A classic coastal resort with spectacular ocean views, Little River Inn boasts a long legacy of authentic family hospitality. The fifth generation, including Innkeeper Cally Dym and her husband, Executive Chef Marc Dym, is currently at the helm, happily welcoming guests just as the family has done since 1939.
Standing on the front porch of Little River Inn, it’s hard to imagine that the peaceful bay below once was a robust shipping port. In the 1850s, millions of board feet of lumber were loaded onto ships that sailed around the world. The owner of the lumber mill was Silas Coombs, great grandfather of Danny Hervilla and Susan Hervilla McKinney, the inn’s present owners.
The Coombs home became Little River Inn in 1939 when Cora Coombs and her husband Ole Hervilla opened for business on May 27. “Little River Inn – the Beauty Spot of the Coast” the banner ads read in the local papers. It all started at Little River Inn when Ole asked his mother-in-law to turn her living room into a bar. Back in 1939 the bar was also the office, where he conducted business while bartending, smoking stogies and telling tall tales. Change was made from his cigar box, and the one key that worked in every lock was given to the occasional city slicker who insisted on locking their door at night. A 1939 photo of the bar reveals the exact same ocean view room so popular today as Ole’s Whale Watch Bar.
Stories about Cora and Ole are legend. For years he picked (illegally, it would seem) the abalone for which the inn was famous. He cooked it, too, on a special grill he fashioned. He adapted that grill for Ole’s Swedish Hotcakes which are still served every morning at the inn.
Cora turned out wonderful food, including glorious pies. The recipe for her huckleberry pie still is in use by countless Mendocino Coast cooks. It was Cora who supervised the vegetable gardens, and furnished the inn with the graciousness she lent her own home.
Susan and Danny remember the inn’s kitchen as their own. They had chores: gathering and stacking firewood for him, dusting and vacuuming for her. Both kids could change a bed in record time. “When you grow up in a home where there are inn guests,” Susan McKinney recalls, “you just naturally treat them as you would guests in your own home.”
Family and cousins and spouses are part of the management mix at Little River Inn. And employees tend to be long term; several have been with Little River Inn over 20 years and many more than 10. It all bears out the authenticity of the inn’s claim: Family hospitality since 1939.
It is true that tradition and warmth are pervasive at Little River Inn. It is also true that the inn boasts stunning views of the Pacific. Yet it is not until watching the sunset over the ocean, sipping a perfectly chilled martini and dunking crusty bread into the remaining broth of steamed clams that one slows down enough to truly appreciate what happens when location and hospitality coincide in perfect unison. And how special this convergence when nurtured by generations both past and present.