LOVELL, Maine — A couple who run a Caribbean restaurant bested thousands of would-be innkeepers to win the contest of a lifetime. Rose and Prince Adams are the new owners of the Center Lovell Inn, offered to the public for $125 and a pithy essay.

“We are excited and frightened,” Prince, reached Saturday at his home in U.S. Virgin Island of St. John, said.

Rose was eating breakfast June 6 when she got the call from inn owner Janice Page. Their lives magically changed.

“I thought it was a reservation,” Rose, chef and owner of Sweet Plantains, said.

“My wife was hysterical,” Prince added.

After reading about the contest in the New York Daily News, the couple wrote a 200-word essay, which sailed to the top of a pool of thousands sent in from across the country and around the world. A team of anonymous judges selected the top 20, and Page picked the Adams’ essay because it “portrayed exactly what the contest called for — the ability to run a country inn,” Page confirmed Saturday.

For the last 12 years, the Brooklyn natives have run Sweet Plantains but recently decided to put the business on the market.

“The whole prospect of owning is appealing,” Prince, 45, said. “We saw this as an opportunity to own something that we couldn’t afford [to do] on our own.”

Prince plans to arrive at the inn Tuesday and assess his prize. The couple would like to re-open the bed-and-breakfast by July 10. Will they give this 1805 inn with a wrap-around porch and chef’s kitchen a Caribbean twist?

“It’s a treasure trove for a chef,” said Rose, whose culinary experience includes stints at high-end St. John resorts such as Caneel Bay and Cinnamon Bay. She ran a catering business in New York for years. They plan to retool their spicy menu to local tastes.

“Maine has artisan producers and farmers, and we want to work with them,” Prince said.

Will moving to Maine, a state they have never set foot in, present a challenge?

“We have to experience it and see. We haven’t seen the snow in over 10 years. Our son has only experienced snow once,” Rose, 45, said.

“We don’t have relationship with Maine, but a lot of our customer base is from that area, and they have been telling us we have to open there,” Prince said.

The couple prayed to win the contest. Their 10-year-old son, Jacob, helped.

“He wants a dog, a Great Dane, which is like a small horse. There is no room for a dog here,” Prince said. “I have to make good on the promise.”

The couple said they wanted to thank “all the people who entered the essay contest to make this possible.”

And to all the entrants who were not selected, there is a restaurant in the tropics that has just been drastically reduced in price.

“We had a good time here,” Rose said. “We will miss the beaches and the weather, too.”

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.