[Interview by Riana Frahm]
Pursuing a lifelong dream innkeepers Brian and Sharlene Scott left their suburban home in California to build the American Country Bed and Breakfast on its 5 acre lot in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It was a special treat for me to spend time with these amazing innkeepers who shared their collective experiences and tips in running a bed and breakfast in the Pacific Northwest. They also divulged about overcoming common challenges in the industry: what it’s like managing the Idaho Bed and Breakfast Association as well as the North Idaho Bed and Breakfast Association. They also discuss their personal successes as parents of 5 children and grandparents of 2. Approaching their 5th year in business, I predict that this husband and wife team will continue to soar on the rewards of their highly lauded bed and breakfast.
When you open the door to our bed and breakfast you instantly have a connection with American history because we have a world class Americana collection.
Q: How long have you been in business?
Shar: Since January, 2006.
Q: What made you decide to go into innkeeping? How did you get started?
Shar: We’ve just always said that one day we should do this when we retire. Brian and I spent the first 15 years of our lives married in Modesto, California. One day, Brian came home and said he was all done with his job in the home inspection field and ready to make a move. So we began looking around at different areas. We also had always known that we wanted to be bed and breakfast owners. Over the course of our marriage we had traveled extensively throughout the U.S. trying bed and breakfasts.
In terms of Coeur d’Alene we moved here in September 2005 and we opened our doors in January of 2006. We built the bed and breakfast from the ground up. We knew we wanted a central kitchen, quarters separate from the rest of the guest bedrooms on a few acres. It has been one of the best decisions we’ve made in our married lives together.
Q: What did you do before you started your own business?
Shar: I was a library media manager with a year left on my contract and Brian has a background in construction and home inspection.
Q: What’s unique about your inn?
Shar: We absolutely love what we do! I think it’s just our gift of hospitality that we share with all of our guests that makes them feel like more than just guests. We make them friends that want to just return over and over again and for that our return business has been just remarkable. In fact I received a birthday phone call from a former guest in Holland who shares the same birthday as me, Dec 5th. That personal connection that we made with our guests takes us beyond the box hotel. That’s key to the bb industry. We are a better place to stay, a better choice.
Q: What is your signature breakfast or signature touch?
Shar: I’m very blessed because my husband loves to cook just as much as I do. We do have three very popular requested dishes. One is what we call a Deutsche Baby, or a Bismarck. Brian calls them Snowflakes. Basically it’s a German pancake that we get rave reviews on. We also serve a Panattoni Praline-Pecan French Toast that is made with Italian fruit bread. Then our third most popular breakfast is French pancake that was a family recipe handed down in my family. These requests come from different recipe websites we post on where guests want to stay with us and eat these foods.
Brian: So when guests come to stay with us and request a specific breakfast entree that usually gives us a good idea of where they’ve come from.
Q: What would you say is the best thing you’ve done for your business?
Shar: Probably the thing that sticks out in my mind is the semantic design of the inn. We came up with the name, American Country, to conjure up in the guest minds that they are staying in a slice of Americana. When you open the door to our bed and breakfast you instantly have a connection with American history because we have a world class Americana collection.
Brian: I think that when people arrive, its’ the greeting and that initial warmth. When they first pull up we try to greet everybody and help them with their luggage. With that in mind I continue a little tour for them of our inn. Finding out their guest preferences during the tour is one of our key features. There is a half hour before your breakfast time where we deliver an in room morning beverage tray to your room. It’s my job to find out what that beverage is or what time we should deliver it. In addition Shar adds fresh pastries so this nice decorated tray of pastries and beverage shows up at their room each morning. It gets them feeling very nice and relaxed when they wake up in the morning.
Q: What is the number one challenge you’ve had to overcome with your business?
Brian: I think that the challenge that comes first to my mind was adapting our marketing plan to the economy. During our first year in business we joined our regional association here. One of the things they told us was, ‘You’ll fit in just fine here’. Those first couple of years, we got our fair share of the guests, but as time went on we had to figure out what we were going to do is keep our marketing going in the economic downturn. So we separated ourselves from other bed and breakfasts in this market by building a tree house. We built a tree house.
Shar: The challenge of marketing is something every bed and breakfast owner is facing. How do you get more heads in beds? Brian had this dream from the beginning to have a tree house. In this bad economy our business was up 20% due to this better place he built. By being creative, we’ve been able to achieve our goal of increasing our bottom line.
Q: What saying or motto do you absolutely live by?
Shar: Where welcome never felt so good! That’s kind of our tagline. In our brochures the tri-fold is a picture of our front door where we just want you to have this feeling of welcome as you walk in the front door.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time when you’re not at work?
Brian: Well we are antique collectors. So we’re always on the look for things to add to the collection here at the bed and breakfast. We also both love gardening. In fact everything we do at the bed and breakfast is all hands on.
DID YOU KNOW?
Brian and Shar opened started the first statewide bed and breakfast association in Idaho (IDBBA) in 2009. Grant money to jumpstart this alliance for Idaho bed and breakfast tourism was made possible by the Idaho Travel Council. Brian and Shar recommend looking into your local, regional and/or statewide government agencies to see if funding opportunities are available to promote your bed and breakfast association.
Riana Frahm is the marketing assistant and public relations specialist for Convoyant. She is also a Hospitality Trainer at Reservation Nexus. Riana’s energy and outgoing personality makes her a natural with people. In our “Innkeeper Stories” series, Riana will interview innkeepers from around the world so she can share their wisdom, experiences, and stories with you.