Innkeeping Story – The Victorian Ladies Inn

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The Victorian Ladies Inn is located on 63 Memorial Boulevard in Newport, Rhode Island. I spoke briefly with Harry Schatmeyer, the owner of the inn. Through email, was how he found the time to answer the questions for our interview as he goes about maintaining the elegance of his inn. He has eleven beautifully done rooms that are encompassed within three separate buildings that have peaceful walkways and breathtaking gardens. Also, a few years ago, he obtained ownership of the Adele Turner Inn. Now, potential guests are offered a more expanded variety of lodging in the Newport area.

Q: How long have you been in business?

A total of twelve years.

Q: Why did you decide to go into innkeeping?

My wife and I had long and successful careers.  Not wanting to retire, we opted for innkeeping.

Q: What is your signature breakfast?a

We make an Eggs Newport. The breakfast buffet picture has been attached as it is a tantalizing arrangement of some of the delicious foods available during breakfast.

Q: Where are the majority of your guests from?

Most of our guests come from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.

Q: What’s the best thing you have done for your business?

We make sure to personally greeted everyone.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

bThe challenge of having the time to get things done.

Q: Biggest lesson learned in the industry?

Having associations are of great importance.

 

Q: What motto do you live by?

We feel that every guest deserves our best.

Q: What is unique about your inn?

We know the names of our guests.

Q: What would you do all over again if you had a time machine?

We cannot turn back time.  We enjoy today.c

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

We enjoy relaxing at our condo.

Q: Any little known facts about your lives?

I owned seven McDonald’s. My wife ran a medical center. What we have done has been fun.

Q: Any fun guest stories you want to share? Such as unique guests, crazy situations or celebrity guests. 

We feel every guest is unique, a little crazy, and would be a celebrity for two or three days of their lives.

Q: Do you have helpful innkeeping tips you would like to share? a

Get to know your guests. Invite them back for your great breakfast.  We have an afternoon tea, which we do in our parlor. It is also important to introduce everyone to everyone.

Did You Know? 

The seaside city of Newport, Rhode Island is home to the Naval Station Newport. Within the station, you will find many naval facilities including the Naval Undersea Warfare Center which carries on there with research and development for underwater systems, weapons, and submarines. Also, present is the Naval War College, started in 1884 and is the oldest war college in the world. The museum on its grounds is a National Historic Landmark. Rumor has it was christened the Naval War College in October of 1884 when Commodore Stephen B. Luce arrived onshore and entered the stone building’s doors.

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Upcoming Tradeshows & Conferences; August-October 2014

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Texas Bed & Breakfast Association (TBBA)

aDates: Sunday,  September 7th through Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Website: http://www.texasbb.org/

Reservations can be made at The Tremont House to stay at during the conference.a

 

Where:
The Tremont House
2300 Ships Mechanic Row
Galveston, TX 77550
409-765-7721

Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Trade Show (AHA)

aDates: Wednesday, September 17th through Thursday, September 18, 2014

Website: http://www.arhospitality.org/

Reservations can be made at the Statehouse Convention Center to stay at during the conference.a

 

 

Where:
Statehouse Convention Center
1 Statehouse Plaza
101 E Markham St
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
501-376-4781

 Utah Tourism Conference

aDates: Tuesday, September 23rd through Thursday, September 25, 2014

Website: http://www.visitutah.com/utah-tourism-conference/

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Where:
OGDEN ECCLES CONFERENCE CENTER
2415 Washington Blvd.
Ogden, UT 84401
801-689-8600

FLORIDA BED AND BREAKFAST INNS

aDates: Sunday,September 28th through Monday, September 29, 2014

Website: http://www.florida-inns.com/

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Reservations can be made at The Courtyard at Lake Lucerne to stay at during the conference.

Where:
The Courtyard at Lake Lucerne
211 N Lucerne Circle, NE
Orlando, FL 32801

 

Bed & Breakfast Association of Mississippi & Mississippi Tourism Association

aDates: Sunday, September 28th through Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Website: http://www.missbab.com/

Reservations can be made at the Beau Rivage Hotel to stay at during the conference.b

 

Where:
Beau Rivage Hotel
875 Beach Boulevard
Biloxi, MS 39530
888-567-6667

Federation of Ontario Bed & Breakfast Accommodation

aDates: Sunday, October 26th through Monday, October 27, 2014

Website: http://www.fobba.com/

 

Where:
Elora and Fergus, Ontario

New England Inns & Resorts Association Annual Meeting

aDates: Sunday, October 26th through Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Website: http://www.newenglandinnsandresorts.com/

