Our Members Speak Out
Speedwell Forge B&B,
Question for March: Do you think attending innkeeper
conferences is worthwhile? Why or why not?
Email your responses to
Sandy@BedandBreakfast.com. If we publish your comments, we’ll thank you
with a $25 credit in our Featured Properties Auction program!
You were asked: Do you remember your “first
time?” We'd love to hear stories about your very first guests.
What was most memorable about the first time you hosted people
at your inn?“We were new not only to innkeeping but also to
the small Southern town and hosting a weekend Bible study
retreat. We were concerned that our ‘Yankee big city ways’ might
not be what our first ‘reserved Southern Christian group’ would
be expecting. As the first couples arrived early, they requested
access to the other rooms their group would be occupying. A
little odd perhaps, but we agreed, and each couple that arrived
made the same request. They were booby-trapping rooms and hiding
scary Halloween surprises for each other – a bloody dissected
arm, spiders, cobwebs, etc.
“As the last couple arrived, the men joined each other outdoors.
One sat in an antique Victorian bistro chair that collapsed
him. Another, curious to see what was behind a cupboard door
above the commode in his bathroom, wound up knocking the toilet
lid closed mid-business and peeing on the floor, which he found
so funny he shared it with the group over that night's dinner. I
had lovingly prepared dinner, but it apparently gave one of the
20 guests repeated bouts of noisy gas which he felt no need to
attempt to curtail, even as they couples were in the midst of a
lovely wedding vows renewal ceremony! Needless to say, we
realized we were more than refined and cultured enough to handle
this and many less overt guests. As long as we keep a sense of
humor, I think we'll be all right!” – Pam Matthews,
Montgomery Inn, Versailles, KY
“We are located 23 miles to the gate to Yosemite on Highway 120.
We purchased an 1849 Adobe and 1914 Queen Anne property out of a
foreclosure. Both buildings were just about ready for
demolition, but we needed cash flow prior to the big restoration
project. With the help of our sons and their friends and
families, we spent five days repairing, cleaning, painting and
installing ceiling fans, carpet, etc. to get 14 guest rooms with
eight bathrooms operating. We had also determined we would be a
100% non-smoking property, with signage posted appropriately
around the buildings, as well as in each room.
“Our planned opening was June 15, 1990, with no reservations. We
barely had the linens in the rooms when there was a very major
snowstorm in Yosemite on June 14, causing travelers without snow
chains to be turned back at the gate. Four young ladies from
Ireland showed up looking for lodging. My husband, Grover, and I
looked at each other, and said ‘Why not?'
“So these were our first guests, but the most memorable event
was when we began to smell this odor; our wonderful guests were
smoking ‘pot' in their room! What to do? I really wasn't ready
to deal with this, but I knew it was 'now or never'. I went to
the room with my most professional, stern voice and reminded
them we were a non-smoking property and that 'pot' is illegal in
this country. They apologized profusely and promised to
discontinue their smoking and to air out the room. This was my
introduction to innkeeping.
“A few years later, with the restoration completed and 17 guest
rooms, including three two-room suites, all private baths, a
restaurant and saloon, two of these original guests returned for
a very nice visit. What a pleasure to have them return.” – Peg
Groveland Hotel at Yosemite National Park, Groveland, CA
“Twenty-five years ago we hosted our first guests, a young
couple from England. They were to stay 18 days, and to say that
we were nervous was an understatement.
“Wendy and Peter arrived, and we fell in love with them right
away. They went to the ‘Big Apple’ every day and one night
decided to stay over with some people that they met. They called
us so we would not worry.
“On the last evening on their stay, Wendy cooked us a
traditional English dinner: roast beef, cauliflower, Yorkshire
pudding, peas and for dessert, trifle. It was wonderful and we
all cried at the end – even my husband! We became ‘Mum’ and
‘Dad’ to our ‘kids.’
“A few years later we visited them in England and had a terrific
time. Then, giving us two years notice, they invited us to the
renewal of their wedding vows for their 25th anniversary. It was
to be at the Queen's private chapel at Windsor Castle (Peter was
a guide there and was loved by the Queen) with a large dinner
for 200 afterward. Only 26 people were invited to the renewal of
the vows. How very honored we were to be among them.
“At the end of that trip, Peter and Wendy flew back to New York
with us and stayed with us at our new B&B in Saratoga Springs.
They then left for their ‘honeymoon’ to Vancouver.
