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Be Tickled Pink

By Nora Heston Tarte | Photos Courtesy of The Tickle Pink Inn

The Tickle Pink Inn sits on a boutique property boasting spectacular ocean views in the Carmel Highlands. Touted as a destination for the leisure traveler, it has an interesting past: named for Senator Edward Tickle, the inn was built by family friends of the senator’s in 1956, and today offers more than 60 years’ worth of guest stories.

Al Gurries, managing general partner of the Tickle Pink Inn and descendent of its original builder, says that loyalty—from the staff, guests, and a family of eight grandchildren and third-generation owners who still run the place—sets the inn apart from other area properties. “As one guest put it, years ago,” says Gurries, “‘If you stay here once, you will be back. It gets inside of you like a lovely bar of music.’”

Gurries explains how his grandfather bought ocean-view property in Carmel Highlands, on the same plot of land where his friend Edward Tickle built a stone cottage as a vacation home. The cottage was nicknamed the Tickle Pink for the bright pink flowers Tickle’s wife planted around it. On that land, Gurries’ grandfather built an inn and named it after Tickle’s cottage.

But the real stories of the Tickle Pink are told in the guest logs dating back numerous decades. The weathered books present life at the Tickle Pink Inn through the eyes of those who stayed there. Gurries collects these sentiments, phrases such as “It’s the people that make it special . . . that’s why we always go back,” “You feel like you’re in someone’s home,” and “Our baby is now the third generation at the Tickle Pink.”

Many visitors come because Tickle Pink is part of their histories. One guest wrote, “Now I know why my parents honeymooned here 35 years ago; I will have a lot to tell my children about the Tickle Pink Inn 35 years from now.” Another penned, “We have been coming to the Tickle Pink Inn for 40 years . . . first with our parents, then with our children. It has become a very special place for us.” It’s hard to ignore just how important the inn is to many people. More than half of the staff have been with the inn for 10 or more years, and 25 percent have stayed for more than 20 years. Over 60 percent of guests are repeats or referrals. “Many come several times a year, year after year,” says Gurries. The importance of the property to Gurries’ grandparents and parents is part of the reason he is still involved in the legacy today. Gurries and the seven other grandchildren who own the inn see it as a family legacy of which they are proud to be a part. Their goal is to keep the history of their grandparents and the reputation of the inn alive for years to come. “It’s our living connection to our grandparents and extended family,” says Gurries. “It keeps the family close.”

Since 2015, the property has undergone improvements, with new amenities and décor, including updated artwork, ADA upgrades, new signage, an extended room service menu, new bedding and entry doors, and various personal touches for guests. The family has not abandoned the efforts that have long carried the Tickle Pink: complimentary champagne upon arrival, evening wine and cheese receptions, in-room spa tubs, private balconies, 100 percent Egyptian cotton linens . . . the list goes on, almost as long as Tickle Pink’s history.

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