From London to Boston to Eatonton, the Garrett family connects guests at the Dot 2 Dot Inn to their new community.
Karen Henry-Garrett and her husband, Richard, welcome guests to the Dot 2 Dot Inn with an air of Southern hospitality that makes you think they have lived in Georgia their whole life. Not many might guess the couple only just moved to the South. Originally from London, the Garretts lived in Boston for thirteen years before finding their way to Eatonton and settling into its historic district.
In London, Karen attended the Tante Marie Cordon Bleu school and worked at private estates, living and traveling with dignitaries and their families, as their personal chef. She went on to cater at universities and major events in the central London area for roughly eight years before moving to the United States.
Once in Massachusetts, Karen opened a café called Dot 2 Dot, where she served fresh breakfasts and lunches to customers on Dorchester Avenue. The café was especially well-known by local children for the pancakes, but people of all ages enjoyed the homemade meals and welcoming environment at Dot 2 Dot Café.
“The joy that came out of it was creating this community that ended up loving what we did and supporting us through everything and selling us to anyone who would listen,” says Karen. “That’s a really nice feeling to be able to create that.”
While Karen has a natural gift to cook and serve people, owning a restaurant took too much time away from her husband and son, Fin. She wanted to continue doing what she loved, but sought flexible hours that would allow more time with her family. Opening a bed and breakfast seemed to be the solution.
After selling the cafe, Karen and Richard searched for historic homes all over the South, including properties in Nashville, Charleston, and Atlanta. Their real estate agent knew the owner of The Reid-Griffith House, an Antebellum home in the heart of downtown Eatonton, which was technically off the market, but the agent gave the owners a call anyways.
“You know how some things are like, ‘Is it meant to be?’” says Karen about finding the house. “Maybe it was just meant to be.”
The house was exactly what Karen wanted – an historic Antebellum home in a diverse neighborhood. In March 2018, they moved into the home and opened their new bed and breakfast, the Dot 2 Dot Inn, in October.
“We’ve always lived in historic homes and we like older style furnishings, but we also try to keep it interesting, eclectic, and personal. This house is not so period-specific that it forces you to align everything with the times. It has accommodated anything we’ve thrown at it so far.”Richard Garrett
The B&B allows Karen to use her experiences of catering and owning a restaurant, while providing the same hospitality she was known for in Boston and beyond. The family is already accustomed to opening their home to people from all over the world, as they’ve housed many international students while living in Boston. These students came from all over the world –Switzerland, Malaysia, and Spain – and some still stay in touch with the Garrett family.
“I think that kind of paved the way for us,” says Karen. “Knowing that we didn’t have a problem with people being in our house.”
Karen sees Dot 2 Dot as a window to the world through which she can meet a diverse range of people. Her goal is to bring people from various backgrounds together and “connect the dots” between them, inspiring the name, Dot 2 Dot.
The Eatonton community immediately welcomed them into the neighborhood and Karen quickly made connections with many people and businesses in town, especially The Plaza Arts Center. Only a short walk away, The Plaza saw an opportunity for convenient dinner options before shows and special events, and Karen saw more opportunities to connect.
“We know everyone,” says Garrett. “Which I think is great to be able to say that we know everyone in a year.”
Because of the generous spirit of the surrounding community, Karen had a strong support system when she became suddenly ill. She had four catering jobs scheduled the week she fell ill, and could only complete two of them before hospitalization.
“The people around here were phenomenal,” says Karen. “Friends that I did not have a year ago came out of the woodwork. It was incredible.”
Community members freely gave their time to help. Over the phone, Karen instructed her husband on what needed to be done and he was able to direct the volunteers. Against the odds, the group catered a wedding brunch for 70 guests and a prom dinner for 150 guests.
“I will not regret moving here for that,” says Karen. “If they talk about small town friendliness and people really saying what they mean; they showed it 150 percent. It was fantastic and I could not thank them enough.”
Karen seeks to make her guests and neighbors feel just as welcomed and cared for as she did when moving to the area, through her hospitality and gourmet cooking. Everything she prepares for guests is made from scratch using fresh ingredients.
In addition to making breakfast for guests at Dot 2 Dot, Karen caters events and offers dinner for those attending shows at The Plaza, in order to extend her love to the people in the community.
Using Dot 2 Dot Inn and its services, Karen wants to bring people together, either with old or new friends.
“We do have friends, but how often do we actually take the time to go out and say ‘I should spend time with you’?” says Karen. “It shows to the other person that you care enough to make that effort to come out and I think that is really nice.”
Richard says they’ve never lived in a small town and is grateful they settled on Eatonton.
“All the good stereotypes about small towns seem to exist here,” he says. “Everyone is really friendly and welcoming, and they appreciate us. I think Eatonton was a good choice.”
Story by Nancy Belle Hansford