Deanna Crossman was demolishing the kitchen of her second Durham home when Colin Crossman stopped by with take-out and a plea for guidance as he learned how to renovate his home across the street.
Over the next six months, the two Duke University graduate students helped one another with their respective home renovation projects. Shop talk soon evolved into romance.
Once the new couple had bought and restored two houses each, Colin Crossman asked his girlfriend to buy a home to restore together.
“I don’t buy houses with boyfriends,” Deanna Crossman, then Deanna Carrick, told Colin.
She had no idea he was planning to propose that day.
More than 10 years later, Colin, 37, and Deanna, 36, are married and are expecting their first child this year. They have bought and renovated 12 more homes together and opened The King’s Daughters Inn in Durham.
The $14.5 million hotel, on the corner of South Academy and East Park streets, is part of Cary’s downtown revitalization efforts. The Georgian-style building, with its modern decor, spa and restaurant, is a four-diamond hotel like their Durham establishment.
In the final weeks leading up to the opening, the Crossmans were anxious, holding their collective breath as each inspection passed one by one. A failed inspection or bad weather could mean delaying the opening even longer. It already had been pushed back several months because of rain and ice during construction, which took up more than a year.
But on Saturday, they put the finishing touches on their newest real estate baby and welcomed their first guests to the hotel.
And on Sunday – Valentine’s Day – the couple will get to slow down for the first time in months, sleeping in and then heading to the The King’s Daughters Inn for its annual champagne tasting.
“Construction has been a challenge,” Deanna Crossman said. “It’s been a struggle. It’s been great fun, but I’m ready to be running two hotels. It’s time for the next chapter.”
Ins and outs of inns
The Crossmans’ story didn’t begin with a desire to be in the hotel business.
Deanna Crossman, an upstate-New York native who spent most of her life in Durham, went to school to become a cancer researcher. Colin Crossman, a Cleveland native, wanted to pursue patent law.
That was until they realized they loved renovating houses and hosting dinner parties for their friends much more than their day jobs. On their first wedding anniversary, they decided to write up the contract for their first hotel, The King’s Daughters Inn.
“My family is kind of in tech. His is in custom hospitality furniture,” Deanna Crossman said. “We had a real estate background. It just all fell into place.”
The King’s Daughters Inn in Durham opened in 2009 after two years of planning and renovations, which the Crossmans did on their own. Neither of them had ever worked in hospitality before they opened on April 18 that year.
“I think that gave us an advantage,” Deanna Crossman said. “We just did what we would want as guests and not what the hotel industry does.”
The couple ran The King’s Daughters Inn for six months without staff, learning the ins and outs of inns firsthand. Deanna Crossman covered housekeeping, laundry and cooking, and Colin Crossman answered phones and handled the books and dishes.
“We learned every facet, because there were no other humans,” Deanna Crossman said. “It’s a different perspective.”
A few years later, Colin and Deanna Crossman began considering opening a second hotel when they fell in love with downtown Cary and decided to build on Academy Street.
Days before the opening of The Mayton Inn, Colin and Deanna Crossman sat in one of the hotel’s common areas, reminiscing about when they met more than a decade before. Deanna teased her husband about his limited knowledge of restoration at the time.
“This one didn’t know how to do construction back then,” she said with a smirk. “He didn’t have any tools.”
“I could do electrical,” he responded.
“But you didn’t have any electrical tools,” she said, laughing.
While they share a love of restoring houses, Colin and Deanna Crossman couldn’t be more different.
Colin is quieter, while Deanna has a take-charge personality. He says he’s a dreamer, always looking at the big picture. She is more of a doer. Deanna is a morning person. Colin is a night owl.
But they say those differences have made their 10-year marriage and their business ventures a success from the beginning.
“We make a really great team,” Deanna Crossman said. “If you give us a problem, I will say ‘black,’ and he will say ‘white.’ We will argue for awhile, and then we will come up with a better solution than either of us started with. That’s why we can work together, live together, play together.”
And arguing, she said, is the key.
“Don’t be afraid to argue sometimes,” she said. “It’s okay. You’re allowed. You come from different places. You’re different people, but you just have to be respectful about it. One person can’t always be the one to sacrifice.”
The next chapter
Now that The Mayton Inn is complete, the Crossmans can begin the next chapter in their lives. They will move from the King’s Daughters Inn to live in the historic Mayton House after it’s renovated. They moved the Mayton House from the west side of South Academy Street in January next to their new hotel.
Their first child, a son, is due June 28.
“2016 is a big year, first half of the year,” Deanna Crossman said. “The opening of the second hotel, our 10-year wedding anniversary, the birth of our first child. That’s the trifecta.”
“Yeah, I don’t think we need to be doing anything else this year,” Colin Crossman said laughing.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon