Northshore Magazine

Northshore April 2020

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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90 BRIAR FORSYTHE'S ORIGINAL PLAN WAS TO be an opera singer. After high school, she attended a conservatory to study classical voice, training for a career on the stage. Then her parents decided to open a small hotel in Cambridge, the Mary Prentiss Inn. Forsythe started running the inn as the manager—seeing to guests' needs. Along the way, she realized she loved the work and that it offered more stability than the life of a performer, so she decided to keep her passion for music but to make hospitality her profession. Today, that decision has led to an acclaimed event and catering business at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, as well as the new-but-thriving Briar Barn Inn and Spa and Grove restaurant in Rowley. "I enjoy working with my family, but I always knew I wanted my own thing," Forsythe says, sitting in front of the fireplace in the inviting library of the Briar Barn Inn. After working with her parents for years, Forsythe's first foray into running her own business was the launch of Willowdale Estate as a wedding destination. Her parents leased the property, overgrown and long-neglected, from the state as part of a program aimed at restoring and preserving historic spots. The family did extensive work on the fieldstone Arts and Crafts manor, and in 2007, Forsythe opened Willowdale. From the beginning, her focus was on the food. Since her childhood, Forsythe has loved cooking and baking. At the age of 12, she started volunteering to cook dinner for her family. Throughout her time in the conservatory and beyond, she often catered friends' parties and recitals. When Willowdale first launched, Forsythe was often in the kitchen herself preparing food. As the business grew, however, she had to step back from more of the daily operations and concern herself with managing the expansion. Though she had no formal business training, she read books, asked questions, and her experience with running the Mary Prentiss Inn gave her a great foundation. Even as Willowdale became one of the most coveted wedding venues on the North Shore, Forsythe wanted something more fully her own. Her parents agreed to partner with her on a new property that would include an inn, restaurant, and spa. The result is the Briar Barn Inn, a 30- room establishment with what Forsythe calls a "new-historic" vibe, which opened for business in January 2019. Grove restaurant followed in March, offering seasonal menus of updated classics. An intimate high-end spa opened on the property in November. Her family was deeply involved in developing and designing the property. Her father, an architect, designed the buildings to combine a traditional New England aesthetic with a touch of modern luxury. Her mother, an artist, painstakingly designed BRIAR FORSYTHE HAS SPENT HER LIFE LEARNING ABOUT THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY AND IT HAS PAID OFF IN SPADES. B Y S A R A H S H E M K U S each guest room with an individual style. Her brother's company sourced art, furniture, and architectural elements to give the space its own personality. Building a business entails hard work, financial risk, and plenty of sacrifice, she acknowledges. But when it all comes together, the benefits make the struggle worthwhile. She gets to see visitors enjoy what she's built and to create a supportive and passionate workplace for her staff. And she gets the independence of being in charge of her own professional life. She also has time to run, in partnership with a friend, the Summer Institute for Vocal Arts, an Arlington-based nonprofit that gives promising young singers a chance to participate in a summer musical production. It gives artists the support she found lacking during her own musical training. As Forsythe points out some of the details in the design and décor of the inn, she notes her satisfaction in achieving her own business goals, and then some. "It's exciting to see all of this work come to fruition—it turned out beautifully," she says. briarbarninn.com PHOTOGRAPH BY LEA ST. GERMAIN Briar Forsythe's newest ventures, the Briar Barn Inn and Grove Restaurant are truly inviting.

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