Offseason on Mackinac Island, the silence is as loud as a roar.
“You can hear your heartbeat,” said island resident Brian Findley. “If the waves aren’t crashing and the wind whipping, it’s an incredible silence that you just don’t experience until you’ve been out in the woods on a still night.”
Brian and Christina Findley, owners of the Small Point Bed and Breakfast, have lived full-time on the island for two years. Brian’s parents opened the bed and breakfast in the 1970s. As a child, Brian would help his parents open, close and tend to the business over the summers.
“The funny thing is back in my high school days, I went down into the basement and I wrote my name on the wall of the house. I wrote ‘Brian Findley, 1981, dibs,’ ” Brian recalls.
The Findleys spent their careers in the hotel business working in cities across the nation. They held onto the dream of one day returning to Mackinac Island to take on the B&B.
In 2016, Brian’s parents were entering full-time retirement, and him and Christina finally made the leap to manage the property themselves.
“We have an eight-room bed and breakfast. We live on property,” Christina said.
“We can sleep up to 24 guests. We’re open full-time every day from the middle of May through the end of October. The last couple of years we have started opening for special event weekends in the winter,” Christina said.
Summertime can be hectic for residents of the island. The Findleys describe it as six and a half months of constant work followed by a day off that is five and a half months long.
“In a B&B, you’re working from sun-up until you lay your head down on the pillow, and many times in the middle of the night after that,” Brian said.
Year after year, the Small Point Bed and Breakfast welcomes many familiar faces. The Findleys estimate 65% of their bookings are returning guests. They’ve watched families grow and make memories on the island over the years.
“We’ve had five generations of one family that’s been coming here,” Brian said. “They come every single summer. The same weekend of the month of August. We’ve gotten to know the kids, who become parents, who become grandparents. It’s that type of connection that is just so precious.”
After years of work in big cities, being separated from layers of managers and service staff, the Findleys appreciate the direct contact they have with visitors of the B&B.
“It really brings us closer to our guests,” Brian said.
Life in the offseason
“To live here in the winter, you have to have a pioneer spirit,” Brian said. “Meaning you’ve got a plan and work through changes that can occur. There might be a boat, there might not be a boat. The wind changes direction and blows in an ice cap and there is no boat. There might not even be an airplane.”
The Findleys keep their freezers and fridges stocked from grocery trips to the mainland. Christina trained at Johnson & Wales culinary college becoming a pastry culinarian. Her skills are beloved by guests and Brian.
“Christina, because of her culinary skill, will bake bread and have some incredible beef stews and soups. I eat better in the winter than I do in the summer, by far,” Brian said.
“There are challenges. If you have to go to the store every day to get your meal, Mackinac is not for you. You need to be a planner. You need to be an organizer and you also have to accept that things are going to change,” Brian said.
Despite it’s challenges, the Findleys savor the community and lifestyle of island living.
“Living here, you get the joy of being in a small community where everybody knows each other. Very supportive, very friendly, very open,” Brian said.
Mackinac Island is home to a thriving arts community, and the Findleys are both participating in the Mackinac Island Community Theater spring play, “The Little Shop of Horrors.” They also attend yoga class and bingo nights, seemingly finding things to do every day of the week.
To travel to the mainland, the Findleys utilize the Starline Ferry Company. On average, they leave the island once every two weeks. Their car stays at the secured lot of the ferry company. A shuttle delivers them to their vehicle and off they go.
“The great thing about riding this ferry is it gives you kind a pulled-back view of the island. I think that’s when we’re most aware of the season changes, you start to see the little tinge of green in the spring, and you see the fall leaves. It’s a nice way to see the island that you don’t get every day,” Christina said.
The best part
For year-round residents, natural beauty and changing seasons are the hallmark of island life.
“My favorite times are all the season changes,” Christina said. “I love the fall with the colors up here when we get into October in November. I love the season when we’re so busy and people are all over the place and enjoying themselves. But then there’s also a reward when it’s quiet and we sit out on the porch for the hot tea in the afternoon with the fall sun and the colors are turning.”
After finishing a busy summer season, the Findleys have a tradition of taking their tea to the porch roof overlooking the lake, reflecting on their hard work and beautiful surroundings.
“Both of us have traveled extensively, and there’s a phrase I tell people: ‘You can leave Mackinac and never return, but you can never get away from it,’ ” Brian said.