Reservations can be made at the Samoset Resort to stay at during the conference. a

 

Where:
Samoset Resort
220 Warrenton Street
Rockport, ME 04856
207-594-2511

Michigan Lake to Lake B&B Association Innkeeping Conference

Michigan Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast AssociationDates: Sunday, October 26th through Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Website: http://www.laketolake.com/

Reservations can be made at the Airport Hilton Inn to stay at during the conference. a

 

 

Where:
Airport Hilton Inn
4747 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512
616-957-0100

Innkeeping Story – A Teton Tree House

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Denny & Sally Becker own and run the A Teton Tree House located by Wilson, Wyoming. Sally Becker and I conversed about how running a bed and breakfast has been an amazing experience with the wonderful people who come to stay with them. The road’s name, Heck of a Hill, leads right up to their delightful place where guests have enjoyed wonderful food and great company.

Q: How long have you been in business?

This will be coming up on my husband’s 30th season. He was born and raised in Thermopolis, Wyoming on a ranch. Denny has lived in the Jackson Hole area for over fifty years.

Q: Why did you decide to go into innkeeping?

Denny was a river runner. He had the first white water river running business in the area. His first wife wanted to start a family yet he was gone so much taking people on the river plus guiding them through Yellowstone. She thought a bed and breakfast would be a fabulous thing as it was a new idea for their area. They had a piece of property in Wyoming. Instead of building a private home, he built the tree house which they opened in 1985 as he wanted to spend more time at home with his family. Although, he and his first wife parted ways, he is very devoted to his daughters.

Q: What is your signature breakfast?

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We are known for Heart Healthy breakfasts which means no meat or eggs. We rotate through a series of hot cereals and all kinds of fresh fruit. We are well known for our deliciously, “infamous” homemade granola. I make a sweet bread & yeast bread every day. It is a full and complete breakfast. We do have other items available depending on the guests who are staying with us. Denny’s stories of the area make the breakfast table conversation come alive. Also, he likes to say, “If you can’t come to breakfast, why bother coming at all.” Breakfast time is such an enjoyable time with our guests.

Q: Where are the majority of your guests from?

We get an equal amount of guests at the very edges of the east and west coast. They come to see the national parks. Our second largest majority would be Utah and Texas is big, too. Also, we get a lot of Europeans who learned about us through well used tourist books. Many of our international guests come from France and Italy.

Q: What’s the best thing you have done for your business?

Our business is built on a foundation of return guests as we develop a relationship with them while they stay with us. We have such a high return rate that we don’t do much advertising. We really get to know our guests while they stay with us. We explain to people how to get around with a personal touch. They have successful vacations as we help them plan their days with our local tips. We know how to direct our guests to the wildlife through our personal knowledge of where to find the animals. Denny knows the where to go, the how to go, and he knows how to help different kinds of groups from the honeymooners to the families with children. Developing an “at home” feeling with our guests while they stay with us is very important to us.

Our most popular change came when we put in a fire pit. Our summer guests love to sit out under the stars by the fire; where they enjoy storytelling, star sighting, and sharing life stories.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Recently, a reality television show about tree houses contacted us but we turned them down. The show caused people to call us and expect us to be in a tree by asking if our place is built into trees. Our trees are very close to our place so people feel like they are in the trees but we are a lodge.

The other challenge we have is the ninety-five stairs to our front door. It is a definite test the first time people climb up the stairs with luggage. We would like to be more accessible to host a wider variety of people. We miss out on a lot of amazing people.

Q: Biggest lesson learned in the industry?

People are wonderful and we enjoy their company. We have become friends with many people and don’t like to think when they will be leaving us. We have a niche of healthy people because of the climb up the ninety-five stairs and our healthy breakfast. Our breakfast table conversations is vibrate among our guests.

Q: What motto do you live by?a

Treat them like family. We have many people including four young men that Denny has mentored that consider him to be their best friend.

Q: What is unique about your inn?

Denny’s vision when he built the tree house was of the Old Faithful Inn. It’s an open beam construction. He built most of the tree house himself with help from his brothers. Our tree house sprawls out of our isolated hillside. Most of the house is built from trees taken from the property. We have unique staircases which lead to each room as there are no hallways. Every door on the exterior opens to a deck. It is definitely a western setting. Woodcraft, antique furnishings, and rockers add to the comfort of our bed and breakfast. A total of four floors are in our tree house. We were in the centerfold of a 1997 edition of National Geographic. They talked about the inside being kind of elaborate as they described “you can lose yourself” in looking for your room.

