Speaking of Anniversaries

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Innkeep's picture
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It's been 10 years ago this month that I moved my parents into assisted living.  Sibs and I emptied out their house and put it on the market.  Their adjustment into AL was rocky, to say the least.  When my mom was ejected from the first place we chose for them, Mom, Dad, and I literally spent a night in a motel before I could get them into another place, which was much more suitable for them and became their home for the last phase of their lives.  I made the trek to visit every day until they were gone.  You never know that you'll have the strength to do that until you have to, and then it just becomes a natural part of the schedule.

So, after a year of the house being on the market, me having parent issues and work issues, there wasn't even a nibble from an interested buyer (this is before the downturn and houses were selling back then, just not our house.)  So, the only two alternatives that came to mind were to tear it down or convert it into college rentals.  I wasn't keen on either idea, but didn't really know what I was going to do until one day while driving to work I passed the house, saw the for sale sign, and it popped into my head that the house would make a great bed and breakfast.  This is particularly ironic because I had never stayed in a bed and breakfast!

Most of you, especially the old timers have heard how much effort it took for me to make it happen.  As I explain to my guests, it took a year of paperwork and another year of construction.  At the time I was chafing every minute, but in retrospect, I really benefited from the delay because I stumbled onto the A bout.com forum and met this cadre of online buddies.  I really believe it took me most of the 2 years to acquire the innkeeping mindset.  Initially I even thought I could keep my day job!

I'm in a town and a state that is not known for its bed and breakfasts, and as Jay Karen is fond of saying, you have to think of a B&B before you'll ever stay at one.  Ergo I haven't ever had flocks of people coming to stay here.  I tried blogging for a year, spent lots of time on it, but all it's gotten me are a multitude of hits for basketball, and a few weird phone conversations with folks who think I must know where they can learn more about Amish cooking!  So (Sorry Joey) for me blogging just wasn't worth it.  Link love and Google Juice would be great but I've decided that life is too short for me to craft literary opuses that don't get the right audiences, and I don't have enough innkeeper ADD to write short blogs with lots of pictures.

I am literally surrounded by a state university.  For a year I had an ad on their online newspaper, have had coupons in their phonebook, have made treks bearing cookies to departmental secretaries, and every "Welcome to BSU" packet handed out at freshman parents orientation for the past 5 years has had one of my rack cards in it.  I'm always full for graduation, as is every other hotel room in town, and for years I've heard "If we only knew about your place when he was a freshman..."  Then there's this concept that if a business doesn't make a profit for x number of years the IRS says it's only a hobby.  Us innkeepers prefer to say "lifestyle".  This past winter here in the midwest was brutal, and many of the reservations that were made had to be cancelled.  So not much action here this winter, which made the Innspiring Road Trip a true getaway.

Sooo, the rest of the story.  Next year I turn 65 and so I've decided not to obsess about marketing.  I'm not totally sure yet, but I think longevity is probably the biggest thing that helps.  April was historically dead here in past years, so that was my vacation time.  So, with my new attitude of marketing shmarketing, I was busy this April (Remember, busy is a relative term).  What I'm seeing more and more of are people with local ties who've been told to stay here - e.g. parents live here but house isn't big enough to have grown children, grandparents visiting, families coming for funerals, and the dreaded donated gift certificates.  ( I've been giving GC's to local charities where I used to just open my checkbook - and I'm now re-thinking that - gift baskets sure take a lot less effort.)  I've even had parents of a freshman theater major who want to come for all of her performances!

This is BSU graduation weekend (no, I can't count on 2 night bookings... families are in a hurry to move on out) and for the first time I have both nights booked solid.  Saturday night 2 rooms are business guests. This summer I also have some weekends booked solid with families coming for weddings, a few longer night stays for relatives visiting, business people, and I'm having to turn people away for some dates.  I'm cleaning the same room 3 or 4 days in a row!

So, I could use a housekeeper.  I've found a girl who recently lost her job.  She's looking for another real job but in the mean time, she'll help me out.  I might even talk her into mowing the grass.  The job market around here is dismal, so I'm hoping I'll have her for the summer.  Unfortunately, her daughter had a tonsillectomy today, so I'm still cleaning all the rooms for another week.

This post was really fueled by questions about discounts, stories about PO's, etc.  Our town is still in a deep economic downturn.  Since so many of my guests have local ties, I discount.  One set of grandparents have been here 25 times.  They could find a motel for 60% of my discounted rate, and I make enough income in spite of my discounting to have the B&B pay for itself.  I figure that the higher rack rate scares the rowdy folks away.  

Since I've been an innkeeper, I've met so many people that I never would have met otherwise.  Yes, some have been famous, but it's mostly the regular people who visit who have enriched my life with their stories.  I've also been enriched by falling in with you all.  I hope to keep doing this as long as I'm able, but would love to be a fly on the wall when either a new set of owners, or the executors of my estate try to make head or tails out of my discounting policy!  I'm hoping that when I'm ready to sell I can find someone else suffering from burn-out who is ready to benefit from the innkeeping lifestyle!  In the mean time, when my guests ask all those nosey questions like "how are you doing?" I say "great!" and "How long have you had this place?" I say "almost 7 years, but I'm still getting the hang of it."

P.S  This post was fueled by 1/2 bottle of the same wine that went on the road trip.  HA

 

Country Girl's picture
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02/20/2009

That was so beautifully written and I could tell it came straight from your heart. I think you echoed what a lot of us are feeling. Thanks.

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Ice
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02/22/2010

Hugs to Innkeep, you are awesome!

 

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10/07/2008

In honor of this "Speaking of anniversaries" i am having blackberry sage tea in my favorite MNH hand thrown cloth and clay mug.  CHEERS!

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Silverspoon's picture
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10/16/2011

You have warmed my heart!  Thanks for sharing your thoughts...even if they had a little help from the wine! wink

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Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

That was wonderful!

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Innkeep's picture
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blush

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

Innkeep has a lovely B & B and is an excellent innkeeper that I have been blessed to get to know. And even better - she is FUN!! She has it right - longevity is a large part of he equation. It takes time for it to finally filter through that you exist. I still hear in my metropolis (population 2300) "I didn't know we had a B & B in town!" But some have heard the message. I also am starting to get family of locals.

And Innkeep, this is for you - Thank you for being my friend.

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Innkeep is an innkeeper of few words, so when she speaks I listen. And then there is the wine... Smiling

Still listening. I think most of us would benefit from actually enjoying innkeeping vs battling it out all the time. I don't want to sing "You've lost that lovin' feelin'..."

Thanks for the words from your heart, I am pleased to call you innmate!

Arks's picture
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05/22/2010

At the time I was chafing every minute, but in retrospect, I really benefited from the delay...

I had the same experience. After months of planning, my first property deal fell through so I didn't get to put in the B&B I was originally planning, then the second property purchase and restoration took 18 months longer than planned. The delays gave me time to learn, re-think, and avoid a lot of early plans that I now realize would have been the wrong direction for me to take. Slow and easy wins the race!

P.S  This post was fueled by 1/2 bottle of the same wine that went on the road trip.  HA

That was great wine! And led to great conversation and the hardest game anybody has ever made me play! (But I loved it!)

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All saints can do miracles, but few of them can keep hotel. ~ Mark Twain

 

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