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When Joe and Margaret Finnegan embarked on their lifelong careers in the field of deaf education, they probably never thought that a second career as inn keepers would be in their future.
Margaret is still involved in deaf education, currently serving as director of the graduate program in deaf education at Flagler College, the first graduate program to be offered at the school.
But Joe might best be described as having switched careers, after serving through the years as principal of the deaf department for the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, as headmaster of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia, and president of the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Today, he’s involved in the day-to-day affairs for two bed and breakfasts, the St. Francis Inn on St. George Street and Casa de Suenos on Cordova, as well as rental properties at St. Augustine Beach: altogether 31 nightly rentals. A staff of about 20, including kitchen and maintenance people, keep things running smoothly.
“We were B&B aficionados,” Joe noted, so much so that in 1983, while living in Philadelphia, the two went on a retreat to Vermont where everyone involved was hoping someday to become a B&B owner.
Two years later they got their wish when attorney George McClure, now deceased, called to tell them that Mr. and Mrs. Chick Davis were interested in selling the St. Francis Inn. Initially continuing their careers in education, the Finnegans at first relied on staff to handle the B&B business. Joe returned to St. Augustine in 1996, joining Margaret, who had come three years earlier accepting a position at Flagler College. For three years they had what Joe describes as “a commuter marriage.”
Since returning, Joe has become involved in numerous community organizations ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to president of the Visitors and Convention Bureau Board. Additional community service has included the St. Augustine Lighthouse and St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church.
Says Finnegan, his goal as an innkeeper is to “keep up with the emerging trends in technology. Our industry is so impacted by social media, and we have to remain ahead of the curve. It’s such a big part of securing new guests and maintaining old guests.”
But he couldn’t be happier about his second career. “We have fabulous guests we host. They come from all over the world, and they all have a story.”