The bed and breakfast is only open during the summer through September as this was my compromise retirement plan after I met Denny since I had retired from Utah’s education system.

Q: What would you do all over again if you had a time machine?

Access. We would like a more comfortable access to our bed and breakfast with the road and the ninety-five stairs. The difficulty would be needing to cut into the hillside to create a better route yet we are opposed to changing the hillside. The beauty of the isolation would be the trade off.

Q: Any interesting facts about your lives and/or your town?

Jackson Hole is the entire valley. We are right by the city of Wilson. We are eight miles from the city of Jackson. Denny has a story for every tree that became a beam in the house. He is a “legend of the snake” because of everything he has done in the area such as being a white river water guide here. He was nineteen years old when he started working in Jackson. He made a living doing a lot of different things. His stories make the west come alive and has guided many people through Yellowstone.

Q: Any fun guest stories you want to share? Such as unique guests, crazy situations or celebrity guests.

We had Molly Ringwald stay here. She walked in the door one day and we recognized her when she came in.

We have many grandparents traveling with grandchildren come stay with us. They bring their grandchildren on a certain birthday such as the year the child will graduate from school. We have mothers and daughters going on trips together who stay with us. Also, honeymooners love to come here.

I stood in the bushes with a camera one day to take pictures at the request of one anticipating guest. During the afternoon he proposed to his girlfriend after they had returned from a nice hike. It was a little awkward to listen to the proposal but wonderful to pop out and take their picture at the end.

We have a wonderful spiral staircase which comes down to the Great room is perfect for romantic weddings. The justice of peace comes to perform the ceremony and he is dressed in western styled attire with the long dark coat, cowboy hat, and boots. He performs the weddings in front of our grand fireplace.c

Did You Know?

Although, Jackson is a name of a city in Wyoming. Jackson Hole is a valley in Wyoming. It is possibly named after David Edward Jackson, who was a beaver trapper in the ninteenth century. Origins of the word “hole” comes from the early trappers and mountain men who came down steep slopes to enter the valley. Within the valley, Grand Teton National Park, the Snake River, and more can be found in Jackson Hole.

 

Innkeeping Story – Roosevelt Inn

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John and Tina Hough are the owners of a unique historical building in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho called The Roosevelt Inn. The inn was the oldest schoolhouse in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho from 1905 to 1972. Beautiful upgrades while keeping with historic ambiance creates an unforgettable stay. Both took part in our interview which was quite memorable, too.

Q: How long have you been in business?

Next month, we will have been with the inn for sixteen years. This December will be the inn’s 20th birthday. We will be doing a very special celebration although, I might need to temper John’s excitement.

Q: Why did you decide to go into innkeeping?

We both have our own versions.

John: We were driving many years ago through the fields of Indiana and my wife looks over at this giant farm house and she says “Wouldn’t it be nice in our retirement years to just buy something like that and run it as a bed and breakfast.” I replied, “Sure, but not out here, the location is horrible and nobody would come out here.” We just dropped the subject.

A few years later, we came out here to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for a cousin’s funeral which corresponded with our twenty year wedding anniversary. My sister said that my elementary school was turned into a bed and breakfast so we could stay there for part of our anniversary. During the stay, I noticed a for sale sign in the vacant lot next to the inn so I asked the inn’s owner, who was selling the old school’s baseball field. He said in a heavy Hungarian accent, “Well, I am selling it all. I can’t run it anymore. It is too much. I didn’t want to put the sign in front of the inn as it’s bad for business.” We negotiated with him but he turned us down and we headed back to California. A month later he called us back and said that he would take our offer. Tina’s version is slightly different.

Tina: I am from the south and had been trying to get home since I married John. I wanted to run a bed and breakfast sooner rather than later. John had mentioned that maybe we could when we were old and retired. Three years later when an opportunity came in his home town, he was ready to do it.

I always joke with people when I take them for a tour of the place that if they stay in the room we stayed in before we owned the place that they may end up wanting to own it.

We own an inn because John has an “on” button on the back of his head but no “off” button. If he gets an idea, there is just no stopping him. He plows forward. There will never be a time that we will sit on the front porch in a rocking chair and say, “I wonder what would have happened if.” John chases the if. There will be no regrets later on because we always do the if.

Q: What is your signature breakfast?

It has changed in the last couple of years as we now do a breakfast buffet as well as a dish from the kitchen.  Right now, our signature dish is a Fiesta Ole casserole. Previously, it was an apple cider pancake. Our breakfast buffet has homemade items such as granola, fresh baked scones, fruit salad, etc. We cook a specialty egg dish everyday to go along with our gourmet buffet.a

Q: Where are the majority of your guests from?

Our biggest group comes from Spokane, Washington. Next is California then Seattle, Washington. Last year we had a lot of Canadians. We’ve had people from Israel. We had a big contingent from China. They were professors wanting to visit the national parks. Our son-in-law speaks fluent Chinese.  He came, conversed, even wrote out driving directions in Chinese for our guests. He was very helpful to them and they kept telling us, “Jacob, genius.”

We’ve had Australians, some guests from Eastern Europe, Germany, Italy, and more. Also, we had some Russian girls worked for us.

Q: What’s the best thing you have done for your business?

Marketing & sales. The latest thing we’ve done, has been hiring White Stone Marketing and Jumping Rocks Photography. We had hit a plateau with our business and couldn’t seem to get over the hump. Tina’s brother did a boatload of research and we finally nailed it going with White Stone. They won’t work with anyone within a 500 mile radius of one of their clients, which a man from Texas found out when he bought a bed and breakfast here and they turned him down as a client since they are contracted with us. We get bombarded daily about what to join and we forward the emails to White Stone and they tell us what companies are worth it. When phone calls come in, we tell them to call White Stone which cuts down on us needing to talk to every business which calls us. This is a huge filter for us. We use RezOvation and Innlink for help with online reservations. We, also, hired a company who answers our phone for us when we can’t answer the phone so people get a live voice.

Originally, we thought we were retiring to run a bed and breakfast. This is the most work we have ever done! The hardest working retirement is running a bed and breakfast as this is a viable business for us.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Employees. Many have lack of work ethic in the age group we have hired in the past. We have hired in the college age group who want a paycheck that day, who are looking for a summer job, they are high turn over, and we are in constant retraining because they only stay for a short while.

Also, in our personal relationship, we came from two different fields of work and suddenly we were working together as husband and wife in this business which led to marriage counseling. We had been married over 20 years when we bought the place. By our 25th year of marriage in doing this business, we were ready to call it quits to our marriage. We were butting heads over everything. The only business we had ran together was raising our children. We are both Type A personalities. We each put in our opinion and our counselor told us that each of us needed to have a final say on different things. We formed a division of labor on who is responsible for each thing. It doesn’t mean that we still don’t get upset.

Our children stepped in and told us to go to counseling One thing was leading towards the other. The business effected our personal life and we were nitpicking at each other. We have seen divorces because of the dynamics of not being able to work with each other in this business. This is a working, business relationship within a marriage. We couldn’t leave work at the door because we live here. The working environment can corrode the personal relationship. It is good to have some parameters. We needed to decide who was in charge of what aspects of the business. For us this is a business, not a hobby as we have fourteen rooms plus we do weddings and meetings. Going into this as a business, I didn’t see these difficulties of working together coming at all and it would be good for others to be aware of these challenges.c

Q: Biggest lesson learned in the industry?

John: I was in marketing and sales for hotels but I had never worked in operations. Tina was an office manager. We thought we can run a bed and breakfast because we knew how to be hospitable to people. It is like running a small hotel. We didn’t have answers for: “Who do I order products from?”, “How do I calculate how much food to purchase?” We wasted a ton a food the first year. We have been through a huge learning curve with the expense side of things.

Tina: The importance of a good internet presence. It is amazing how many people want to book online with no contact with us though this is a business which is very personal. They are willing to meet me when they get here. I thought people would be looking us up in a travel guide then calling me on the phone. In reality, they are booking to stay at our place on the phone.

Q: What motto do you live by?

Tina: Our tagline is “Experience historically elegance.”

John: Impress your guests

Q: What is unique about your inn?d

It was built in 1905. John’s dad was the PTA president for many years when it was a school. John attended elementary school in this building. There are a lot of personal ties to the building. We are a historic building on the national register of historical places. We have the original flooring, banister, and some of the original school desks. When the school became a bed and breakfast, it went from a two story structure with four big classes with eighteen foot ceilings which were lowered and made into a three story building. The wide staircase is original but needed to be cut in half and put back in for the three levels during the remodeling of the building. We have modernized some features as we have a jet propulsion system which give instant hot water and we put in a beautiful chandelier from the old opera house before it was torn down.

Q: What would you do all over again if you had a time machine?