“We are still in touch and love them very much. We hope to see
them again in the near future. Without a B&B, we would never
have met this wonderful young couple.” – Wendy and Richard
Country Life, Greenwich, NY
“We closed on Annabelle (operating for 12 years) on Friday,
moved in on Saturday, and had 10 guests for Sunday morning
breakfast. I felt I had made a tragic mistake becoming a B&B
owner. So I just closed my eyes, pretended that the guest were
family members, relaxed and prepared breakfast. I received rave
reviews. The guests were amazed to learn that we had just moved
in. One couple gave us a nice bottle of wine from their stash to
celebrate the beginning of our new life. Those first guests set
the tone for us. Each new guest is welcomed as a family member.
We now know we did not make a tragic error and have enjoyed each
guest who visits.” – Carolyn & Paul,
Bed & Breakfast, Vicksburg, MS
“Our first guests were a lovely couple from Carson City, Nevada,
and their check-in date was the same day we moved into the inn.
(We bought an existing inn.) We called them about two weeks
prior and said that we were the new owners and would be moving
in that date and if they wanted to go someplace else we would
understand. They said no way. So they checked in and stayed for
four nights. I remember saying to my boyfriend, ‘Oh no, we have
to fix breakfast in the morning –find the box labeled ‘pots and
pans.’’ We were grocery shopping at midnight. The guests felt
right at home when they even helped carry a few boxes upstairs.
They were delightful, and we will always remember our first!” –
Diane & Jim Sokolowski,
Battle Island Inn Bed & Breakfast, Fulton, NY
“One of my first guests was Susan from Brooklyn. When she first
called she asked if I had bed-boyds. I asked her what a boyd
was. She said, ‘You know, the boyd that goes between the
mattress and the box spring.’ I said, ‘You mean board.’
She then asked what I made for breakfast. I told her that that
morning I had made baked German pancakes. She asked, ‘What's
that?’ I told her it was like a soufflé filled with apples and
brown sugar. She said, ‘That sounds great - I don't eat eggs but
I eat soufflés.’ I took that to mean she didn't eat ordinary
eggs (scrambled) or eggs that look up at you.
She then made a reservation in a room that had a view of the
lake. The reservation was for late November, and she and her
husband arrived after 6 p.m. I showed her the room. She soon
came downstairs and complained that she couldn't see the lake. I
told her it was dark outside and she'd see the lake in the
morning when the sun came up.
She came down for breakfast. Thinking the baked German pancake
was a safe entrée, I served her. She then said, ‘I told you I
don't eat eggs,’ asked if I had French toast. I said ‘No, but
would you like cereal?’ She was indignant and asked if I had an
English muffin with cheese on it. When I brought her the English
muffin I just couldn't help myself; I said, ‘I didn't realize
you didn't know soufflés are made with eggs.’ She said ‘Oh no,
soufflés are made with chocolate.’ Well, I thought the other
guests were going to lose whatever was in their mouths. Thank
goodness Susan was one of a kind or I wouldn't still be doing
this after 11 years.” – Sandy Rademacher,
of the Lake, Skaneateles, NY
“Gosh, did I get lucky with my first B&B guests. I was scheduled
to open in a fortnight with guests booked in the rooms. This was
almost 20 years ago. All I had to help was a book I'd read on
operating a B&B and experience I'd had as a concierge at the
Ritz Carlton when I was in graduate school 10 years previously.
“To say I was winging it was an understatement. I was terrified
and was trying to work out all the details when I got a call
from an artist who was traveling through the area. The artist
had heard about the property's views and wanted to spend the
afternoon sketching on the deck.
“I invited the artist over for the afternoon. I found him and
his wife to be delightful people and invited them to stay as
guests. I got to ‘practice’ on the couple and they, in turn,
were able to spend several days on artwork. I wound up
purchasing a large number of Southwest-inspired pieces from the
artist to replace the artworks I had brought from my beach
“One of the pieces is an original entitled ‘View from Saddlerock
Ranch’ and was painted on the property. To this day, the works
grace the walls and are much commented on and enjoyed by our
guests. After almost 20 years and thousands of guests, I still
love the artwork They are a living reminder of the delightful
artist and his wife who were my very first guests.” – Fran
Saddlerock Ranch, Sedona, AZ
”After five years of planning, 18 months of renovation, moving
cross-country, and just finishing an 'open house' with over 500
visitors, our first guests happened across our website and
booked on Thursday for Friday night. They had no idea we had
just gotten our occupancy permit the day before, that we didn't
have a credit card reader yet, or that we had given them our
alarm clock because I forgot to buy one for the room.
