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@Work: Garden by the Sea

Sept. 20, 2005 – Nancy Louis always wanted to own a bed and breakfast. So when Garden by the Sea near Cruz Bay came up for sale, she and her husband, John Diehl, jumped at the chance.
The couple took over ownership of the cozy three-unit bed and breakfast adjacent to Asta Pond in Cruz Bay from Mike and Mary Ann Miller on July 29.
"We cooked breakfast on the 30th for the one couple staying here," Louis said. Laughing, she said that the guest did seem a bit surprised that they checked in with one couple at the helm and checked out with another.
Louis, 51, and Diehl, 52, moved to St. John in 1999 to finish building their house at Boatman Point after their contractor walked off the job.
They spent the next few years finishing the Boatman Point house before buying a second house in Chocolate Hole. That became a project, as Louis and Diehl "pizazzed it up."
Louis and Diehl are now living at Garden By the Sea, with the other two houses in the rental market. The Chocolate Hole house, named Miramar, is for sale.
They met when Louis was managing a mystery dinner theater restaurant in St. Louis called the Bissell Mansion. Diehl worked at a bar down the street where Louis stopped after work.
"I hired him to cook at the restaurant," she said.
They moved to Atlanta to open their own mystery dinner theater restaurant, Agatha's Taste of Mystery, and settled in. Louis said Atlanta was booming, and it was warmer than St. Louis
After 10 years, the Indiana-born Louis and Diehl, who hails from St. Louis, decided to sell, which led to their decision to make St. John home. The bought land on St. John just before they sold the restaurant.
"We were semi-retired," she said.
When their deal with the builder went south, they realized they had to step in to get the house done. They became the general contractor.
"I had some silly notion that the builder would build the house, and we'd move right in," Diehl said, laughing.
Diehl learned to use the tools of the trade on the spot. He said when they arrived, he couldn't use a hammer and never owned a power tool because he was afraid he'd hurt himself.
They lived off the proceeds from the Atlanta sale, but when money began to run out, they looked around for a money-making venture.
Louis said they looked at other properties for sale around St. John, but decided on Garden by the Sea because the price was right and the previous owners had the place in tip-top shape.
"The place was perfect," she said.
When she's not attending to Garden by the Sea, Louis volunteers at the Animal Care Center of St. John. And she finds time for pottery, painting and sewing.
Diehl doesn't have much free time, but vowed to schedule in some beach time after realizing he was working all the time.
Reach Garden by the Sea at 340-779-4731. Visit the Web site at www.gardenbythesea.com.

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