We would of made fewer rooms and made the bathrooms more amazing. We would like more space for the bathrooms and bedrooms to have added a few more things such as a fireplace in each room. Although, when Jumping Rocks photographed our rooms, they said that our rooms are nicely sized and one guest commented how his bathroom in his apartment is one third the size of our bathroom.

We would have done the air ducts differently, had individual thermostats, and heavy duty sound proofing. Now, we are in the process of doing these things. We have comment cards for the guests, which have promoted us to update certain aspects. We’d rather find out right now what changes they would like to see happen instead of later on in TripAdvisor. It is nice that technology has caught up so we can zone each individual room so it isn’t to hot nor to cold.a

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

What? Free time? We were invited by our middle daughter and her husband to go on a cruise in Florida. We went to Universal studios and Harry Potter land. It was the first vacation we had taken in eleven years. We realized we need to get back to vacations. Typically, we can not get away for very long although we do like to travel.

We love to go for a walk, be out on the lake, or go for a drive.

John: I love to read and I do audio books for authors. Tina says that I am talented with it.

Tina: We have discovered the loveliness of napping. The feeling seems to come on just at the time the guests are checking in.

Q: Any little known facts about your inn or your town?

Coeur d’Alene is Christmas town USA. We were highlighted by Good Morning America as the #1 place for Christmas. Our lake was rated by National Geographic as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world.  We have wonderful interconnecting bike trails and four ski resorts. We have less expensive prices for skiing as we are undiscovered for our ski resorts. We are a great winter “playground.” We took our grandchildren this year on a horse and sleigh ride.

John: I am licensed to do weddings. We do weddings, special events on our beautiful grounds, and have an event room downstairs. We had a huge increase in weddings with White Stone’s concentration on our wedding page.

Q: Any fun guest stories you want to share? Such as unique guests, crazy situations or celebrity guests.

Chef Gordon Ramsay did his television show at our inn with us. Two Dancing with the Stars performers, our niece and nephew Derek Hough & Julianne Hough who are brother and sister have often stayed with us each summer. Derek is an Emmy award winning choreographer on Dancing with the Stars. Julianne, also has starred and been in several movies including Safe Haven, the remake of Footloose, Rock of Ages, and more.

A silver medalist from the Canadian curling team stayed with us and Jack Black’s dad stayed with us.

aWe had a couple from Alaska get married here. They had two big dogs back home that they couldn’t bring with them. They asked to use our two dogs to be the ring bearers and had them come down the porch to the couple. They put the rings on the dogs but the woman’s “Oreo” size diamond wedding ring wasn’t tie on very tight. When the dogs reached the couple, the ring was gone. When everyone realized the ring was missing, it literally looked like when people do a wave at a sporting event as all the people were standing then suddenly went down to look for the ring until they found it.

 

 

Did You Know?

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho has the largest on-the-water holiday lights exhibition called the Holiday Light Show. One of the world’s tallest Christmas trees can be viewed at this spectacular event. The festival starts right after Thanksgiving. The opportunity is there to take a cruise on the lake which leads to a visit at “Santa’s North Pole.” Come hear the many “ahhhh” and “oooo” generated from the audience during the performance.a

Upcoming Tradeshows & Conferences April-July, 2014

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 MAINE RESTAURANT & LODGING EXPO

a Dates: Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Website: http://www.mainerestaurant.com/

Reservations can be made at the Holiday Inn By The Bay to stay at during the conference.a

Where:
Holiday Inn By the Bay
88 Spring Street
Portland, Maine 04101
207-775-2311

Conference Location:
Cumberland County Civic Center
Portland, Maine
207-874-2842

Montana Bed and Breakfast Association Conference- Governor’s Convention

2Dates: Sunday, April 13 through Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Website: http://www.mtbba.com/index.php

Reservations can be made at the Holiday Inn Grand Montana to stay at during the conference. a

Where:
Holiday Inn Grand Montana
5500 Midland Road
Billings, MT 59101

 Idaho Conference on Recreation & Tourism (ICORT)

aDates: Tuesday, May 6 through Thursday, May 8, 2014

Website: http://commerce.idaho.gov/

Reservations can be made at the Sun Valley Resort to stay at during the conference. a

Where:
Sun Valley Resort
1 Sun Valley Road
Sun Valley, ID 83353
800-786-8259

California Bed & Breakfast Association (CABBI)

aDate: Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Website: http://www.cabbi.com/

Reservations can be made at the Pacific Palms Resort to stay at during the conference.a

Where:
Pacific Palms Resort
One Industry Hills Parkway
City of Industry, CA 91744
626-810-4455

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