Fortunately the only thing that happened was the whirlpool bath
broke on its first use, but they were good sports. Our second
guests were even more memorable because they became our first
repeat guests two months later.” – Gregg Hesling,
Speedwell Forge B&B, Lititz, PA
“My first guests were memorable, but only because of what I
found after they left: A woman called to reserve our cabin
(behind our house) for her daughter's honeymoon (one night). I
explained that they would be our first guests and asked if I
could give the couple a bottle of bubbly to celebrate that, and
their wedding. She exclaimed "Oh no, they are both in rehab!
Please don't have any temptations like that in the cabin.” I
agreed to leave a bottle of sparkling cider, and she thought
that was fine.
“When the young couple arrived, they were very friendly and
seemed so excited to stay in a B&B for their first time. I think
I was more excited than they were! I showed them around, and
they asked about a good restaurant for dinner. I provided them
with my book of menus and directions and arranged to bring their
breakfast in the morning. I pointed out the cider as a small
gift from me.
“The next morning, I brought their meal at the pre-arranged
time, and they were still asleep. The young man got up and let
me in, and I placed the food and left, asking him to stop by my
house before they departed so I could thank them.
“I hadn't seen them by noon, so I went over to check on them.
They had left without saying a word, and I hadn't heard their
car leave. But I found 10 empty beer bottles, a half-empty
bottle of Chivas, and some small airline-sized bottles of rum,
also empty. I was so surprised! Of course, there sat the
sparkling cider, untouched, as was most of the breakfast I had
prepared, so nervous and wanting to please my first guests.
“They wrote in my guest book that my cabin held a special place
in their hearts, and bestowed blessings upon me, and that they
would return for every anniversary. When the next year rolled
around, I didn't hear a peep from them, and I decided not to
write and invite them back. I was afraid I might hit a sad
nerve.” – Bonnie Rames,
Guest House Bed & Breakfast, Brightwood, OR
“You bet I remember our first guests! We had just closed on the
inn and returned from our attorney's office. Boxes and furniture
were wall-to-wall. Former guests from Canada knocked on our door
seeking a room for the night. My answer: "Yes, we can give you a
room, but we cannot serve breakfast. Step in and you will see
why.” They stayed, and we have been friends ever since. What a
wonderful, engaging vocation this is! – Alyce Mundy,
Dunscroft By-The-Sea, Cape Cod, MA
“Brenda called us in March 2002 (three months before we
officially opened for business). She wanted to come by and see
Moss Point Oaks with her Great Aunt Louisa. Kim, of course,
invited them to stop by. Brenda had been traveling from Houston
to Pascagoula on a regular basis to care for her aging father.
She was seeking accommodations beyond what the local motels and
hotels could offer; she wanted warmth and coziness.
“She and her aunt toured our home and gardens (which were and
remain a work in progress) and fell in love with Moss Point
Oaks. She really wouldn’t take no for answer and moved her bags
in as soon as she took her aunt home. Brenda stayed with us for
four weeks before returning to Houston. Over the next six
months, she returned for two additional four-week stays.
“During her visits, she joined us for supper as well as
breakfast and fast became part of our family. She helped Kim
clean her guest room and helped me clean up after supper. We
would sit and talk for hours on end in the evenings. It wasn’t
hard to convert her to a ‘porch sitter’. Inevitably, the
conversation would turn to her father; his health, living
standards, when to move him to assisted living, etc. Our hearts
were knitted together forever. Kim and I started wondering what
we could do to help.
“Brenda finally managed to organize her father’s care, and her
visits became less frequent. She would call from time to time,
and often our emails would be frequent. We shared with Brenda
how we wanted to do something for her and her family if her
father were to pass away. That desire became reality last week
when she called to report that the doctors had advised her to
gather the family, for his time was growing very near.
“Brenda and her family interred her father last Wednesday and
then met at Moss Point Oaks, where we prepared an afternoon tea
for them. They spent several hours reminiscing and helping each
other start the healing process. Our joy in becoming part of her
family came full circle that day.
“Innkeeping allows us to share our lives but also to share the
lives of our guests. Being a host or hostess and not a manager
or clerk affords us the opportunity to be friends as well. There
are many other stories we could share in just the two years we
have been open, but Brenda’s story truly exemplifies the spirit
of innkeeping.” – Dan Brooks,
Point Oaks Bed & Breakfast, Moss Point, MS
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