The Working Waterfront

Welcoming tourists, joining the community

New owners of Castine inn honored by Hospitality Maine

By Tom Groening
Posted 2024-01-30
Last Modified 2024-01-30

Purchasing and operating a 130-year-old inn on the coast of Maine would be a daunting challenge for anyone. Doing so in the midst of a pandemic, in a town that is an almost three-hour drive from Portland, at the end of a peninsula well off Route 1 further upped that challenge.

And when the couple who did so arrived in Castine from New York with no ties to the area, it would seem the odds might approach being insurmountable.

But Matthew Powell, 33, and George Trinovitch, 34, seem to have found a secret that is leading to success at the Pentagöet, the town’s historic Main Street inn. Rather than catering only to those who travel to and enjoy the quiet corners of the Maine coast, the couple has made a concerted effort to reach out to and include the community in their endeavor.

It’s paid off, and it’s been noticed. The lodging trade group Hospitality Maine named Powell and Trinovitch its innkeepers of the year for 2023.

Hospitality Maine noticed, citing the couple’s immersion into the community…

On a chilly December morning before Christmas, they gave a tour of the first floor of the inn. Outside, workers constructed a new stairway into the building from the sidewalk, built on a 45-degree angle to Main Street, a more welcoming entry way, Powell said, and a return to a much earlier version of the inn.

“It was the first hotel in Castine to welcome rusticators,” Powell said of the inn, built in 1894 in the Queen Anne Victorian style with a turret and prominent gables. It was first operated by Lizzie Moore, a member of a hotel-owning family, he said, and named for a fort built in Castine by the French in the 1630s.

Matthew Powell, left, and George Trinovitch are the new owners of the Pengagöet Inn in Castine.
Matthew Powell, left, and George Trinovitch are the new owners of the Pengagöet Inn in Castine.

Powell and Trinovitch have dug into the community’s history, too, noting that the Castine Inn, across Main Street, was built in 1898, and another inn, later called the Manor House, was added on Battle Avenue, and the Holiday House used to operate on nearby Perkins Street. The town was a stop for the Boston-to-Bangor steamships, Powell noted.

The inn played an important role in 1940 as the country moved toward an inevitable world war—shipping and political leaders gathered there to create what would become Maine Maritime Academy, its campus now a stone’s throw from the inn.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that private bathrooms were added to each room, Powell said.

The interior entryway reflects the work and the approach Powell and Trinovitch are bringing. They painstakingly sanded away the painted trim and refreshed it with a dark stain. The front desk, which had been tucked out of sight of the front door, now is in view of the entry. Off the entrance is a cozy room that serves as a pub, dubbed “Mister’s Pub” after the couple’s miniature schnauzer, and a room with a baby grand piano, donated by the town’s Unitarian church. Sheet music includes the vintage “Pentagöet Waltz,” composed by a Willis A. Ricker.

“We lead heavily with cocktails,” Powell said of the pub, offering creative and fresh mixes.

“I love the speak easy vibe,” added Trinovitch, who is managing the interior design work. “Our tagline is ‘back in time,’” while Powell suggests another descriptor for the aesthetic is “collegiate.”

In the back of the building are two dining rooms, one more formal, and a porch. The restaurant once seated 94 on a busy summer day, though they say 84 is a more comfortable maximum. In mid-summer, three chefs are employed.

Currently, the 11 rooms in the inn along with five in an annex building, easily accessible across a small patio, were accounting for about 70% of the revenue with the remainder coming from the restaurant. Those elements are approaching an even split, which has required some effort, since food service was for guests only under previous management.

The menu, revamped after surveying guests, features such dishes as Deer Isle crab cakes, Maine lobster linguini, and lobster pot pie, and locally sourced produce.

Trinovitch, who studied art education in college, modeled for a time in New York and then began working in interior design. Powell had worked in restaurant marketing and at test kitchens for magazines like Bon Appetit. The couple had visited Maine for vacations, but didn’t contemplate the move until they asked themselves, “What would it look like if we combined those skills?” Powell explained.

The business was awarded a $40,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Trinovitch said, an endorsement of the thoughtful restoration, which will help pay for the new sidewalk stairway.

“We’re very excited about that project,” he said.

Despite the lean years many lodging establishments saw during the peak pandemic years, the Pentagöet has been busy, and now, in winter, is nearly booked for May when Academy students graduate and their families visit.

On Bastille Day last summer—which the town celebrates—the inn hosted 104 for drinks and food, about as many as they and their staff could manage. “It was fun, though,” Trinovich admits.

But what stands out is the couple’s intentional community outreach. A week or so before my visit, they hosted about 125 for a Christmas party which also served to gather donations for the Toys for Tots charity. On a hot summer day, the inn invited children for free popsicles, and at Halloween, a “witch of Pentagöet” performance of sorts, featuring a friend visiting from New York, was offered for children.

“Those moments ingratiate ourselves into the community,” Powell said, though it’s clear they also give them joy. And Hospitality Maine noticed, citing the couple’s immersion into the community, “soft” innovations like popsicles and Christmas parties, and “that we so wholeheartedly threw ourselves int the community,” he said.

That connection continues, as Trinovitch has joined the town historic preservation committee and Powell is acting president of the Castine Merchants Association, which includes managing its social media.

Another outreach opportunity comes on Feb. 24, when the Pentagöet hosts a “Dinner of Five Flags,” featuring courses honoring the Wabanaki, French, Dutch, British, and American occupation of the strategically located town to benefit the merchants group.

For more information about the inn and dinner, visit:, email, or call 207-326-8616.