preparing 7:30 morning tea to be presented to Lady of the house by a chambermaid in her room. But tea is actually breakfast with an ironed newspaper. Yes the newspaper is actually ironed.
After tea, the dishes are cleaned and silver polished by the Butler. Next on the schedule is coffee at 10 a.m. where the mail is viewed, and other desks chores are done by the Lady of the house. Again the china and silver is cleaned and polished.
Next comes the noon Aperitif, in this case a very top shelf, quality sherry, served in custom sherry crystal.
Then proper formal lunch is served at 1 p.m.. Of course, lunch may be requested at many different locations in a 60-plus room home, depending on which home, whether it is the one in the South of France or another in Switzerland. Again the china is cleaned and the silver polished.
Then comes the serious 5 p.m. Aperitif, (more sherry), followed by the formal dinner starting at 6 p.m.
After the final cleanup and silver polish it is about 7:30 and the official day ends. Most of the times the chef chooses the wines for the meals but the Butler is usually in charge of “turning the wines,” and makes the suggestion on what to cook in order to use the right wines in a timely manner. Also this butler was in charge of the three cars, being the chauffer and keeping the cars meticulous. He also managed the whole staff, which in this case was eight others besides Chris.
Now just imagine that Butler now being in charge of the bed and breakfast you are staying at. When I inspected the five bedrooms, each named after the five estates Chris worked at, the attention to detail was beyond description in each room. Included in each was a small tray with sherry glasses and a fine crystal bottle of sherry on a small table. The bathrooms had a feeling of the London Ritz, circa 1936, everything in perfect place, polished and cleaned. (I was always amazed how in 20 minutes my family could turn such accommodations into total chaos), but that’s another story.
Each room at the B&B looked like it was awaiting Queen Elizabeth to inspect it. In fact, all the rooms private and public at Chris Allen’s B&B look that way. His beautiful California born, author-wife, Kimberly Burton Allen does her part, but Chris is in charge. Chris was born in Norfolk County, England, in the “village of California.” He was really raised in London when he went out on his own and ended up at spending five years as staff on large yachts mostly over 100 feet long. He started being a formal Butler at age 24, and to this day is proud of the high level of service he provided.
Making travel arrangements for the very rich can be very demanding, but as he said, “sometimes you have to know where you can rent a good private jet on short notice.” I am not sure if that is one of the services at his B&B, but Chris does chauffer his guests to the beaches, so they don’t have to deal with parking.
He has many tales of how the rich are different, but as a gentleman, he refused to give me permission to print them. However, if you stay there, he most likely will provides you with a good story if you request one. He can also be very proper, like he was with the widow of the Lord telling me he actually only spoke to her five times in five years, besides saying, “Good Morning ma'am,” or “Is that all ma'am?”
When he first met his wife he was working for a bachelor who was located in California. He told Kim, when she asked what he did as a Butler, “I do everything a wife would do, except give him a kiss and a cuddle.” That was in 1986, and 25-plus years later they are still together. In fact, before starting a B&B Chris actually was an actual butler in the Hamptons. He has interesting stories about the difference between the habits of the old moneyed employers, and the new accumulators of great wealth. But always the gentleman he did not go into great detail.
He closed our chat saying, “Running a B&B is the same as being a butler except you work seven days a week instead of six.